What was the motivation behind starting One Girl at a Time Foundation?
I believe strongly in the power of women to create change. I started the program as an empowerment program for young girls to create confidence. There is a significant need for positive people and positive real role models for girls to aspire to become. In today’s society, women and girls need to better understand their importance to the world. There is ample opportunity for having fun through personal experiences with mentors and all our girls. Every year, we have a annual night on the town that includes a cultural visit and dinner. We also host a “Big Girlz Night In Open Event,” where many girls group together for a fun night of prizes, pizza and bonding. The night also includes guest speakers, specialty topics aimed at teaching women to bond together and support each other. It is an open forum and a safe place of equality where girls are educated in a fun supportive environment through the school year. We are a sisterhood of support.
Tell us about your mentorship program.
One Girl at a Time Program is a twelve session strategically planned group mentoring program for teen girls that propels them forward through informed decision making.
Volunteer mentors provide positive role models, educating and creating awareness on topics that affect young women today. Through a series of twelve fully-developed workshops and extended learning experiences, girls gain the confidence and self-esteem to live their best lives. Some life changing topics include: Gender in the Media and Stereotyping, Healthy Coping Skills and Healthy Living, Sex Trafficking and Homelessness, Bullying, Dream, Dare, Do, Leadership. Sex Trafficking is a worldwide problem, people in the United States don’t realize or publicize enough how prevalent it is here at home.
In what ways has One Girl at a Time raised awareness about sex trafficking?
Sex trafficking is a mandatory workshop session that is part of our mentorship program on a national level. Girls and everyone needs to have a better understanding of the facts as well as the precautions to take. We address the topics of cyber precautions as well, because teens use social media so openly and heavily. We make sure they are aware of defenses they can use as well as hot lines that are there to assist and how to recognize if someone they know may be being trafficked. Recently, I became aware of a friend of a friend who accepted a ride hitchhiking when her car broke down. She was drugged and taken to a home, kept naked, and was videotaped being raped daily. These videos were sent to an online website where people paid to watch it. Traffickers prey on the innocence of young women. This girl was only 22 years old. Had she been educated on sex trafficking would she have made a wiser more defensive choice and not gotten in that car?
Your foundation is incredibly focused on confidence building initiatives. Where have you seen the biggest impact?
Yes creating confidence is they key! Knowledge is a powerful tool. The impact comes from becoming informed on topics that directly affect them. We see it in the very first few sessions. “Yes, this is what I need to know.” “These people care about me and Wow other girls are facing the same issues and are under the same stress as me”. They feel they are confident to face their issues because they now believe they can! Suddenly all they pressures that are on them to be equal, and fit into the stereotyped description of beauty, succeed and make healthy choices are attainable. They are bolder and wiser and unstoppable.
- When girls are educated and empowered, it benefits all of us
- 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, and disorder eating.
- 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family member.
- 1 in every 4 girls contemplates suicide before she is out of high school. Suicide is the second highest cause of death among teens.
- There is a proven direct link to low self-esteem with girls who have unprotected sex and sex before they are ready. Teen pregnancy continues to be a major problem for girls and directly impact the progression of her goals.
What are some of your favorite women’s causes?
Gender in the Media is one because so many girls base their beauty and importance on how TV and Media portray women. If they don’t fit into that box then they don’t measure up and this holds them back. Teaching them they are beautiful just the way they are and showing them these false stereotypes gives them confidence to follow their dreams and take a leadership role in the world. We also host the topic that addresses your place and importance in the world.
Education is stressed throughout the program. The importance of pushing yourself to become your best self, and using your education to be able to create change, impact your communities and balance the scales of equality in the workplace. Girls are given career choice guidance, interview skills and dressing for an interview tips too. They are given guidance on believing in themselves as they move forward and have earned the right to be equal in the workplace. Educating girls on important life skills topics like Bullying, Sex Trafficking, and Healthy Coping Skills creates knowledge on a new level and the tools to move forward wisely and with high self-esteem.
Why is gender equality an important issue for you?
It’s important because women need to take their place in the world as equals. We have been fighting for that far too long. We need to be realistically portrayed and as important to the world as men. When girls understand the statistics of where we are on this issue they want more for themselves and believe they can achieve their dreams. They fight for equality, they push harder and they dream bigger. There needs to be a continuing effort to recognize women as strong and as leaders in our media. I am proud of the work that has been done in recent years to help push equality forward.
If you could name three women leaders that inspire you the most, who would they be and why?
Michelle Obama “Who runs the world” Girls! She is an amazing female role model that sets an example of powerful females, killing it at the tops of their fields and in the trenches, helping to make a difference. Another would have to be Malala Yousafzai. This Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate is known mainly for human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Yousafzai's advocacy has since grown into an international movement.
The third is Oprah Winfrey! I love how despite all she has been through, she has achieved so much. She also has become an advocate for all people as equals. She is inspirational, thought provoking and constantly strives for the message to become the best human being you can be. She is a strong advocate for living a full life in mind body and spirit and sets that example.
What’s next for One Girl at a Time?
Every year and in every place we host a program we learn from our young women as much as we teach them. We are very proud that we can bring so many races, religions, and personalities together and everyone feels equal. The support this sisterhood shares sets an example to us all. We are all part of one race, the human race.
When women come together great things happen. We are determined, and a force to be reckoned with when we empower each other.
I am fueled by the thought that so many women who group mentor volunteer their time and talent to help shape the lives of our girls and it all works so well. I will continue to make sure this is an impactful sustaining relationship with our young women. Building a relationship for each girl as we really get to know them and not be about just sharing information with large numbers of girls who we can’t ever directly get to know. We have shaped lives and change lives and we have save lives for girls who had given up. We will continue to support and propel them forward so they can take what they have learned, raise their sons and daughters to do the same and make impact of their own knowing they will and they can.
Support and make a donation to One Girl at a Time Foundation here.