Alliance for Girls is grateful for the Research & Communications Committee for helping us put together the content of this newsletter. They are:
Helynna Brooke (Chair) is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Mental Health Education Funds, Inc where she focuses on advocating for appropriate mental health services for women and girls. Helynna co-founded the Red Web Foundation in 2003, following the creation of the First Moon Kit for celebrating the first period of a woman. The Red Web Foundation is on the bleeding edge of education and advocacy for healthy attitudes about the menstrual cycle.
Linn Hellerstrom works as the Public Education and Campaigns Intern at Futures Without Violence, where she is the community manager for teen dating violence prevention program That's Not Cool. Prior to her work for Futures Without Violence, Linn worked with policy advocacy for gender equality and women's rights issues in Sweden. In her spare time, she loves going on long hikes, testing new tasty recipes and exploring San Francisco.
Kiku Johnson has been committed to youth programming since 1989 ranging from residential, treatment, prevention, out-of-school time, and youth development - 18 of those years have been focused work with girls and gender-specific programming. Most recently Kiku served as the Girls Leadership national program director focused on SEL curriculum and educator training and development. Kiku is now with One Circle Foundation where the focus is training, consulting, and equipping service providers across sectors to implement research-based circle program models and best practice evidence-based approaches to increase capacities and build healthy relationships amongst youth.
Kara Sammet is a diversity, inclusion and impact consultant, currently working as a researcher and writer at Google to improve the inclusion of girls and women in computer science. She has a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley with an emphasis on measurement and gender. Kara works with cross-sector organizations to support girls' & women's equity and leadership, previously including at Techbridge, Girls Leadership, GirlVentures and Outward Bound.
Connie Wun, Ph.D. is the director of the Institute for Research and Social Transformation. She is also a Research Justice at the Intersections Fellow and American Association for University Women Fellow at Mills College. Since completing her degree from the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, Connie has led research and community driven research trainings on issues of racial, transgender, immigrant, and gender justice. Her publications can be found in truth-out.org, The Feminist Wire, Critical Sociology, Journal for Curriculum and Teaching, and Journal of Educational Policy.
Interested in joining the Researh & Communications Committee? Email Helynna at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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Note from the Executive Director
For those of us that are fighting on the frontlines to create a world in which every girl can thrive, no matter her race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or assigned gender, this summer has been a deeply painful one.
The tragic and senseless murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by white police officers shook our nation to its core and deservedly intensified the national dialogue about racism and police brutality in our country. Yet as we remember these men and say their names, we must also remember Castile's fiancée Diamond Reynolds and her four-year old daughter, Dae'Anna. Reynolds and her daughter witnessed the inexplicable murder of a loved one, only to then be arrested, separated and detained. Early childhood trauma can severely effect children's emotional and cognitive development, disrupting the neuronal architecture of the developing brain. Dae'Anna's life will never be the same. Who is looking out for Reynolds and her child? Who will comfort Dae'Anna as she comforts her mom?
And here in Oakland, the documented exploitation of a trafficked minor by more than a dozen Oakland police officers, three Richmond police officers, four Alameda County sheriff's deputies and a federal officer serves as another devastating reminder that all too often the very people we employ to protect our communities are instead destroying them. These police officers coerced a vulnerable young woman into performing sexual favors, including intercourse, in exchange for protection from arrest or prosecution. Our systems are perpetuating violence against girls, not preventing it.
As girls' champions, we spend every day, every waking moment doing what we can to create a better world for our girls. In times like these, it can feel as if our efforts are futile in the face of a failing and corrupt system.
But the truth is, our efforts have never mattered more. We are working to unravel what has taken centuries to create. An economy and a country built on the exploited backs of native people, slaves, women and immigrants.
Now, more than ever, it is critical that we remain united and committed. That we use our collective strength to hold systems accountable. That we listen to our girls and champion their voices. That we continue to build sisterhood with one another and support the leadership that will carry us into tomorrow, for generations to come. Our progress is unstoppable when we work together.
