Note from the Director

Dear Alliance Community,

We have a lot to share this quarter: Alliance for Girls is expanding its Meeting Girls Needs Initiative into San Francisco schools, launching a Young Women's Leadership Board, and conducting new research on the needs of girls in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Meeting Girls Needs Initiative

As many of you know, in 2015 Alliance for Girls (AFG) piloted a new initiative, the Meeting Girls Needs Initiative, partnering with Oakland Unified School District to bring the expertise of our membership into the schools to meet girls' expressed needs (amplified by the production of original research). The impact of this partnership has been extraordinary.

Through the collaborative efforts of our members: Equal Rights Advocates, Community Works, Girls Inc. of Alameda County, MISSSEY, The Mentoring Center and The Respect Institute and the leadership of the AFG Girls Leadership Team, Alliance for Girls created and enacted a new sexual harassment policy for OUSD, profiled by NPR, ABC 7 News, and the National Education Association, trained the OUSD Assistant Superintendents and community school managers in how to better meet girls' needs, and promoted girls' programs for school site implementation.

This year, Alliance for Girls is bringing the Meeting Girls Needs Initiative to San Francisco Unified School District! First step: the research. AFG is working with a team of member-nominated young women, and a team of member experts, to conduct original research on the expressed needs of girls of color in San Francisco, to be published in May of 2018.

Young Women's Leadership Board

Meet Alliance for Girls' Young Women's Leadership Board! These eight superstars are all alumnae of member organizations, including AnnieCannons, BHS Stop HarassingOakland Teen Empowerment Scholarship Program, Julia Morgan School for Girls, Career GirlsTechbridge, GirlUp and the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland, and now they are giving back to the girl-serving community as Young Women's Leadership Board Members. By providing strategic guidance, acting as ambassadors and supporting our programs, these young women are helping Alliance for Girls provide trainings, conduct research and enable collaborations that are truly girl-centered.

The Young Women's Initative

With a seed grant provided by the Women's Foundation of California, Alliance for Girls is conducting research on the expressed needs of girls in the San Francisco Bay Area! The first three focus groups will be conducted in Oakland, Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

AFG is committed to producing original research that amplifies girls' voices, makes the case for investment in girls' unique needs, and provides our members with needed data. This research will also be used to inform a national initiative, the Young Women's Initiative, led by eight Women's Foundations across the country who are committing to investing in low-income girls and young women.

All of this is powered by you, our members and supporters.

Thank you!

In This Issue

Alliance for Girls Update

Member Spotlight: Brown Girl Surf

A Girl's Perspective

Voices of the Alliance

The World of Girls

Members in the News


For Members 

We're hosting the Annual Members Meeting on January 4th, and we're looking for members who can present on innovative, evidence-based approaches to working with girls. If this sounds like you, apply here!

Want to be featured in our newsletters and/or blog? We're always looking for stories or op-eds written by members or by girls. Check out the guidelines on this page and contact Kailin Chou at

Alliance Events

Winter Mixer for Girls' Champions
Tuesday, December 5
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Girls Inc. of Alameda County

Annual Members Meeting
Thursday, January 4
9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Google Community Space
San Francisco

Supporting Women & Girls' Mental Health: Issue Brief & Workshop
Thursday, January 18
Girls Inc. of Alameda County

Community Events

Stronger California
Wednesday, November 29
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location TBD
San Francisco or Oakland

Gaia Gala: Fundraiser for Gaia Girls Passages
Friday, December 1
7:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Finnish Hall

2017 SquashDrive Holiday Party
Friday, December 8
7:00 pm - 10:00 pm
The University Club of San Francisco

Girls Garage Holiday Gift Fair
Saturday, December 9
11:00 am - 1:00 pm
1380 Tenth Street

17th AJFO (Association for Justice-Involved Females and Organizations) Conference
Monday - Wednesday
December 11-13
Santa Clara Marriott
Santa Clara

Events for Girls & Young Women

Skate Like a Girl Bay Area: Winter Meet-Up
Thursday, November 30
5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
San Francisco

