GGE's Founder Selected for French American Foundation, Young Leaders Program!
The French American Foundation’s Young Leaders Program selects up-and-coming leaders in government, business, media, military, culture and the non-profit sector and provides them with the opportunity to spend five days together discussing policy and social issues. These open discussions have been very successful in facilitating the development of a new network of transatlantic leaders.
Some past Young Leaders include former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senators Evan Bayh and Bill Bradley, General Wesley Clark and former White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten.
GGE’s Founder and Executive Director, Joanne Smith was selected to be a part of the 2012 Young Leaders Program XXV. She spent the first week of October in France with Young Leaders from France and the United States. Over the five days, the Young Leaders traveled throughout France visiting Paris, Le Havre, and Omaha beaches of Normandy discussing French and American politics, policies and inequalities.
Here is a brief interview with Joanne about the Young Leaders program at the French American Foundation:
Q: What does being chosen for FAF mean to you?
A: Being accepted into FAF meant a lot to me because I started GGE at age 25 and 11 years later I’m re-imagining leadership. The Young Leaders process served as strategic disruption that allowed me to reflect on my leadership impact to date while building community with national and global leaders. I didn’t realize how much I was craving the opportunity to be made uncomfortable by being taken into the for profit world thinking about the global impact that our work has. FAF is an opportunity to challenge myself in a space that historically wasn’t created with someone like me in mind.
Q: Why is it important for you to be a Young Leader?
A: The Young Leaders Program is a historic “secret society” in a sense. The class of 2012 included politicians, scientists, doctors, economists, writers and documentarians at the top of their fields. As a woman of color, with multiple identities and experiences shaping the lens through which I see and am seen in the world, I believe that my membership to the Young Leaders program is important. It’s valuable for me to be at the table representing people like me and the youth I work with. It’s necessary that Young Leaders from other sectors and countries hear my perspective as we engage in discourse about the national and global policies and social justice issues effecting marginalized people throughout the world. The 2012 class of young leaders is not a monolithic group, but as a whole it’s equally necessary for me to hear their perspective, learn from their experience and identify how we can best work together.
The process we went through in France provided me with the opportunity to visit the Embassy and meet with the U.S. Ambassador to France, Charles H. Rivkin. I asked him to discuss the anti-trafficking policies in France since the week prior to our visit President Obama addressed the child sex and domestic trafficking problems we have in the U.S. We met with the Mayors of Domont, Jerome Chartier and Le Havre, Edouard Philippe as well as with a number of politicians, economists and elite members of society in France. As a proud social worker and not for profit executive, the time in trading rooms, at dinners and touring the cities made me think ‘outside the box’ about development and growing the movement to end violence against girls and women. I also reflected a lot on the type of leader I want to be. The experience was a gift to my personal and professional growth; I highly recommend that other social justice advocates apply. We’re very necessary in the space.
Q: What was your most profound moment?
A: During this trip, the tour of Normandy, Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery in Colleville reminded me that great sacrifices have been made in history and that I must always be guided by my purpose at every present moment.
Q: How will you incorporate what you learned?
A: That’s a great question and I’m still figuring it out. As a person and activist, I’m in a reflective space in my life so I’m working out how I may be the most impactful in my next stage of personal growth, leadership/activism in my life. I’ve shared with staff, interns and friends the experiences I had in France and have continued to connect with many of the dynamic individuals I met. I keep the youth and women I work with at the core of my experiences I had because I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep our most marginalized girls and women at the center of the decision making process and actions. I’ll continue do my best to represent the most effected by the issues we discussed when they are not at the table; I’m simply more committed to doing this with a wider global lens.
Grand Stade Du Havre
View from the Mayor’s Office, Edouard Philippe in Le Havre
Soldier and Historian of Normandy
American Cemetery in Colleville
Photo by Estelle Youssouffa
Founded in 1976, the French-American Foundation (FAF) is the only non-governmental organization in the U.S. dedicated specifically to strengthening the relationship between France and the U.S. It does so by bringing together leaders, policy makers, and a full range of professionals to exchange views and consider how each country might benefit from each other’s expertise and experience.
For our 10th anniversary, we aim to not only celebrate our collective successes but honor those who have played an instrumental role in our development over the last decade. This incredible collection of women are our “Gender Justice Warriors”…without their dedication and commitment the last 10 years would not have been possible! Join us on June 14 at the Brooklyn Historical Society as we celebrate them!