Alliance for Girls enables relationships, strengthens leadership and builds the collective power necessary to get us through harrowing times like today. And we are not doing it alone. We are working with local and national partners to further strengthen our collective efforts, including:
the National Black Women's Justice Institute through the Oakland community strategy sessions on school pushout for black girls and other girls of color (see Alliance for Girls' presentation at the first session, by AFG consultant Iminah Ahmad, here);
the National Girls Initiative, of which we are a proud grantee and working with a cohort of grantees from across the country to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates for girls; and
as a member of the National Girls @ the Margins Alliance.
None of this would be possible without the incredible work of our members, who are giving girls the tools they need to survive, thrive and transform our world. Thank you for your commitment, your strength and your hard work. Together we will continue to fight for justice, and together we will prevail.
In sisterhood, Emma Mayerson
Alliance for Girls Update
Introducing Iminah Laura Ahmad!
In 2015, Alliance for Girls (AFG) was awarded the National Girls Initiative Innovation Awards from the US Department of Justice. This award is funding an initiative led by AFG and its members to partner with Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to craft and implement new policies that will ensure that the school system is appropriately and effectively supporting girls of color. To manage this partnership, AFG hired consultant, educator and Oakland native Iminah Laura Ahmad, and we're excited to introduce her! Learn more about her and the project below.
What is your personal story? How did you get into this work?
I was born and raised in Oakland, have spent the majority of my educational career in OUSD schools and come from a lineage of educators. Growing up as an African American woman in Oakland during the 80's, 90's and early 2000's gave me a very rich and challenging life experience. My educational journey first began in Oakland's African-centered independent schools. This gave me a deep confidence in myself and historical heritage, and gave me the foundation to be a high-achieving student leader. After transitioning to Oakland's public schools I was exposed to the daily hardships many of my peers faced in more disadvantaged communities throughout Oakland. After a lifetime of seeing my peers become contributors to many of the negative statistics Oakland is known for, and surviving a barrage of hellish experiences myself, I was deeply motivated to help create the change my community needs. This inspired me to create my social change platform, "From Ghetto to Goddess," through which I provide consulting, programs, workshops and "Edutainment" experiences.
How did you get connected with Alliance for Girls (AFG)? What attracted you to AFG?
I was connected to Alliance for Girls at the inaugural meeting for OUSD's African-American Young Women and Girls Collaborative. After meeting with AFG's Executive Director, Emma, I was very excited to learn about the collaborative model of girl-serving organizations forming a collective voice and strategy. The problems our society faces are massive and unprecedented. In creating solutions it's imperative that our solutions are also massive and unprecedented. There is a vast array of amazing organizations doing great and much needed work in our communities, and I really appreciate that AFG provides consistent opportunities for us to work together. This truly takes a village, and I'm thankful to every AFG member who is working together to support our girls.
Tell us about your role in the OUSD project. What's been going on? What are you currently working on?
The OUSD project is an amazing, intense and life-changing experience. Our first order of business has been finalizing a groundbreaking study AFG conducted about the lived experiences of girls of color at OUSD. This report is dense with riveting information about what is happening for these girls. It gives great insight to the underlying causes of the negative statistics we see too often within this school district. As the report is being finalized we are meeting with various school district officials, governmental officials and community stakeholders to discuss the findings and implement solutions that AFG's technical assistance team and at-large planning team have co-developed as a direct result of the AFG study. Solutions include trainings and resources for schools, policy recommendations and many other supports for OUSD girls of color. As someone who graduated from OUSD schools, and is intimately familiar with challenges our students face, I am deeply honored to lead this project.
What would success look like to you?
My main priority is to improve the lived experiences of OUSD's girls of color now and in the future. At a micro-level I would like to see the goals we've set out to achieve successfully be achieved. At a macro-level I would like to see sustainable partnerships with governmental agencies , organizations, foundations, community-based organizations and the communities we serve. I would like to see REAL equity in action, and society working together to meet the expressed needs of all segments of our communities, especially our girls of color who have been chronically underserved and overlooked. The problems we face have been embedded in our societies for generations. My hope is that what we are doing today will be carried on by those coming after us.
How can readers and concerned community members support this work?
There are several ways this work can be supported:
Join our at-large planning meetings as they are announced and actively work with us in creating and implementing solutions.
Use your voice to support this work as it progresses.