Deadline to Apply: IGNITE's Merriott J. Terry Scholarship
Friday, December 1

Bay Area Girls Unite: End of Year Party
Sunday, December 3
4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club
San Francisco

10th Annual Young Women & Money Conference
Saturday, December 9
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Marriott Oakland City Center

Girls on the Run Day
Saturday, December 9
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Sports Basement

Skate Like a Girl Bay Area: Winter Meet-Up
Friday, December 15
5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
San Francisco

San Francisco Girls Chorus Holiday Concert: Greetings From All Seasons!
Monday, December 18
7:30 pm
Davis Symphony Hall
San Francisco

Deadline to Submit: The National Girls and Women of Color Council Anthology
Sunday, December 31

Girls Garage After-School Program: Welding and Steel Work
January 23 - March 13
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Girls Garage

Girls Garage After-School Program: Pop-Up Shops
January 24 - March 14
1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Girls Garage

Girls Garage After-School Program: Pop-Up Shops
January 24 - March 14
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Girls Garage

Girls Garage After-School Program: Power Tools
January 25 - March 15
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Girls Garage

Check out all events on Alliance for Girls' community calendar here.

The Research & Communications Committee

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 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.

Lenore Gallin is Vice President of Programs on the board of AAUW Oakland-Piedmont and a professor of archaeology, cultural anthropology and women's studies at Diablo Valley College. She also develops and leads study abroad programs.

Kiku Johnson has been committed to youth programming since 1989 ranging from residential to out-of-school time to 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.

Dawn McMahan is the Executive Artistic Director of the Pythia Arts Center for Social Change. She is about to complete her MSW at the University of Southern California while simultaneously studying American Sign Language. She has advocated for youth in crisis since 2010 in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and county agencies, an Ethics Committee member for the National Association of Social Workers, and works with the OUSD's Foster Youth Advisory Committee. She ran for Oakland City Council in 2011.

Kara Sammet is a diversity, inclusion and impact consultant, most recently 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' and women's equity and leadership, previously including at Techbridge, Girls Leadership, GirlVentures and Outward Bound.

Andy Spivack  recently graduated with an MSW at the University of California, Berkeley, in the management and planning concentration. Prior to this, he was an MSW Intern at Futures Without Violence where he managed the teen dating violence program That's Not Cool. Andy also evaluated school-based programs in Richmond, was a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention educator in North Lake Tahoe, and engaged in environmental and social justice work with Native communities in the rural Four Corners region of the US.

Connie Wun, Ph.D. is the founder and executive director of Transformative Research. She is also a Research Justice at the Intersections Fellow and AAUW Fellow at Mills College. Since completing her degree from the Graduate School of Education at UC 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, The Feminist Wire, Critical Sociology, Journal for Curriculum and Teaching, and Journal of Educational Policy

Interested in joining the Research & Communications Committee? Email Helynna at to learn more.

Alliance for Girls Update

New Workshops & Initiatives

We're excited to announce our upcoming events and intiatives for members! Here's what we have going on:

  • Earlier this fall we launched the Circles Initiative, a six-month initiative that is bringing together circles (aka cohorts) of members and young women to work together and address issues facing girls and the girls' service sector. This year's topics are (1) Men's Engagement in Gender Equity, (2) Girls Advocacy & Leadership, and (3) Girls Leadership Development in Sports.

  • We're launching the second year of the Mentoring Initiative! The Mentoring Initiative is a unique opportunity for Alliance members to be matched with fellow members, to learn from their experiences and discuss professional topics of interest. If you're looking for support from an experienced leader in the field or if you're interested in offering guidance, apply here.

  • Upcoming events and workshops include:

    Tuesday, Dec. 5: Winter Mixer for Girls' Champions
    (Open to all girls' champions, not just members!)

    Thursday, Jan. 4: Annual Members Meeting

    Thursday, Jan. 18: Issue Brief & Workshop on Supporting Women and Girls' Mental Health
    (In partnership with Arabella Advisors / The Hope & Grace Fund)

We hope to see you soon!

Member Spotlight: Brown Girl Surf

"My goal is to grow as a movement, not just a non-profit."

