Friday, September 28, 2012

Talkin' about a Girlvolution

Last night I attended an event hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women.  A discussion was led by their President and CEO, Anika Rahman entitled: Combatting the War on Women.  As we all introduced ourselves and said why we were there, many of the women identified themselves as feminists.  I proudly shared that I was the Executive Director of Powerful Voices and we are an organization that supports young women in developing their own strengths, so they can take action to promote social justice.  Another guest exclaimed with excitement, "The Third Wave!"  I replied, "Or maybe the Fourth."
Honestly, I didn't think to much about my comment before I spoke, but now I have.  Do we need a Fourth Wave?  I don't know.  In the end it's really just semantics.  What we do need is a feminist movement that embraces the voices and actions of girls.  While Third Wave feminism embodies anti-racist theory, rejects a gender binary, and embraces "girl power," I think we still have a ways to go in addressing the adultism inherent in our organizing.  When the War on Women emerged as a topic of the nightly news I kept wondering, where is the youth voice?  Where is the Girlvolution? 
As we combat the War on Women, I think it is time for us to start re-framing it as the War on Women and Girls.   When adults hear our politicians speak about "legitimate rape" or observe contentious debates about access to health care - they hear it from the framework of an adult with privilege.  Adults have a voice in our electorate, the right to control their own finances and make decisions about their own health care.  How do these voices make girls feel?  How does this make girls feel? Where does their power lay? What do they think?  What do they care about?  What do they want to change?  Who will listen and take them seriously? And what if their definition of the War on Women/Girls is different than mine? 

These are the questions that motivate and inspire me to be part of Powerful Voices.  I want to be part of a community where girls and adults work in partnership to promote social justice.  We need to listen to each other as we move forward to address the disparities that weaken our community.

I saw this happening over the past 12 weeks during the creation, production and launch of Powerful Voices' newest zine, A Chosen Generation, though we still have a long way to go.  In a focus group conducted this week, many of the girls told staff that they wanted to take on a more meaningful leadership role in programming.  Now is the time to listen. 

Reading the first page of the zine I was reminded that the Girlvolution already lives in every girl and needs opportunities to be ignited, heard, and valued :  

We are the chosen generation that will rise to succeed in life.

We are sisters from all different kinds of backgrounds that come from good and bad.

We come together as a team and work hard to reach the top.

We are heard from the tone we speak in our community.

WE are teenagers, not adults.

We are young girls that come together two days out of the week to create a zine to present to our community/environment.

We talk about things that are not only important in life but things that have an important impact on our lives.

We are loved and
We will Rise...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Develop Your Voice And Speak (DYVAS)

by Erika Bailey, Intern

To be honest, when I heard that the program name was DYVAS, I was sold.  And when I learned that DYVAS is an employment program for high school girls who make a zine about social justice issues (not to mention is a clever acronym for Develop Your Voice and Speak), I could not bear to spend my summer doing anything else.  My name is Erika, and I am the DYVAS intern.
Our orientation was on the day that I returned to Seattle from Ghana, and needless to say, I was a bit jetlagged.  However, I soon forgot about all the possibly malarial mosquito bites as we began discussing the different aspects of identity.  That was eight weeks ago, and now everyone is hard at work on the zine and job preparedness curriculum. We had, and are continuing to have, guest facilitators come and lead learning in diverse areas from career development to building healthy relationships.  Job reviews and one-on-one meetings both reinforce this culture of personal and professional development.
The passion that comes with learning about institutions and social justice is consistently inspiring; one of the girls recently argued that “they’re trying to kill poor people!” when we discussed the connections between the food at grocery stores, the food EBT pays for, and diseases like diabetes and cancer. The beauty of DYVAS is that she engages in these curricula about institutions, and then immediately connects that passion and information to her personal life through the zine pieces.  After learning about the food system there were pieces on “the meal I miss most,” and after discussing institutional oppressions in neighborhoods, they wrote a piece titled “Where I’m From.”  These young women hope that their zine will help put people in their shoes and end judgement.  The framework that DYVAS gives their already passionate poetry should do just that.
We always end programming with gratitude, a moment for each person to say something that they are thankful for.  More and more frequently I hear things like“I am thankful for PV because we can be real together, unlike my other friends” and “I am thankful that I get to talk about these kinds of issues.”  I would like to say that I am thankful for your support in helping make DYVAS happen, and thus helping these young women and myself grow personally and professionally.