Help us secure funding to make this a sustainable project that can create generational change in our communities.
Member Spotlight: The Futon Shop
This issue's member spotlight features an institutional member, The Futon Shop, which maintains a high priority in sustainable and organic practices, manufacturing the purest non-toxic and sustainable furniture for families today. Learn more about them in our Q&A with Founder and Owner Suzanne Diamond below.
What is your personal story behind founding The Futon Shop?
In the early 1970’s, I was an art student in Boston, moved to California and became a very young mother. My goal was to live and raise my children in a healthy and happy environment, without chemicals and artificial products. I immersed myself in studies of macrobiotics, a way of living and eating that was local and natural. My teachers were the founders of macrobiotics George Osawa and Mishio Kushi. This way of life inspired me to learn and hand make futons, a traditional Japanese cotton mattress for sleeping.
I was encouraged to create a natural living space for family, but found so many products with chemicals. I could not find a mattress that did not contain polyurethane foam from petroleum and nasty fire retardants. Mishio’s wife Aveline taught us how to make a traditional cotton futon out of cotton, wool and natural fibers. That was the birth and future of The Futon Shop.
Aveline held classes in her home in Boston on cooking and lifestyle teaching me the basics of natural living. I believe without her mentoring and her seeing her devotion to maintain a natural way of life may have taken my future toward a different path.
What does being a business owner mean to you?
On my journey the last 40 years I have recognized the power and opportunity I have as a business owner to give back, mentor health, wellbeing and change the world. As a manufacturer and small business owner, my actions greatly affect my community and the environment. I want to see the world change from poison in our food, home, and air to a world that is safe and healthy.
I am committed to making the world a healthier place following organic practices and giving back to my community. I still make the best and most natural futons anywhere in America, completely made from natural fibers without chemicals, petroleum byproducts or fire retardants.
Why did the Futon Shop join Alliance for Girls? What does being a member mean to you?
Woman and children, due to our body makeup and fat cells are more susceptible to absorbing and holding onto chemicals that leech out from everyday products and accumulate in our bodies, causing disease and cancer. As a woman, daughter, mother, nana, and business owner, I help change the face of our community by offering healthy environmental choices and safer products. I embrace the next generation of girls who will become the leaders and consumers shaping the landscape and future of our homes and communities.
The Futon Shop is looking for partners to help local communities gain knowledge and spread awareness about living chemically free and learn about toxic free environment choices. Over the past year The Futon Shop partnered with two organizations that are fighting against breast cancer: Boarding For Breast Cancer (in Southern California) and the Breast Cancer Fund (in San Francisco).
While researching Breast Cancer Prevention, I found Alliance for Girls online and was inspired. It is so important for girls to have support and I would love to be an advocate for girls in my community. It is amazing what Alliance for Girls does for girls and I am so inspired to see what the future holds. I would love to be part of such an empowering community. Girls today have the power to change the face of so many challenges in their community.
A core value at Alliance for Girls is collaboration. Are there any resources or tools you'd like to share with Alliance members and/or their girls?
When I attended Alliance for Girls' Year of the Girl conference, I was struck and moved by the girls and women who are creating change and opportunity for all girls, but especially girls of color and the underprivileged. I would like to propose an idea and I will need your help. I would like to create a safe room in public junior high and high schools for girls only. This room will contain donated futons (from me) and offer girls a safe place where they can meet and share experiences and be safe from sexual abuse, drugs and gangs. Long-term goals would be setting up mentors for the students, hold workshops and classes that will empower them in their everyday environment. Helping to create each girl with a safe place in their community with dignity, strength and in numbers that will have a lasting effect for their future.
As an entrepreneur, what advice would you pass on to girls and young women?
As a young woman I started The Futon Shop because I had a passion for creating a healthy home for my family. What I have learned over the last 40 years is that you need passion to have success. To be successful in life you have to find out what you are passionate about, never give up, and that will lead you to your success.
A Girl's Perspective
The full posts from girls below are featured on Alliance for Girls' blog.
We have worked so hard to prepare for this tour that it is hard to believe we are finally here. On the flight to New York, while many slept, read, listened to music or occupied themselves to pass the time, I wrote a poem which I would like to share with you.