Photo: Brown Girl Surf Co-Founder and Executive Director Mira Manickam Shirley, center, leads a group of girls into the water

For this issue's member spotlight, we chat with Mira Manickam-Shirley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Brown Girl Surf, an organization that works to build a more diverse, environmentally reverent, and joyful surf culture for women and girls by increasing access to surfing, cultivating community, amplifying the voices of women of color surfers, and taking care of the earth.

What is your personal story? How did it lead to founding Brown Girl Surf?

When I was little I never dreamed that I would live by the ocean, that one day I would be one of those magical people with an ocean in their backyard. That changed when I moved to California at 30 years old to work for NatureBridge in the Marin Headlands as an environmental educator 5 minutes from the beach. I wanted to be in the water all the time and engage in the ocean constantly, and I quickly learned that a lot of people spend their time in the ocean by surfing, so I taught myself how to surf and instantly fell in love with the sport.

As an educator, my passion is to address inequity and access to the outdoors and shift the perception of ownership. The outdoors are a place not to be owned by one people, but to be enjoyed and accessible to people of all backgrounds. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, most environmental education programs had very few staff of color. Curriculum and even the structure of programs often reflected a very Euro-American centric cultural perspective and way of relating to the environment. I wanted to create community environmental ed programs that emphasized avenues for nature connection in the context of participants' own neighborhoods, communities, and cultural identities. I attempted to bring these ideas to my work in NatureBridge’s youth program, and in my work at United Roots youth center in Oakland, where I cofounded Trees 4 Life, an intergenerational urban forestry internship focusing on planting trees to promote community healing, and the Green Guard, an intergenerational eco-hip hop collective celebrating urban nature.

My desire to shift the narrative around who occupies or "owns" the outdoors, eventually bled into my interest in surfing. When I was working at NatureBridge, I applied for a Matt Baxter award, an award in honor of an adventure loving employee who had passed, which encouraged employees to dream their own greatest adventure. My proposal, “Surfer Grrrls Brazil,” was to take a solo girl surf adventure on the coast of Brazil, and document my adventures through original hip hop videos and a blog that would raise the profile of women of color in surfing. I realized that for girls, surfing is a super fun, badass, and empowering activity that can open a gateway to nature - but first we needed to open up the idea of what a surfer looks like. Amazingly, I won the award, and I headed off to Brazil. But before I left, I met Farhana Huq, who had just started Brown Girl Surf, as a community and platform for telling stories of pioneering female surfers around the world. She was heading off to Bangladesh and India to meet and tell the stories of the first female surfers there. Needless to say, we were pretty excited to connect.

We stayed in touch, and after I returned, I joined Farhana in her work on Brown Girl Surf. Many women and girls I knew in Oakland were excited about the idea of low cost accessible surf lessons. In response, I started the community programming arm of Brown Girl Surf in early 2015. Since then, about 250 girls and women have surfed with us, including 125 girls. Over 80% are women/girls of color. We have hosted 6 film screenings, 4 outings, and 4 environmental clean-ups.

Since the start of Brown Girl Surf, where are you now?

My goal is to grow as a movement, not just a non-profit. I want to maximize people’s energy and desire to surf so that at some point people don’t rely on the Brown Girl Surf infrastructure to get out and enjoy the ocean with each other. The creation of an inclusive, active surfing community is the dream.

We’re trying to empower people to connect with the ocean more regularly in their lives, not just host one-off surf days. This means we aim to engage participants over time. We have opportunities to surf most weekends in the Fall and the Spring, and a variety of programs during the summer. In our youth leadership program girls are paired with an adult community member for the season, and help run our community surf days from recruitment of participants, to packing of equipment, to surf instruction, to clean-up. The girls have really taken ownership of their jobs and have had the chance to surf themselves as well as instruct others, and the results have been amazing. The buddy relationships have strengthened the web of connection within our community. My hope is that this momentum leads to an ever-broadening web of connection where each of our community members can act as an agent of change, sharing their love of the ocean with others in their circles.

What kinds of organizations/people would you like to collaborate with?

