Girls Learn International-Learning How to Use Our Voice
by Kaitlin Rizk, Girls Learn International
As I was flipping through the book Half the Sky for a school paper, I stumbled upon an organization called Girls Learn International. I had no idea that it would become so important to me down the road, but I began reading about its mission and was immediately drawn in. The next fall I decided to start a chapter of Girls Learn International (GLI) at my school. Unlike many typical after-school clubs, membership meant not just a fun activity but being a part of improving girl's education around the world. GLI seeks to educate and energize U.S. students in the global movement for girls' access to education. This mission held true at my school--no other club had so much initial enthusiasm!
I soon received my GLI Guidebook, which provides student leaders with meeting plans, event ideas, and further resources. Inside were step-by-step meetings about human rights issues such as sex trafficking, child marriage, and reproductive rights. I was excited and nervous about starting my GLI Chapter, but I was supported by the Student Advisory Board-a group of girls and boys who meet once a month (in person or through a webinar) to ask questions, discuss common troubles, and share happy experiences from their GLI Chapters. The webinars and Fall Training, both led by a GLI staff member, were great resources for dealing with the challenges of starting the club at my school. The GLI community was also accessible online; through Facebook I had access to weekly postings from students and GLI's website includes a blog where students like me can share their experiences and thoughts.
30 people attended the first GLI meeting of the year, including 4 boys! With students from India, Korea, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Europe, I soon realized that the best part of our chapter would be the diversity of backgrounds and ideas. We dove into the lessons right away; my favorite meeting was about sex trafficking because I was surprised to learn that trafficking happens right in the United States and that it increases when the Superbowl comes to town!
After learning about some of the issues affecting girls worldwide, the club combined all the information for a Student Advocacy Event in the spring. The goal of the event was to raise awareness in the community and share what we learned in our meetings. We decided to have a bake sale and then hold a viewing of the film Half the Sky; the movie prompted a great discussion and the bake sale raised money for programs in a GLI Partner School. GLI currently works with 47 Partner Schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Ghana, Nepal, Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam, Tanzania, and Uganda;
Partner Schools spend the funds in ways that empower girls and increase girls' access to education!
Another opportunity GLI provides for students to get involved is its delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women(CSW). Girls from GLI Chapters across the nation can apply to participate in the CSW, working to ensure that the voices of adolescent girls are heard.
Next year, my Chapter's goal is to acquire more members and raise awareness in our community; I plan to get Chapter members more involved by delegating different people to teach lessons. We will also try writing our senators as future constituents, advocating for legislative action promoting girls' access to education. Ultimately, we are going to use our voices to speak up for the universal rights we have learned about through Girls Learn International!
Kaitlin Rizk is a student who began a Girls Learn International chapter at her high school this past fall. This summer she is working as an intern at Girls Learn International, a program of the Feminist Majority Foundation.