08 March 2012

iwd 2012: connecting girls, inspiring futures

today i'm taking part in the third annual blog for international women's day event.  in this post i plan to (a) discuss how can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way and (b) describe a particular organization, person, group or moment in history that helped to inspire a positive future and impact the minds and aspirations for girls.

(a) this was way more difficult than i could have ever imagined.  to be completely honest, when i signed up for this i thought i would identify a few things i do that have impact and then easily tell you how and why i do them.  however i could only think of really lame examples and while i could create an entire post explaining how technically 'setting a good example' fit the parameters it felt like totally lame whenever i tried to start writing...especially considering people are constantly doing things that make an actual difference. 

obviously i needed to find out where women like me fit into the equation.  i needed to find my role.  but, before i go any further, i feel i should elaborate, that you should know what i am actually like.  i view myself as a reluctant adult.  i am a single, kid-free, multifaceted woman who is not following a one-track carer path.  i am creative, caring, and conscious.  i am community capacity builder who truly believes that it is her duty to involve, educate, and inspire.  i am a feminist.

since i'm not a mother it feels like i am really out of touch with what girls are interested in, so much so that becoming involved with one of their activities seems impossible.  (how does one become a girl scout leader?  is that still something young girls even do anymore?)  i'm not religious so being a sunday school teacher or youth group leader is out and with my athletic ability pretty much any type of sport is also off the table.

without putting in serious thought and effort i can't think of a socially accepted system and easily accessible that will allow me to positively change a girls' life.  (even google has a difficult time finding 'ways to empower girls' that do not focus on the mother-daughter relationship or working in education.)

to figure that out where i fit i went back to reflecting on my day-to-day life.  march is women's history month and i'm working on a series of posts about the exceptional women my life so i've already been thinking a lot about how their actions influence my life.  for this post i started to connect the dots in hopes of finding similar behaviors, attitudes and values.

it turns out that (as lame as it is) i was pretty much right.  they are all simply really good role models.  they live their lives the way they want, express themselves, and embrace their idiosyncrasies.  they were dedicated educating themselves.  they do whatever it takes to get things done; they juggle their personal and professional lives while still managing to make time for their passions.  they contribute to their communities in compassionate and creative ways.  even in unlikely places and in the face of adversity they manage to thrive (not just live) outside of the box.

i found that they had quite a bit in common even though each operates a bit differently.  no matter how they function they are able to give me the space i need to learn, explore, and grow.  they all possess a seemingly endless supply of patience and are respectful, accepting, and understanding.  they celebrate differences, embrace diversity, take into account other perspectives, and change lenses frequently.  they have found their voice and are not afraid to speak out for what they believe in.

i began to wonder what i learned from them.  what habits/traits did i pick up?  how do their actions impact my life and how i operate? they forged their own path and found their true passion so in theory i could do the same by following suit.  i needed to find the answers so i began to think about what i do to involve, educate, and inspire myself - about the actions i take that make me feel like i am an empowered member of my community both locally and globally. 

then i thought about what inspires me to take action.  eventually this lead to me thinking about my core values and beliefs.  i am an activist and support many local humanitarian and creative efforts.  i spend time working on food justice and environmental issues.  i have spent a good portion of the last decade working and volunteering and working in the non-profit world (serving primarily with women and children who were domestic violence and sexual assault victims and/or homeless).  i constantly work to promote equality and diversity.  basically i do everything in my power to eliminate injustices.  i work for peace.

i find that being a part of these different activities help me find people who are also like me.  subsequently i have built up a community of like-minded individuals to i surround myself with.  they are supportive, energizing, and help activate me.  these individuals possess many of the same traits as the influential women in my life.  they have become central to my life and I feel like don't know how to be me without being a part of them.

my intention from this point forward is to think about how i can be more involved with and focus on making sure that the girls in my community who are like me have a place where they can feel comfortable enough to be themselves find their voice.  i want them to feel safe and accepted; to give them space and time explore and grow.  i owe it to them and to the women who are my guides, mentors, and friends.

(b) thankfully, the second topic was a little easier for me. as i was recently asked to help (in a very minor way) with an amazing community event that definitely inspires a positive future and impacts the minds and aspirations for girls.  needless to say, i couldn't help but write about the evening and the girls and women who take part.

for fifteen years deb jenkins and the women who put on 'the celebration of women and their music' have been dedicated to creating an enriching environment for girls surrounding an event that not only showcases regional female artists but also helps introduce younger artists to more established women who become their mentors.  this creates an educational environment and promotes growth.

the organizers also give out financial awards that are much different than traditional scholarships.  recipients are able to use the money for anything they'd like; instead of buying books or paying for fees and tuition they could buy a new instrument, equipment, supplies, wardrobes/costumes, etc.  this allows the young ladies to determine what their priorities are and decide what barriers they would like to eliminate. 

from my perspective the show, its organizers, and performers truly embody empowerment.

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