We are trying to create a culture shift that forms a surfing community that makes sense to us and represents us. Part of culture creation is the media we consume, not just what we do on the weekends. I think that the role of media and the arts is going to be huge in our movement, because it will help reshape what a surfer looks like to us. One of our volunteers who is also an accomplished artist, Cristine Blanco, has made beautiful posters for us, and her work was recently included in a major exhibition of surf art in LA. Her watercolors depict brown women of all body types doing what we love to do, surfing! We need more art like that - art that reflects our community’s experiences and is beautiful and eye-catching. Some of our other volunteers have started The Carve Project, a documentary project to tell the stories of surfers of color through out the world. I want to join with others to make this kind of creativity possible and accessible whether that be through environmental protection work, girls’ art groups, or joining and supporting our surf trips. I also hope to encourage intergenerational work and growth. I think there is something incredibly special about breaking down the barrier between adults and youth to create a community where age, race, income, or any other factor doesn’t get in the way of us enjoying each other, and most importantly, enjoying the outdoors.

A Girl's Perspective

This section spotlights the unique perspectives of girls in the community. Full posts are featured on Alliance for Girls' blog.

"If you can see it, you can be it."
by Sasha Williams, student at Carondelet High School and alumna of Career Girls

"I absolutely love technology. I exercise my creative side through technology. I enjoy working with my mind, hands and creating possibilities from coding. I code, create fun games and solve problems. I am a member of GameHeads, a youth program at United Roots, in Oakland, California...I am the Level Designer and Art Designer for my team's Video Game, 'Halls High.' I also love to perform on stage and enjoy sharing my passion through performance. My passions are computer technology and performing arts. I don't have to choose; I will combine both." Read more. 

Alliance for Girls' Conference: Together We Rise
by Maren Frye, student at Berkeley High School, intern at YWCA Berkeley/Oakland and member of BHS Stop Harassing

"I went to the Alliance for Girls' Conference: Together We Rise as part of Berkeley High School Stop Harassing, which aims to stop the culture of sexual harassment at our high school and support victims. It was a truly amazing experience....One talk in particular stood out to me; when the president of EMILY's List, Stephanie Schriock, presented about the need for women in public office and the work EMILY's List was doing to support them, I heard the call to action." Read more. 

My Time at Tech Trek
by Catherone Zhou, student and alumna of Tech Trek, sponsored by AAUW San Francisco

"To start off I would like to thank the San Francisco AAUW Branch for giving me this chance to attend the best camp ever! Even though I didn't get into Tech Trek at Stanford, I'm really lucky to have gotten in at all.

On the way to Fresno I was really nervous, I thought to myself, Did I bring too much stuff? Will I make any friends? Will anyone think I'm really weird? Will I be homesick? I was just so nervous!" Read more. 

Power that Feeds the Soul
by Yonayda Rodas, Advocacy Intern at YWCA San Francisco & Marin

"On Monday, May 1st, I was fortunate enough to be able to march alongside my fellow immigrants. The energy around us was not one of hate and violence, despite all the shouting, but one of peace and serenity. With every shout and cheer from the crowd I felt more and more uplifted to keep on marching and the blazing sun wasn't going to stop us." Read more. 

Voices of the Alliance

This section features Alliance for Girls members. Full entries are featured on Alliance for Girls' blog

Teen Stealing Alcohol from Parents - And What You Can Do About It
by Dr. Carol Langlois of Dr. Carol

"Did you know that teenage girls (more so than teenage boys) are likely to engage in underage drinking? The most recent data from the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) found that 66 percent of female high school students had "ever drunk alcohol" compared to 62 percent of male high school students." Read more. 

Creativity's Role in Impact Storytelling
by Rachel Dodd of SoPact

"'I am a creative' - not a phrase I expected to declare at a conference - especially not at the top of my lungs. However, that's exactly what I did alongside a crowd of fellow creatives at the 5th Annual Alliance for Girls Conference: Together We Rise. Prior to our encounter with Anasa Troutman, founder of eLOVEate, some of us never before dared assert our association with such a fluid - spiritual - magical - and intangible adjective as creative." Read more.

