Sparking Change – The Girls Empowerment Network

Texas-based+Girls+Empowerment+Network+offers+inspiring+programs+around+the+state.+

Texas-based Girls Empowerment Network offers inspiring programs around the state.

Isabella Espinosa

     Confidence, coping skills, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity: the 6 C’s that serve as the fundamentals of the Girls Empowerment Network. A 501(c)(3) founded in 1996, the Girls Empowerment Network was initially known as the Ophelia Project, inspired by the book Reviving Ophelia by Dr. Mary Pipher. The book examines the short and long-term effects of societal pressures on young American girls through the examination of various case studies. The book not only served as the catalyst for the Texan non-profit, but it provided an important lens that investigated the struggles of many adolescent girls growing up in a society full of many expectations, and little empowerment. The strong women behind the project included 12 concerned mothers raising young girls in Austin, Texas who wanted to end the decline and loss of self-esteem within young girls. They wanted to eradicate environments that would lead to self-harm, eating disorders, mental health struggles, drug abuse, and lower levels of self-development, and instead promote empowerment, personal growth, and self-efficacy. Since its birth in the late 90s, the Girls Empowerment Network has transformed into a widespread movement promoting girl power and has provided programs and campaigns to 15,000 girls across Texas. 

     The Girls Empowerment Network facilitates numerous empowering programs and events to further the development of a self-growth atmosphere for young girls. One of which are their Spark Change Kits that include, “pizzazz, color, fun stickers, empowering quotes, affirming messages, and the celebration of girlhood” (Girls Empowerment Network). Currently, the Girls Empowerment Network offers both the “Lead With Your Voice Spark Kit” and the “Unstoppable Activist Spark Kit”. The distinction is that the “Lead With Your Voice Spark Kit” targets girls grades 3-8 and guides them through learning about their identities and experiences in regards to culture, democracy, and voting rights; the “Unstoppable Activist Spark Kit” aims to help girls grades 6-12 understand how to use use their voice to advocate for the things they’re passionate about. There are several other spark kit options that all include resources such as: 15+ hours of 1:1 activities with female mentors, guided workbooks, inspirational messages, and several empowering activities. The spark kits, valued at $500, range in price from $35-50, but can be delivered at anonymous request in the form of a donation for those who’d like to cover the price of a kit, or for those who may not have the means to purchase one. Additionally, they offer various volunteer opportunities to decorate, donate, and write letters included within the spark kits. Currently, only volunteers located in the Austin area can decorate the kits, but the opportunity may open back up to Houston residents sometime soon. Volunteers will pick up 7-10 undecorated boxes with the intent to cover them with eye-catching stickers & images, as well as empowering quotes & messages. An opportunity available to volunteers everywhere is the “Relatable Role Model Letters” program where volunteers can decorate and write 5 letters to mail to the Girls Empowerment Network in hopes of using them as a part of the spark kits. The page-long letters can include stories, messages, or quotes that uplift and celebrate young girls within their own communities. The letters serve as a crucial part of the kits, as they help young girls feel connected and encouraged in a time of increased isolation during the pandemic. 

     The past several weeks the organization has been celebrating its 25th anniversary through the Girls Are Unstoppable Committee which aims to help 5,000 girls find their voice in order to advocate for positive change within their communities, as well as raise $500,000 to fund future programs. The committee is centered around providing young girls with the necessary resources and guidance to grow into advocates and activists who believe in their ability to create change. The Girls Empowerment Network has already served 100,000 girls, but strives to reach as many young girls as possible. The committee offers numerous volunteer opportunities for those wanting to participate. Volunteers can fundraise and donate money, share the committee’s message with others, and participate as a committee member. The committee will run from March to October, and hold meetings every couple weeks or months to discuss the progress of the committee and how volunteers can continue to support it. The organization emphasizes that it’s never too late to join the committee ,help spread the word, and raise funds for the campaign.

     Saturday, May 15th, the Girls Empowerment Network will host their Spark Change Day which inspires youth grades 6-12 to engage themselves in developing their unique voice for advocacy. Spark Change Day is a virtual event that “will include a training on the power of advocacy, a review of the legislative process, interactive exploration of issues which impact girls in our nation and the opportunity to hear from local and national policymakers” (Girls Empowerment Network). Topics such as mental health, school to prison pipeline, environmental justice, racial justice, LGBTQIA + equity, and homelessness will be covered throughout the virtual event. The confirmed speakers include: U.S. Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Texas State Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Austin Mayor pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin, Texas State Representative Celia Israel, and Texas State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos. The event will occur Saturday, May 15th from 1:00-5:00 P.M. and host a packed itinerary of keynote speakers, lessons in advocacy, group breakouts, and much more. At only $5, the Spark Change Day event will provide youth and mentors with an incredibly engaging and unique event that will highlight and describe the facets of how to pursue advocacy and activism. 

     Within its 25 years of existence, the Girls Empowerment Network has helped thousands of young girls build confidence in themselves and their abilities to advocate for their passions. The Girls Empowerment Network continues to serve as a pipeline within Texas schools, and all across the state to promote the empowerment and support of young girls. Many of the girls mentored by the organization have grown into adulthood and pursued their own routes of activism, with one participant noting how the “Girls Empowerment Network didn’t toss self-confidence and courage in my lap. They didn’t write out a list of instructions for me to follow everyday for me to be powerful. They gave me a mirror and said everything I need is in me, and I’m always going to be grateful for that”. Through the organization, 96% of girls said they believe they could achieve their goals, 89% said they could be kind to themselves when going through hard times, and 95% would recommend Girls Empowerment Network programs to other girls. These percentages serve as far more than statistical data, but display the immense impact the Girls Empowerment Network has had on young girls far and wide. 

 

Additional Information:

In addition to the spark kit volunteer opportunities, the Girls Empowerment Network provides various other programs: the Girls Connectline, Pathfinder Leadership Summit, Girl Connect, Use Your Power & Own Your Power summer camps, the Spark Change Project, and Saturday Workshops. Each program includes different resources and time-frames that will assist young girls in embracing themselves and accomplishing their goals, all with the support of several girl experts who will mentor them through this process. 

Girls Are Unstoppable Committee Site: https://www.girlsempowermentnetwork.org/girlsareunstoppable 

Girls Empowerment Network 25th Anniversary Programs: https://www.girlsempowermentnetwork.org/blog/25th-anniversary-activities 

Get Involved: https://www.girlsempowermentnetwork.org/get-involved/volunteer 

Programs Overview: https://www.girlsempowermentnetwork.org/programs-overview  

Email: [email protected] or [email protected] for further information/questions