Girl Up: Empowering Girls One Meeting At A Time

Written by Alina Balseiro As I, a young, queer girl, sit in a classroom full of other educated women, I am proud to have two X chromosomes. But, there is more to being a woman besides just our genetics. It is our ability to stand up for ourselves everyday, care for others, and love ourselves that makes us who we are.  Everyone around me is fighting for someone's rights, whether it's their own or a friend's. Girl Up is more than just another after school activity to add to our college resumes; it is a group that celebrates, motivates and empowers girls to be who they are. In a world that doesn't always praise women, Girl Up is a great outlet to express ourselves in a positive environment. Just one meeting a week allows us to raise awareness and educate people on the strengths and struggles that come along with being a girl. When Wabil Asjad, President of Girl Up, was asked “How does just one meeting a week empower you?”, she replied, “Although it may only last a little over an hour, each meeting brings something new to think about and to learn about. In that time period, every member of the club is pushed to think about why and how we can work together to accomplish the mission of Girl Up. I am empowered when I hear my friends talk about how they have faced times when they were ashamed to be girls, and how they moved past it. I am empowered when I hear stories about how they still face that discouragement, and are working to love who they are. I am empowered when each one of us is able to talk about what we have faced and how we can work to make sure it doesn't happen again.” Wabil restarted Girl Up in June of 2016, allowing girls of all ethnicities, sexualities and sizes to be proud of themselves and others. Girl Up doesn't just empower girls in McNair Academic High School, it raises awareness in our local community. By working with the York Street Project and raising funds for Girl Up, we have helped draw attention to attaining education for girls in underprivileged areas. We have raised awareness about what a girl goes through everyday: catcalling, undermining our abilities, and apologizing for existing when in reality, people should be thanking us. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can have Girl Up and project our voices into the community. Events like the Women’s March help bring people together to fight for the same things. On March 30, 2017, Girl Up held an after school event, Let Our Voices Empower, which included poetry, guest speakers, presentations about famous women in history and, an experience box. While I preformed a poem I wrote about single mothers (linked below), a senior, Grace De Gruccio, from McNair Academic High School wrote some wise words in the experience box. The blue paper with dark lettering read, “To me, being a woman means while growing up you're constantly told you don't have ‘the balls’ to do what a man can do. My answer to those people is simple: of course I don't. But I do have the ovaries to do what women can do, which is a hell of a lot more than we're lead to believe.” As members of Girl Up read experiences aloud, the audience applauded, but it meant more than just clapping to me. I realized I wasn’t the only person being knocked down because of who I am, and it fired a drive in me to continue to help change that.

While I sit in the weekly Girl Up meetings, not only am I educating myself, I’m doing the little that I can to take steps towards equality. I am empowered by others making a difference and striking a change for my future. The future doesn't only affect me, because one day when my little girl sits in her very own Girl Up meeting, I will remember how mine made me feel: loved.
  Dear Single Moms by Alina Balseiro Dear Single Moms   Dear single moms, This is for you, The whole world lies in the palm of my hand And only because you made me hold it. You raised me single handily With no one to hold hands with but me as we walked to school together And in about 10 years, You will hold my hand again to guide me down the aisle.   This is for the moms who don't have anyone to talk to when their child is fast asleep at 8pm. When they don't reach for the wine bottle anymore Because they traded it for a baby bottle.   To the moms who work late night shifts at the city's diner, Making sure they bring home enough money To satisfy their children's hunger.   For single moms, the word parent is never plural, And a mother's title is never just one word. A mother is someone who Loves, Who laughs, Who cries, And says, “I told you.” And you did tell me, You told me you loved me in different ways Like when i dropped that perfectly pink cupcake in the playground And gave me yours to enjoy Because you believe my joy is sweeter than any baked good An innocent but bold move And one I’d like to show my children one day But how, when the shoes you wear are too big? They took strides in places I’d never walk in.   This is for the single mothers, Who make everything seem so effortless on the surface Until we see you cry As the salty liquid rolls out of your eyes, you smile. And I wonder "how can you smile while your eyes are frowning!? And why am I the tissue wiping your worries away?”   And to those who label my mother as a sinner. And don't dare label my mother as half a parent Because her title isn't plural in a Merriam Webster Because they think that without a partner you're not whole   She is a single woman branching out in every direction Celebrating both mother's and father's day. And this is for the 17 years I’ve known you, The 9 months you carried me, 4 weeks of vacations, 7 sick days you took off to care for me, 24 hours we laid in my bed, 60 minutes we laughed, And every second I love you Dear mom, thank you.

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