The risks impacting girls don’t receive enough attention from society, such as policy makers and researchers, according to a study by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters offers middle and high school girls the opportunity to get support and mentorship through G.L.O.W. Club, the school’s after school program in partnership with Global Girls Leading Our World (G.L.O.W.). The club, which is both girl-informed and girl-led, helps turn girls from students to advocates for themselves and their communities.
The Bronx Academy of Letters’ G.L.O.W. Club uses curriculum to educate girls of color about their history and factors that could be affecting them on a day to day basis. During Black History Month, the girls learned Empathy Across America, a curriculum that allowed girls to explore their shared history.
“Essentially, we brought those tough conversations up and built empathy and solidarity at the same time,” Global G.L.O.W.’s Program Manager Binta Freeman said. She designs the curriculum.
Through the program, girls at The Bronx Academy of Letters, ages 11 to 18, also cover mental health strategies, self-discovery and community service, to name a few points. “One of the things that we do focus on is community engagement and making sure that we make the Bronx better, not worse,” Frances Herrera, teacher and overseer of the program, said.
To turn girls into advocates, Herrera said she tries to present the girls with impactful opportunities. She introduces the girls to role models, such as businesswomen that have their own establishments and involves them in efforts to volunteer.
“We introduced the idea of advocacy by starting with the self. Understanding yourself, increasing self-awareness and knowing your boundaries helps you navigate yourself and voice if those boundaries are crossed. This will naturally trickle down into the community,” Freeman said.
Girls of color face and confront risks like their male counterparts. According to Black Girls Matter by Kimberlé Crenshaw, “despite evidence that they, too, face barriers that undermine their overall well-being, Black girls seemingly remain invisible within the White House’s signature gender- and race-targeted initiatives.”
Also, not only may girls of color experience some of the same challenges that affect the life chances of boys of color, but they face unique challenges, “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected,” the study released by the AAPF and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, said.
“For example, when it comes to disciplinary measures such as suspension and expulsion, Black girls face a higher level of racial disparity than their male counterparts,” Crenshaw said the study revealed.
Girls are G.L.O.W.’s target audience. Boys are welcomed to participate, when applicable, for advocacy days. However, Freeman said women and girls are marginalized in different ways, so it’s important to G.L.O.W. that girls have a safe space to learn and share in their program.
Herrera grew up in Harlem. She said she can identify with and relate to the students she’s connecting with. As a native New Yorker, Freeman can identify with the students too.
“Growing up in Harlem it wasn’t easy. I remember a lot of violence and drugs. I remember a lot of things that weren’t the best, so when I went into teaching, I wanted to make sure that regardless of teaching in an urban area, there would be support,” Herrera said.
Global G.L.O.W. is an international nonprofit that was founded in 2012. It currently operates in about 27 countries. The organization creates and operates programs to mentor girls.
G.L.O.W. received special consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UN ECOSOC) in 2020.