The Power of Girlhood and the Wayne State Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies hosted an International Day of the Girl event at St. Andrew's Hall on Oct. 11.
Ber-Henda Williams, the founder of the Power of Girlhood, said uplifting girls is necessary because girls issues affect everyone.
“When a girl is impacted the community is impacted and when girls (make) change the whole world changes,” Williams said.
The Power of Girlhood, a local mentorship group for girls, hosted the first International Day of the Girl event seven years ago, Williams said.
The theme of this year’s event was With Her: A Skilled Girl Force!
The event was a free opportunity for girls from high schools across the Metro-Detroit area to engage in a day to work together on issues affecting girls, while being surrounded by a network of supportive women.
The event featured rock musician Deekah Wyatt and an audio message from Rep. Rashida Tlaib. Attendees were provided free breakfast and lunch, presentations, and breakout sessions.
Over the years, the Power of Girlhood has partnered with different community organizations in order to make this event possible. This is the second year the event has been held on WSU campus and in collaboration with the WSU Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, Williams said.
WSU Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies Academic Advisor Tamara Serrano Chandler said a desire for the students of her center to realize the effect of barriers facing girls drives their involvement with this event.
“I think it’s important for our students here in the Center for Latino Studies to be aware of the impact that life and social, cultural and political dynamics have on young women and girls. So, I think our center has an interest in connecting in that way,” Serrano Chandler said.
Lead volunteer Carla Dodd said she likes that the attendees addressed topics that are problems beyond just the local area.
“(This event) appeals to me because they’re tackling issues that not only matter at their own schools or in their own communities, they’re national issues and in some cases global issues,” Dodd said.
There were 13 breakout sessions, addressing issues facing girls such as gender stereotypes, human trafficking, college & career planning, suicide, entrepreneurship, media portrayal, and violence against women. Girls engaged in dialogue on their issue and at the end of the event, each group presented on their topic and proposed solutions.
Al-Ikhlas Training Academy student and attendee Hanan Alawy said she gained a sense of power due to the connections she made with other attendees.
“I feel empowered. There were a lot of girls who thought in the same way that we did and it was very girl-centered. So, it just gives you motivation and helps you believe that you can be whatever and that you’re not the only girl struggling with issues that we as girls have to face,” Alawy said.
Williams said this event serves to amplify girls' voices, which are often overlooked.
Girls attending the event came from four high schools in the Metro-Detroit area, and looking towards next year's International Day of the Girl event, organizers hope to increase participation.
"The day provides a pause for us to listen because I don’t believe girls don't have a voice, it's just who’s listening. Having that mic for girls to speak up and say what they see in the world, and that doesn't happen every day," Williams said.
The International Day of the Girl Child was established by the United Nations in 2012 in order to address the human rights of girls and the pressing issues they face around the world.
Cover photo by Jenna Prestininzi