Woman of the Decade
Anita Faye Hill
Social Change Agent Award
Mandy Van Deven for her commitment to gender justice, thoughtful implementation of organizing strategies (Sisters in Strength), and not for profit leadership which strengthened Girls for Gender Equity’s community organizing reach and moreover, GGE’s overall sustainability.
Meghan Huppuch for her commitment to social change, thoughtful implementation of organizing strategies, and bravery to challenge the status quo (better known as the DOE) which strengthened Girls for Gender Equity’s Title IX organizing work on multiple levels over the past 4 years.
Young Activist Award
Nefertiti Martin who as a former Sisters in Strength Youth Organizer that has transitioned into a full-time community organizer at GGE, has exemplified exceptional leadership and community organizing skills. Her commitment to mobilizing young people and community members to stand up against social injustice is appreciated and will be celebrated.
Ashley Lewis who as a former Sisters in Strength Youth Organizer, she brilliantly produced Hey, Shorty! and exposed the normalization of street harassment to our young people and communities. Like Anita Hill, her vision and voice has paved the way for women and girls to mobilize and take action.
Title IX Champion Award
Nia Oden for exemplifying the qualities of a model student athlete committed to leveling the proverbial playing field for women and girls.
Title IX Leadership Award
Vanessa Valenti for her commitment to leveling the proverbial playing field for women and girls has been exemplified through her thoughtful implementation of GGE’s Health and Fitness Program.
Alexis Seeley for her commitment to leveling the proverbial playing field for women and girls has been exemplified through her thoughtful implementation of GGE’s Health and Fitness Program.
Education for Social Justice Award
Toyia Taylor for her commitment to the youth of Urban Leaders Academy, thoughtful implementation of program strategies (Junior Intern Board), and community cultivation which strengthened Girls for Gender Equity’s culturally competent after school programming.
Nicole Hamilton for her commitment to the youth of Urban Leaders Academy, thoughtful implementation of program strategies (in 3 additional schools), and leadership which strengthened GGE’s service learning reach and moreover, GGE’s overall sustainability.
One of GGE’s major programs for high school girls is called “Sisters in Strength” (SIS). This is what our high school youth organizers had to say about the program in post-program surveys:
· “I am more outspoken. This will help me be more assertive in high school, college and work.”
· “I have confidence. I now speak with assurance and make better decisions. I can go beyond and do things I’ve never done before. Going to meet with the DOE, my boyfriend and friends felt like that was something that would never have done before. They were proud.”
· “I’ll be using my public speaking skills in college and I’ll be more open to challenge myself.”
· “I’ll be using the knowledge I gained while participating to help me in my future. I would like to run a non-profit organization.”
· “I am taking GED classes and it’s all because of the support I get from SIS and GGE!”
GGE’s impact on participants’ academic achievement:
· Current and past participants report that leading workshops in schools and the community has resulted in their increased classroom participation which has positively impacted their academic performance.
· One former youth organizer said participation in organizing activities such as the Title IX Campaign and Participatory Action Research projects made her pre-med college studies easier.
· A former Sister in Strength connects her successful work at Temple University to her experiences at GGE.
· One current Sister in Strength who has never loved school, is now thoroughly engaged in a Feminism & Hip Hop project as a result of her work at GGE. Staff is thrilled to see her so excited, since her graduation depends on its successful completion.
· GGE successfully applied to the Brooklyn Youth Leadership Training Institute’s (BYLTI) College Access Research & Action Creating Post-Secondary Pathways (CARA), program this summer. The BYLTI fosters an emerging strategy of placing young people in leadership roles to help their peers prepare for college and move successfully through the application process. Up to 5 GGE alumni youth leaders will be selected to participate and design a peer education program around college accessibility for current SIS participants.
· GGE staff have been busy writing recommendations for alumni for social justice internships. We are proud that these young women are comfortable as ambassadors of this work and in their desire to help build foundations for safe spaces for women.
Sisters’ Stories of Leadership Success:
· A former SIS participant has facilitated a women’s group on her Syracuse University campus, modeled on GGE. Another of our alumni started a black nurses’ support group at her New York University campus.
