Location: Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW), 14 Common Street, Waterville Maine
Project Team: HGHW Girls Advisory Board (GAB)
The Girls Unlimited! Conference focuses on media literacy to learn how to create positive girl-generated media. It teaches girls to think for themselves, question stereotypes, and shows a group of strong, powerful girls making a difference in their communities. 200+ girls from 4th-8thgrade attend the day-long conference at Colby College.
How are you making Maine a better place for young people?
The Girls Advisory Board is a group of girls from 9th-12th grade who help keep the Waterville-Maine based Hardy Girls Healthy Women in touch with the needs of girls in the Central Maine community. Hardy Girls is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women in the community and GAB is the youth advisory and activist arm of the non-profit. We are making Maine a better place for young people by showing Maine girls that they have voices and deserve to be heard. We do various community service projects and help to advise Hardy Girls so their programs are youth-focused and relevant, but a large part of our work, and where most of the money would go to, is our annual Girls Unlimited! Conference.
Our Girls Unlimited! Conference is a daylong event for girls in 4th to 8th grade, held at Colby College for more than 200 girls from elementary and middle schools across the state. The conference is planned and run by the Girls Advisory Board. We begin our preparation months in advance. We team up and each team identifies and researches an issue impacting girls and develops a Powerpoint presentation. We begin the conference with short keynotes educating girls about these issues. Each team then leads a workshop on another topic later in the day for 20 girls. The Girls Unlimited! Conference is our way of reaching out to girls and teaching them that they can have power and a voice. We focus on media literacy, and show younger girls how to create positive girl-generated media. The conference teaches girls to think for themselves, to question stereotypes, and shows them a group of strong, powerful girls who are making a difference in their communities.
The Girls Unlimited Conference is just one example of the ways we are making Maine a better place for young people. Within our group itself, we act as a support system for each other and discuss issues going on in our lives. GAB improves our own lives by giving us a group of similarly minded young people to support us and work together to change the world to make it more girl friendly and positive for girls to grow up in.
What challenges in your community are you addressing?
We have found because of the culture they have grown up in, girls have not been taught that they are strong, capable individuals who can work together to make the world a better place. The media is often a large player in this misconception. Girls are underrepresented and when they are represented in the media they are sexualized and put into stereotypical roles. We want to create strong, independent girls who believe in themselves and have more opportunities than the media usually sets before them. Girls are taught from an early age to fit into a tiny box, and we want to help them question this box and get out of it.
Who will benefit from your idea? How will people access and learn about the work you are doing?
People will access and learn about our work from our conference and public outreach, through Hardy Girls’ newsletter and enews, through word of mouth, through our website, and through being directly involved in our work. We have also developed and helped to create a new website, called Powered By Girl (PBG) where we blog, share our work, and create our own media. Girls Advisory Board members will benefit from our project by continuing to be part of a fantastic group that can help support each other as we become role models for others. We will benefit the girls who go to the Girls Unlimited! Conference, join PBG, and attend other events we create and support by showing them that they can break out of society’s expectations of girls. We will also benefit many other youths in the central Maine community through the girls we directly reach. By creating a generation of independent girls who feel free to speak up for themselves and create their own media we will be creating a new culture for girls overall.
What major success would you like to see at the end or apex of your project?
Our project does not have a specific ending point, but our overall goal is to show girls that they deserve to be heard. We want to create a new generation of women who will create girl empowering media. We want girls to grow up believing in themselves and confident in their own abilities to achieve their dreams. Our major success comes from reaching many girls through our Girls Unlimited! Conference and by keeping Hardy Girls in touch with what young women need to feel empowered.
Any thing else you’d like us to know?
The Girls Advisory Board is a group of 12 high school girls who work with Waterville based non-profit, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, to help empower girls and young women in our area. We work with Hardy Girls to keep their programming relevant to what girls need and we do many social activism projects ourselves to make the world a better place for girls to grow up. Our largest project is our Girls Unlimited! Conference that reaches over 200 girls from 4th-8th grade from central Maine to help educate them about media literacy by creating their own media. Our goal is to show girls that they can be whatever they want to be by providing them with unique opportunities and serving as role models ourselves. Our group allows us to support ourselves and reach out to girls who may not have similar support to help them become strong, confident young women.
Twitter handles: @hghw and @poweredbygirl