Focus on Girl Justice Leads to Girlvolution

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Girlvolution is a one-day social justice conference in Seattle led by girls of the youth development organization Powerful Voices. Girls present workshops on topics such as police profiling and sexism in the media.

Photos by Justin Chan

Girlvolution is a one-day social justice conference in Seattle led by girls of the youth development organization Powerful Voices. Girls present workshops on topics such as police profiling and sexism in the media.

Kelsy, 14, will speak to a roomful of people Saturday morning at 10:30 in Seattle about deportation. She has personal knowledge of the subject: Her father was deported.

She's among 10 young women who will lead workshops at a one-day social justice conference known as Girlvolution, created by girls in the Seattle youth development group Powerful Voices. About 300 community members are expected to attend.

Melana, 17, will lead a workshop dealing with police abuse of power in Seattle. Rebekah, 15, will run a workshop, "False Images of Beauty," about how women of all races are portrayed in the media. Another workshop, "Beautiful Disaster," led by Tameka, 17, will examine the impact of drug addiction.

Powerful Voices is an organization for girls that sees social justice work as a necessary part of its youth development mission.

"We're helping girls develop the critical thinking skills to understand their relation to the community they're part of," said Executive Director Jane Hinton. Girls examine racism and sexism, they look closely at the media and they learn conflict resolution strategies, among other things.

The organization sees itself as a girl justice movement.

Hinton said girl justice is about changing systems so that they're equitable for all girls, particularly girls facing racial and economic disparities. She referred to health, economic, education and juvenile justice systems.

A young woman leads a workshop on domestic violence at Girlvolution.

A young woman leads a workshop on domestic violence at Girlvolution.

One program at Powerful Voices teaches employment skills such as job interviewing. But young women are "still going out into a world where there's a serious pay gap between men and women," Hinton said.

It is not enough to provide skills without also helping girls understand societal injustice, she said.

Co-founder Anne Muno said, “There is so much power in that combination.” Without it, girls blame themselves, she said.

Girls develop their voices and take action when they better understand their relation to the larger culture, she said.

Powerful Voices also works to create a positive girl culture, with staff emphasizing trust and respect.

Writing in the spring 2014 issue of Afterschool Matters, Muno said relationships of trust with adult women counter internalized oppression.

She described the use of best practices. The organization integrates “the best practices in girl-specific programming with those of the broader youth development field," she wrote. In addition, she said that evaluation of the program showed that this approach promoted academic gains among girls of color.

Powerful Voices has served more than 5,000 girls in the Seattle-King County area since the organization began in 1995.

On Saturday, the Girlvolution event will showcase Bleachbear, a local, all girl, three-piece pop band.

A resource fair is also part of the event. Community organizations represented at the resource fair include Age UpBig Brothers Big Sisters,Community for YouthProject GirlReel GrrlsVera Project and You Grow Girl.

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