It's Time to Give All-Female Founding Teams a Head Start
by Eileen Gittins of Bossygrl and Blurb

"It was worse than I thought, but also better than I imagined.

First, the 'worse than I thought' part. In the spring of last year, I was invited to speak at a publishing industry conference in New York City. As often happens, I was approached by a group of people who wanted to meet and ask questions after the talk. But this time, it was different. This time I was surrounded by a swarm of young women who had obviously come to the event together.

They were on a mission." Read more.

The World of Girls

We encourage you to use the following news articles to start a conversation with girls and your community.

Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood

During the summer, Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality
released their paper on the adultification of black girls, entitled Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood. Building on previous research conducted on Black boys, they surveyed 325 adults across the United States, and found that Black girls were perceived as needing less nurturing, less protection, and less support and comfort, as well as being seen as more independent and more knowledgeable about sex and adult topics than their white peers.

These results are profound, with far-reaching implications. They reveal a potential contributing factor to the disproportionate rates of punitive treatment in the education and juvenile justice systems for Black girls. Read the full report here and view a video about the study on the Georgetown Law Facebook page.

Helping Girls Cope with Trauma with Yoga

Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality also released another report, the first of its kind, titled Gender & Trauma--Somatic Interventions for Girls in Juvenile Justice: Implications for Policy and Practice. The report calls for specialized yoga programs to be offered widely to girls in the juvenile justice system amidst growing evidence that they can uniquely help overcome the harmful effects of pervasive childhood trauma. Some of the benefits include better coping skills, increased emotional regulation, improved neurological and physical health outcomes, and healthier parenting practices and relationships. Read more here.

Let Her Learn Toolkit

To stop push out, schools need to review their discipline policies to make sure girls of color aren't being unnecessarily pushed out. The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) created the toolkit, Let Her Learn: Stopping School Pushout for Girls of Color, to help schools, students, parents and educators identify problem policies and implement a code of conduct that works for all students. Also worth checking out: their Education & Title IX resources here, and the full list of resources around Equity in Education here.

Members in the News

After years of successful programs and measurable results,  About-Face is making some changes to scale their work beyond the Bay Area, including a slate of new programs, a new staffing/infrastructure plan, a new fundraising approach, a new look, and a new mission: "About-Face frees girls from the confines of our toxic culture so they can fulfill their potential."

 The Art of Yoga Project 
was featured in the recent report, Gender & Trauma-Somatic Interventions for Girls in Juvenile Justice: Implications for Policy and Practice, which details the power of yoga and mindfulness programs in helping girls cope with trauma. (Read more about the repot in the World of Girls above.)

A new, independent study demonstrates that Girls on the Run (GOTR) transforms young girls' lives during the program and beyond. This groundbreaking study found that 97% of girls learned critical life skills at GOTR, including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, or making intentional decisions, that they are using at home, at school, and with their friends. Girls on the Run of the Bay Area and Girls on the Run of Silicon Valley are members of Alliance for Girls.

Spotlight: Girls
was nominated for the 2017 Oakland Indie Award in the Social Changemaker category.

Willpowered Woman was awarded a grant by Atlas Corps that subsidizes the cost of having a full-time fellow come on board for a year. Their fellow Alena is focusing on high school, college and university partnerships to spread awareness and empowerment about intimate partner abuse.

Connie Wun supported Girls for Gender Equity's recent participatory action research report, The School Girls Deserve, providing strategic guidance, data analysis and writing support. The report documents the lived experiences of girls, transgender and gender nonconforming youth of color. Connie was also featured in a collection of writings, Reading and Writing the t/Terror Narratives of Black and Brown Girls and Women. Check out her piece, Not Only a Pipeline: Schools as Carceral Sites.

The Young Women's Freedom Center was granted $615,000 from the NoVo Foundation to deepen their transformative work with formerly incarcerated women and girls who are working to transform the systems that keep them living in poverty, and stuck in cycles of violence and incarceration.


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Alliance for Girls
510 16th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510.629.9464 | Fax: 510.318.5399