“At GGE, I took on many different roles. One day out of the week I was part of a leadership team with a peer intern, creating activities and raising funds for an all-girls after-school program called Health and Fitness. I would then become a panel member discussing campaigns against sexual harassment in black neighborhoods; participate in gender respect workshops; assist with finding the benefits and downfalls of Title IX; and promote a Sisters in Strength short film call “Hey, Shorty!” thatwould help educate community members on ways to protect children from being sexually harassed and abused in the streets. Having the opportunity to be a part of these different programs opened my eyes to issues that I never took notice of before. GGE and its staff instilled in me the courage to be proud of being different; the drive to challenge stereotypes and stigmas of society; and strength to find my voice to fight for what I believe in even if everyone else does not agree with me.” Nyocia, former Sister in Strength
“After completing my first year at Girls for Gender Equity, I would like to return next year because, among many other things, I know this program would prepare me in finding the right scholarships I need for college…the Urban Leaders Academy has given me the chance to find my calling in life. The children have given me a new outlook on my future. I plan to attend the University of Miami to study Political Science and Education in hopes of pursuing teaching.” Tawana, former Sister in Strength
“I joined Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) in August 2008 as a Sister in Strength Intern. I can honestly say that without this organization I wouldn’t be half of who I am today or have all the experiences and characteristics that I have now. I am more outgoing, outspoken, and I have great leadership skills. As I move on to college I will take with me the things that I love the most: being socially aware and a motivated educator. I am just one of the many teenagers who has gotten a lot from being a part of this organization.” Pamela, former Sister in Strength
“GGE, and the Sisters in Strength program allowed me to refine my leadership and community organizing skills. Being involved in SIS also gave me work experience. I received a paycheck, which enabled me to open my own bank account and manage my money. I had to “clock” in, which helped me with time management and prioritizing. And the office provided a professional feel that I will be sure to see later in my career. I especially appreciated the support that I received from the GGE staff. Many of the scholarships that I received to assist with my college tuition, I learned about through GGE. GGE even played a part in my acceptances to the 10 colleges to which I applied by writing me a recommendation letter. Being a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School was difficult, but I would like to thank GGE and SIS for making it easier.” Wadia, former Sister in Strength
Girls for Gender Equity Honors Anita Hill & Celebrates 10 Years of Service
GIRLS FOR GENDER EQUITY (GGE) HONORS ANITA HILL AND CELEBRATES 10 YEARS OF SERVICE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—(May 2, 2012) Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), a Brooklyn, New York-based youth development organization promoting the physical, psychological, social and economic well-being of girls and women, is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a cocktail reception honoring Anita Hill on June 14, 2012 from 6-9 p.m. at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
GGE is thrilled to honor of Anita Hill for her work as a leader, visionary and author. In 1991, her courageous testimony during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings sparked a national conversation on sexual harassment and women’s equality in politics and the workplace. Author of Reimagining Equality and Speaking Truth to Power, Anita is the Advisor to the Provost as well as professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University.
“Ms. Hill’s testimony exposed the normalization of sexual harassment in the work place and the bureaucracy that too often forces victims to feel powerless and remain silent,” explained Joanne Smith, GGE’s Executive Director.
“The charge she led 10 years before GGE began allowed us to believe we could combat sexual harassment in schools under the auspices of Title IX of the Education Amendment. We stand on Professor Hills shoulders as we work to keep communities safe from gender-based violence and remove barriers that impede students’ academic achievement. ”
GGE’s work to eliminate gender-based violence within school systems is based on Title IX, the civil rights law requiring that any educational establishment receiving funds from the national government provide equal opportunities to students, regardless of gender. Title IX covers the following ten key points: access to higher education, athletics, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, and standardized testing and technology. Its passage 40 years ago was a promising sign in the fight for girls’ and women’s rights, but poor enforcement has limited its effectiveness. Sexual harassment is one of the points of Title IX that is often overlooked and has become a key area of focus for GGE.
Since 2001, GGE has been a catalyst for change improving gender and race relations, and socio-economic conditions for our most vulnerable youth and communities of color. Through advocating for the uniform implementation of policy, developing the leadership skills of young people while directly serving their needs and providing educational trainings for schools, organizations, parents, politicians and others, GGE is committed to exposing and eliminating gender-based violence in our communities. This anniversary celebration is an opportunity to personally thank Anita Hill for speaking up for so many women 20 years ago and celebrate GGE’s victories over the past decade while acknowledging the achievement of young participants who continue to inspire us today.
Tickets for the fundraiser cocktail reception are available here or donate to GGE www.ggenyc.org and all proceeds will go directly to support GGE’s ongoing work in education and community building. Join them on June 14 to honor their 10 years of service and make an investment in the future of equality for girls and women of color.
