In 1998, to supplement my sporadic film production work, I picked up a few gigs as a substitute teacher at a private school. I had no idea how mesmerized I would be by the honesty and moxie of the girls in middle school. I had heard that girls at that age were horrible, but I was smitten. It seemed clear to me that they sat at the nexus of change for our society; that within their emerging womanhood they held the real solution to all of our problems. There was a light unfiltered, and a story unfolding, that felt like a glimpse into possibility. Perhaps ‘horrible’ was the dark side of possibility unexpressed, muted, ignored.
Five years later, as a part of my graduate studies, I wrote:
I spent my time in graduate school focusing this belief by mentoring middle school girls, starting a nonprofit to support high school girls, and reading and writing about how girls are affected by government decisions and media blitz and how they can create change for society.
As I transitioned into my role as a grantmaker I realized the power philanthropy held in this conversation. I witnessed how philanthropy targeted to the needs of women could unlock many of the social problems we faced in our community. The nasty problems, the ones without an easy solution, the ones that are so inextricably linked to everything else that it seems like untangling a rats nest of necklaces. Hunger, homelessness, child abuse … all of these things had a similar leverage point. Get to the young woman, give her an education, a sense of self worth, the opportunity to make choices about childbearing and partnering, a chance to give back to her community, and you see a ripple of change take hold in her family tree. The facts are clear and the studies continue to support this belief. The exciting bit here is that there are now numerous opportunities for philanthropists of all abilities to get involved and make an investment in the revolution.
I am proud to support The Girl Effect. Ridiculous to think it could be this easy, and yet, the message resonates so deeply in my bones as a known truth it feels like something rustling in the wind from long ago.
Watch the video. Consider making a donation. Join the revolution.
Oh, and if after watching that video you’re inspired to write your own response to the girl effect, you can do so for the rest of this week and be included in the 2011 Girl Effect Blogging Campaign (where you’ll get linked in with all the other bloggers writing about it this week) Be a part of the movement!