My Journey to New York
The low rumble of the engine surrounds me, A constant radio-like static in the background, As we gradually ascend into the air and fly through the sky... Read Gabby's full post here.
"Dream Big" Posters from Athena Camps by the middle school campers at Athena Camps
CCUIH's Red Women Rising project supports culturally responsive domestic violence services for Urban Indians by increasing public awareness and enhancing collaborations between Urban Indian health organizations, domestic violence service providers and traditional healers. Earlier this year, CCUIH created a webpage that houses all of the Red Women Rising media so advocates can participate in their public awareness campaign and start important conversations about recognizing abuse, stopping violence, and healing as a community. Learn more about their campaign here.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) by Smruti Aravind, former Video Editor of Career Girls
"It's National Women's Health Week, and a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves that our physical and mental health should be a priority, despite all our other responsibilities. It's pretty straightforward to remember to schedule a checkup with your gynecologist, but navigating the maze of mental health can be more daunting.
IGNITE is ready for #StateofWomen: An Interview with Dr. Anne Moses by Anne Moses, President & Founder of IGNITE
"For the first time in history, a woman is the Presidential nominee for a major political party. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, but we have to capitalize on it! Women still hold only 22% of the 500,000 elective offices across the US. That means we still need 140,000 more women in office at every level to achieve gender parity. And research suggests it will be more than 100 years before that happens." Read more about why now is the time for women and girls to declare their ambition to run for office. Vague feedback of "Lacks Executive Presence" is blocking senior women's advancement by Lori Nishiura Mackenzie, Executive Director of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University
"Two years ago, when Sheryl Sandberg launched the campaign to 'Ban Bossy' for young girls, women also cheered. Many women have been called bossy, or the adult version of the word, at some time. While some women receive direct feedback to act differently, more often, they are just told they lack the executive presence or influence to advance to the C-suite. In many instances, that criticism reflects stereotypes about who makes good leaders. While a long-term solution is to block the reliance on stereotypes when speaking about and evaluating senior women, we need immediate action. My solution? A new campaign to advance women leaders: Ban 'Executive Presence.'" Read more about the research on the discrepancies in feedback men and women receive and participate in the Ban Executive Presence campaign.
The World of Girls
We encourage you to use the following news articles and corresponding prompts to start a conversation with girls and your community.
Latina Teens Have the Highest Rate of Suicide Attempts in the U.S.
According to a new report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of Latina teens attempted suicide in 2015 and nearly 26% considered suicide. Among Latina girls, 14 to 15 is the peak age for suicide attempts. Many of those who suffer from depression were born in the U.S. but have immigrant parents who come from cultures where there's no awareness of or vocabulary around mental illness. Communication between parents and their children is crucial, especially between mothers and daughters. Read the full article here.
Suggested Activity: Explore the "unspoken rules and expectations" of what it means to be and identify as bicultural in girls' specific communities and settings. (Bicultural: having or combining the cultural attitudes and customs of two nations, peoples, or ethnic groups.)
What do you love and/or what are you most proud of about your cultural identities?
What do others ask about or sometimes get confused about your cultural identities?
What feelings come up when you are navigating your home or family culture and the expectations of being a teen outside of your home and family?
Do you share your experiences across your cultural identities? Why or why not? What would be some ideal situations where you could share your experiences with others?
Create a creative expression opportunity (drawing, skits, lyric, etc.) for girls to illustrate what they are proud of and/or what is most often misunderstood about their cultural identities.
Parents, especially mothers, can share their own experiences as a young girl navigating their own culture to serve as connection. Parents can communicate together how they listen and learn about their daughter's navigation of their cultural identity living in the U.S.
If There's Only One Woman in Your Candidate Pool, There's Statistically No Chance She'll Be Hired
Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that when there is only one woman or ethnic minority in a candidate pool for a job position, there is little to no chance that that person will be hired. In one study of 598 finalists for university teaching positions, if the composition of the finalist pool was 3 women and 1 man, a woman had a 67% chance of being hired. If the composition was 2 women and 2 men, a 50% chance, but when the pool was 1 woman and 3 men, a woman was never selected, so she had a 0% chance. Read the full article here.
