Girl Advocacy Day 2018
Girl Advocacy Day (GAD), hosted by the Girls Empowerment Network (GEN), inspires youth to be civically engaged and helps them develop their unique voice to advocate for themselves and the wider community. Attendees learn about the power of advocacy, speak with role models in public policy, and explore issues that impact girls in our community!
GAD 2018 had fifty attendees, ages 12-23, with the median age for registrants being 14.5.
Girl Advocacy Day survey results:
93% of participants reported that because of GAD they know how to communicate confidently.
91% of participants said that they feel more confident in their ability to advocate for social change.
88% of participants remarked that the skills they learned at GAD are applicable to their future goals.
A Reflection on Girl Advocacy Day, from the eyes of GENtern Margaux Bartzen
When I reflect on Girl Advocacy Day 2018, one word comes to mind: magical. It was magical to witness young girls standing up for themselves. It was magical because it was heart-wrenching and inspiring at the same time. Heart-wrenching because these girls are bombarded with such difficult issues at young ages, and inspiring because they are brave enough to speak out about them. I was lucky enough to be the camerawoman at GAD, so I spent the day bouncing around capturing the most magical moments of the day.
As the attendees started pouring in early that morning, I observed. Some girls came alone and sat anxiously by themselves. Some came with friends and latched onto each other for dear life. It was our job to bring all of them together and our hype-master Caroline did just that.
We began the day by defining, describing, and outlining what advocacy is. What does advocacy mean to you? Who are some historic female advocates? What did their advocacy look like?
Once everyone was acquainted with the idea of advocacy, we broke up into groups by issues the girls were most passionate about: Dress Code, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Teen Dating Violence, LGBTQ+ Discrimination on Campuses, Bullying in Schools, Mental Health Care Access, and lastly, a group for those who couldn’t choose just one issue.
In these groups girls practiced giving campaign speeches, for positions ranging from Queen of the World to Student Body President, to work on advocating for themselves. A brave few gave their speech in front of everyone and we wanted to vote for all of them! They aced their power poses and were not afraid to tell the crowd exactly why they deserve votes.
Afterwards, we asked the girls: “What was it like to give a campaign speech?” and as always, their responses got us amped.
“Empowering. I realized I’m not alone and I can speak in front of people!”
“At first I was nervous, but once I started talking I realized I could do it!”
In the middle of the day, we had my favorite GEN activity: Power Chats. This is where we bring in women who work in public policy, government, and community organizing and connect them with our GEN girls for speed-mentoring style “Power Chats”. At GAD, we had a room full of diverse experience and wisdom, with guests like Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo and State Senator Judith Zaffirini, PhD. The bond between the women and the girls is powerful and immediate because there is so much common ground to be shared. The women are familiar with the difficulties of girlhood and are there to give girls support and hope. And to make it even more GENcredible, the girls provide so much hope and inspiration to the women because they’re ready to take on the world and that is so motivating!
Following Power Chats, we had a group discussion and our invited role models had only praise to share:
“I’m excited not only about what these girls are doing now but what they’re going to do for our future. Thank you for opening up this amazing platform for women and girls.”
“I was so touched to speak with these young women today. I still deal with some of the problems they’re going through, so I hope they know we don’t have it totally figured out yet either!”
In our final advocacy activity of the day, the girls came up with potential policies/legislation for the issues their groups focused on. Most notably, the group that was initially undecided on an issue chose gun law reform. It is an odd feeling seeing young people discussing assault rifles, but as we have learned through the #MarchForOurLives movement, their generation is the generation of mass shootings. All of the presentations made us so proud; they were inspiring, well-researched, and informative!
I don’t think it is far-fetched to say Girl Advocacy Day was a transformative experience for many. The girls who came in shy and alone in the morning were making friends, breaking out of their shells, and owning their voice by the end of the day. It seemed like everyone left with more confidence than they walked in with and that alone is priceless. One attendee truly touched our hearts when at the end of the day, she said to the group:
“Every time I come to a GEN program I feel accepted, and I never feel accepted at school. This is a safe space.”
Moments like this is what makes all of our hard work worthwhile, and it is why I intern at The Girls Empowerment Network.