Sisters in strength ending gender-based violence

  • A school and workshop empower young Nepalese girls.  
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  • Girls in rural India are given little information about the physical,...
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  • Understanding facts and rights is key to respectful maternal healthcare.
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New projects

posted Oct 23, 2013 by Sue Lee

Sisters in Strength continue their vital work in organizing around sexual and street harassment and school push-out that criminalizes young people. To learn more, check out our current Catapult projects.

Giving strength to others fighting gender-based violence

posted Oct 23, 2013 by Sue Lee

“I learned how to improve my public speaking and by attending events I was able to be informed or learn a lesson from what other people experience and how to resolve problems.”

“I noticed that my cousin was struggling academically so I helped her with understanding her school work. I also noticed she didn't have any constructive activities in her schedule so I introduced her to GGE.”

“I spoke to my friends about their barriers faced against; I spoke to my friends about gender based violence and different spectrums.”

Progress

Leading for impact is an overarching goal of the 2-year Sisters in Strength (SIS) program, which prepares 15 young women, aged 16 – 19, to be leaders in the movement to end violence against girls and women. Year I of the program helped build our Sisters’ belief in their abilities to effect positive, sustained change in their schools and communities; they led 18 workshops for 690 NYC youth and educators on sexual harassment prevention and related issues. According to 2013 end-of-year evaluation surveys, 90 % of participants now believe that young women can effect positive and meaningful change in their neighborhoods. This was accomplished through a range of activities that included leading a Youth Summit on Street Harassment at the Urban Assembly Institute, where they collaborated with youth leaders from the Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE), Right Rides and Girls, Inc. to facilitate informative, supportive workshops for over 100 NYC youth. In April, Sisters were a powerful presence at NYC’s Anti-Street Harassment Rally, sharing their own experiences in front of packed crowds and leading a sign-making party in preparation for the event for Brooklyn Young Mothers Collective and NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault. In July, Sister Nathania Fields helped design and facilitate the Gender Justice and School Push-out workshop at the Free Minds, Free People national social justice conference in Chicago, to a standing-room-only audience of activists of all ages.

Risks and challenges

Capacity and funding are universal challenges to small non-profits seeking growth, but we continue to be resourceful in meeting them. Training our Sisters in Strength youth leaders as well as alumni to lead workshops, facilitate events and make panel appearances increases our capacity to educate and inform; we now have a full-time Development Director and have completed our first multi-year fundraising plan that places equal emphasis on individual donors and corporate sponsorships in addition to foundation and government grants. A small grant from a valued funder has enabled us to engage a consultant to re-design our website as an essential resource that informs movement-building and provides current, critical information, support and direction. We are now working with an organizational development consultant to help further build our capacity and strengthen our programs into a sustainable, replicable model that will yield the desired outcomes and reach greater numbers of girls and young women at the local, regional and national levels.

Next steps

We are now in Year 2 of the Sisters in Strength (SIS) program, which runs from September - June of the school year. By extending the length of the program to 2 years, participants will strengthen their commitment as leaders in movement building against gender-based violence. During Year I, education and training emphasis was 25% equal parts leadership, community organizing, academic achievement and sisterhood. The second year will focus 50% on leadership in community organizing and 25% equal parts academic education and developing sisterhood. During Year 2 of the program, Sisters will develop and implement their community organizing project around sexual and street harassment prevention.

Budget

Girls for Gender Equity cannot thank you enough for your support of our Sisters in Strength program! The $17,600 you so generously donated is being used for program expenses such as overhead, Metrocards for participants to attend weekly meetings and workshops, healthy refreshments, supplies, program evaluation and education and training materials. We are so happy to have our Catapult donors as valued funding partners as we continue training tomorrow's leaders in the movement to end violence against girls and women.

Other

Sisters in Strength appeared in a short but powerful segment of, Anita!, Freida Mock’s stirring documentary about Anita Hill’s brave testimony against Clarence Thomas and sexual harassment in the workplace. In January, 2013, several Sisters traveled to the film’s opening at Sundance Film Festival with GGE Executive Director Joanne Smith and Community Organizer Nefertiti Martin, and to the NYC premiere at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater on June 14, where, in front of over 200 people, feminist icon Anita Hill praised GGE’s youth leaders, saying that her legacy was safe and the future of the women’s movement was in good hands with these young women. The film will hit theaters in spring 2014, so stay tuned for screening updates!

  • Advocacy
  • Leadership
  • Violence against women

“GGE will forever live on, even if it means some of us create our own programs combating sexual harassment in schools and on the streets." 2012 Sisters

Why we care:  Almost half of 1,965 7 – 12 graders nationally were sexually harassed in 2010 – 2011.  87% reported negative effects on their lives. (AAUW, 11/11)

How we’re solving this: Intensive, innovative 2-year training for 10 Sisters in Strength to advocate/organize schools and communities around sexual harassment prevention.
 
Sisters in Strength is a paid community organizing program that develops the leadership of New York City’s most vulnerable population.  Since 2008, 10 high school women of color, 16-19, are recruited each year to receive counseling support, preparation for academic and career pathways in social justice fields, and advocacy and organizing training and education around federal Title IX anti-discrimination laws.  Sisters unite, advocate, and organize others around sexual harassment prevention and ending gender-based violence in schools.  Sisters also mentor GGE’s Urban Leaders Academy middle school students, providing tutoring and high school preparation, and facilitating collaborative community learning projects. 

Accomplishments:

  • In 2011 – 2012, 90% of our senior Sisters graduated high school and enrolled in college.
  • In 2011 – 2012, Sisters in Strength led 40 workshops for approximately 570 youth and youth educators in NYC.
  • Former Sisters  said their experiences made them feel more confident in advocating for themselves and their communities, which resulted in their increased self-esteem, improved academic performance, and personal and professional goal-setting.

Sisters’ Snapshot: The program runs from September - June.  Participants are recruited through GGE’s network of schools, CBOs, and word-of-mouth.  Sisters meet weekly from 4 – 7 p.m. at GGE offices to receive services and build sisterhood, with additional workshops, i.e. Healthy Relationships and College Readiness, scheduled through the year.  Sisters receive transportation (Metrocards) and stipends, which communicates the value of social justice work and their time.  The program culminates with an exit evaluation, a graduation celebration, and a College Shower, where donations provide necessities and luxuries for Sisters attending college the following fall.

Moving Forward: In 2012 -2013, we’re extending the program to nurture one cohort of 10 Sisters through two consecutive years of advanced training and education to further develop their leadership skills, provide participatory opportunities in the community, and build GGE’s capacity to respond to numerous requests for workshops and related services.  Our new Alumni Support Services Project will include monthly drop-in meetings, counseling, referrals/resources, and online mentoring and support.  Post-secondary academic support will ensure participants’ continued success.

What the Sisters Say:

“Not in a million years would I have ever imagined standing in front of a very diverse crowd of people during the NYC International Anti-Street Harassment Rally, sharing out a personal story on behalf of women everywhere. Thanks to GGE, I didn’t imagine it, I lived it.”

Piel, 18, Sisters in Strength Community Organizer

“I strongly recommend GGE to all young girls looking for an outlet where they can be heard, accepted, and make a difference.”

Cherea, 18, Sisters in Strength Community Organizer

“Because of GGE I want to be more of an activist.”

Kimberly, 18, Sisters in Strength Community Organizer

"We will never forget the positive effect GGE had on us and the opportunity it gave us to have a positive effect on others.  GGE will forever live on, even if it means some of us create our own programs combating sexual harassment in schools and on the streets." – Sisters in Strength Youth Organizers’ Zine, 2012 

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