Suggested Activity: Explore girls' exposure and knowledge of self worth and promotion.
Create opportunities for girls to start building a "resume" young and have fun and be creative with it. Help them identify when they have embodied leadership in different settings - small, medium and large!
Investigate the "gender role boxes" perception that have existed and been purveyed in society for both girls and boys along with men and women. Suggested activity to adapt for your setting from the Oakland Men’s Project.
Encourage girls to focus on qualities, skills, and experience when applying and thriving in a job and profession. Pull sample job descriptions and guide a discussion with teen girls around “creating the ideal candidates.”
Invite girls to share some of the stereotypes they have encountered or witnessed around the judgement of their or others capability based on race, ethnicity, and gender and discuss strategies that can be engaged to positively counteract and challenge these treatments.
An Opportunity to Address Menstrual Health and Gender Equity
Menstruation is a monthly challenge for billions of women and girls worldwide. On any given day, more than 800 million girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating. Challenges go beyond practical management to issues that affect the girl and her role in the community. While more governments, funders, and other actors are now addressing issues related to menstrual health, many existing efforts are disparate and siloed, and the field lacks the research needed to mobilize more organizations to get involved. An Opportunity to Address Menstrual Health and Gender Equity, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, examines the current menstrual health sector and identifies opportunities for the field to improve girls' dignity and empowerment.
Suggested Activity: Continue our girls' journey of destigmatizing their menstrual health by building awareness and understanding.
Assess with girls what they already know about what is available in their communities for women's health. Given the opportunity to create a women's health or wellness center in your community what would it look like and what important services would be available?
Create a creative expression opportunity (drawing, skits, lyric, etc.) for girls to share how they would teach a younger generation of girls, or even their peers, about positive and important menstrual health.
Create an ad or commercial of a current or invented menstrual health product to share.
Discuss feelings and emotions that come up with different aspects of menstrual health in their cultural identities, communities and settings.
Flowering Hope's first art awareness exhibit, Beyond the Bloom, is on display at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael from July 8 - August 6. The exhibit is a culmination of over 200 voices from survivors, supporters, advocates, family members, and the public, and it seeks to bring awareness to the issue of gender-based violence. Flowering Hope carries out much of its work in collaboration with organizations that work with women and/or girls, providing Art Outreach sessions to both staff and clients, free of charge.
Futures Without Violence has won a Webby Award for That's Not Cool, a website aimed at preventing teen dating violence and digital abuse. That's Not Cool was awarded best website in the charitable organization/nonprofit category and was honored among other Webby winners including Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner of Lenny Letter and Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Hailed as the "Internet's highest honor" by The New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award highlighting excellence on the Internet.
Techbridge is a winner of the Google RISE Awards, which honors organizations across the globe that are working to increase access to computer science (CS) education for groups who are currently underrepresented. Specifically, Techbridge was awarded for integrating the power of everyday role models into its CS programs to inspire children to pursue CS.
Laura Hackney, Executive Director of AnnieCannons, recently participated in the "Interdisciplinary Approach to the Protection of Human Rights: Building Integrated Networks between Academic, State and Societal Actors" at Tohoku University in Japan. This program worked to connect scholars of international law and international relations as well as legal experts, corporate entrepreneurs, and civil society actors to discuss the challenges and prospects of protecting and promoting human rights norms. Hackney's talks were titled, "Reevaluating Human Trafficking: The Case of Burmese Women as Chinese Brides" and "Transparency, Institution Building and Human Rights Protection."
Kathleen Thurmond's first letter to the editor was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 30th in response to "Court sides with choice," describing the damage done by recent restrictions across the country limiting or cutting off access to abortion clinics. Thurmond is the Co-Chair of Alliance for Girls' Advisory Board.
Linda Calhoun of Career Girlswill be a judge for the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy's Inclusive Innovation Competition. The competition identifies and celebrates organizations that are inventing a more inclusive, productive, and sustainable future for all.
Bay Area Girls Rock Camp (BAGRC) is the recipient of the San Francisco Symphony's Ellen Magnin Newman Award! BAGRC will be featured on the Symphony's marketing materials as well as be honored in an award presentation at the Symphony's All San Francisco concert in the fall.