This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The purpose of the SAAM campaign is to increase awareness about sexual violence and to educate the public on how to prevent it. Sexual assault is a critical issue that affects a high percentage of women and girls on a daily basis; most of them unaware they’re being assaulted.
How do you know if you are being assaulted? Any form of sexual activity that you do not feel comfortable with or agree to is classed as sexual assault. This can include: unwanted touching, sexual comments, inappropriate gestures, and rape. There are many forms of sexual assault but generally, as stated before, it is any unwanted sexual behavior.
Here are the shocking statistics:
· Every 2 minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
· Only 54% of sexual assaults are reported to the police.
· 44% of victims are under the age of 18.
· 2/3 of assaults are committed by an acquaintance.
One may ask why the public knows so little about this serious issue. It is happening daily and most women do not even know it. That is what this month is about; educating the US about the importance of distinguishing sexual assault. We, as a community, must prevent this problem and support the victims who have to deal with the long-term emotional effects of sexual assault. For some, these effects can be profound and the negative impact inflicted on them can affect them for the rest of their lives.
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is honoring the importance of this issue by hosting an event that will feature living legend, Anita F. Hill, a professor of law and women’s studies. GGE is a non-profit organization devoted to improving the physical, psychological and social development of girls and women. In supporting GGE, you are supporting all victims of sexual assault.
Lauren Sophie Kearney, born June 14, 1994 is an English writer, but currently lives in Bulgaria; she moved there when she was thirteen. She began writing at the age of fifteen; writing book reviews for a ‘Teen magazine’ known as Teen Voices. Her reviews were published both in print and online. The editor of the magazine noticed her talent which later led to Lauren being asked to critique an author’s manuscript.
Lauren, knowing she was serious about becoming a writer, applied for work experience with the top magazines, Top Santé and Glamour. The editors of both magazines were impressed with her work and she was chosen out of the hundreds that applied. Currently, Lauren writes for a Bulgarian magazine, Public Republic.
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) works with youth organizers to STOP sexual harassment and gender-based violence in schools and on the streets.
Students in New York City and beyond experience sexual harassment from students and school staff in the form of:
Pressure for sex
Groping in the hallways
Stalking to and from school
Bullying about their sexual or gender identities
Sexually explicit comments about their bodies
Did you know that under Title IX of the Education Amendment every U.S. public elementary, middle/junior high, and high school is obligated to have a designated school staff person to receive reports on sexual harassment? It is the responsibility of the school to make sure that the entire school community knows who that person is; they can be a guidance counselor, the principal or a teacher.
GGE encourages all students — especially young women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-identified students — to START voicing their experiences with sexual harassment in their school. Once we can name it, then we can STOP it!
GGE youth organizers co-facilitate “Hey…Shorty! Workshops on Sexual Harassment” in New York City and across the country. During these workshops, we do a STOP circle, and we want you to bring this activity to your community!
Now, it’s your turn to say STOP! Let’s START here!
Directions for “Wanna Be Startin’ Something?”
Materials: Red paper, green paper, black markers, and a group people ready to claim their voices
1. Create STOP and START signs!
Take a sheet of red paper and cut out the shape of an octagon.
On one side of the octagon, take a black marker and write STOP in big, bold lettering.
Take a sheet of green paper and cut out the shape of a circle.
On one side of the circle, take a black marker and write START in big, bold lettering.
2. Create STOP and START phrases
Think of a time when a friend, a parent or stranger did something to you that you didn’t like (e.g., you were talking and someone didn’t listen to you)
Come up with a phrase that describes what you didn’t like, starting with the word “STOP…”
Write this phrase on the STOP sign.
Then, come up with a phrase that describes what you would like from the person instead, starting with the word “START…”
Write this phrase on the START sign.
3. Here are some examples:
STOP calling me a “Bitch.” START respecting me.
STOP abusing me. START loving me.
STOP ignoring me. START paying attention to me.
STOP being a follower. START being a leader.
STOP following me home from school/work. START respecting my personal space.
4. Once STOP and START signs are complete, everyone will stand in a circle with their signs in hand.
5. Ask someone to volunteer to be the first read their STOP/START signs aloud.
6. Everyone will go around the circle reading aloud their STOP/START signs. Feeling empowered? Finding your voice? GREAT! Now go out and teach others how to do this activity, but most of all START using your voice to STOP injustice.