By Satta Sarmah Hightower
May 21, 2018
With the pressing issues surrounding women’s rights and recent efforts to get more women involved in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, empowering women, helping them succeed, and creating more equality has led to a watershed moment for our society.
As part of those efforts, there are several organizations doing the on-the-ground work to make our world a better place for women and girls. Girls Incorporated of Lynn, a local affiliate of the 150-year-old national nonprofit Girls Incorporated, has been fostering the next generation of female leaders by talking about the everyday issues for the past 65 years.
Every year, the nonprofit serves 1,500 girls ages five to 18 with a variety of programs for elementary, middle, and high school students. Deb Ansourlian, executive director of Girls Inc. of Lynn, says that they’re dedicated to creating an environment that empowers girls to succeed. And that dedication actually leads to results—100 percent of girls who attend their programs go on to college.
“We provide programs that are pro-girl, a space where the girls feel safe both physically and emotionally, and where the girls find a sisterhood of support,” she says.
Breaking Down Gender Barriers
Though the organization has been around for decades, its programming has evolved as the needs of the girls it serves has changed.
In the early days, domestic science was a focus, but now girls who attend Girls Inc.’s after-school and summer programs are engaged in research-based curricula focused on STEM, leadership opportunities, and other academics. In its STEM program, you might see girls building a volcano or studying environmental issues that affect the city of Lynn.
Ansourlian says it’s all part of their efforts to increase the number of women in leadership roles in a field where they’re currently underrepresented by breaking down gender stereotypes that lead to these imbalances.
Girls Inc. of Lynn is very intentional in the work it does. And they are guided by a Girls’ Bill of Rights. The rights express six important ideas that will be valuable for girls throughout their lives. Girls should feel free to express themselves and resist gender stereotypes. They’re encouraged to take risks, strive freely, and take pride in their successes. The Bill of Rights also encourages girls to accept and appreciate their bodies, have confidence in themselves, be safe in the world, and prepare for interesting work and economic independence.
“That guides us in all of our decisions,” Ansourlian says about the Girls’ Bill of Rights. “It guides us in how our programs are built, and it guides us in our interaction with the girls.”
Creating a Safe Place for Future Leaders
Building an environment where girls can thrive is important, especially as young people today face new challenges like cyberbullying and social media-driven peer pressure. Girls Inc. of Lynn provides a safe space where girls can talk about issues that are important to them. Recently, two senior girls came up with the idea to host weekly discussions about social justice issues. Now, every Friday afternoon 25 girls gather to have conversations about everything from the #MeToo Movement to racism and diversity.
When girls step into the space on High Street in Lynn, they interact with a group of dedicated staff and volunteers with whom they often develop long-term, or even lifelong, bonds. That team also spearheads a variety of programming for the different age groups the organization serves. Since every girl has different needs, Girls Inc. offers services like tutoring, reading, coaching, and ongoing mentorship. It’s with the partnership of Eastern Bank and community partners like Lynn Public Schools and the Lynn Community Health Center, that the Girls, Inc. is able to reach more girls in the community every year.
But the proof of their success is in the numbers—98 percent of its elementary school participants don’t experience summer learning loss and nine out of 10 participants actually care about doing well in school.
With a laser focus on giving girls life-changing solutions to the unique challenges they face, Girls Inc. of Lynn is making a difference every day and helping young girls grow up to be empowered women. And that will not only change their lives—it could very well change the world, too.
Empower the next generation of women by volunteering with Girls Inc. of Lynn.
“We provide programs that are pro-girl, a space where the girls feel safe both physically and emotionally, and where the girls find a sisterhood of support…” – Deb Ansourlian, executive director of Girls Inc. of Lynn