Empowering Girls and Fulfilling Their Human Rights is not a Choice, It’s our Responsibility
Guest post on International Day of the Girl Child by Shreya Mantha, Founder, Foundation for Girls; Founder and President, GirlUp Club, Providence Day School, Charlotte, NC
The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges that girls face, to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights. We are fortunate to be born and brought up in America where, to a large extent, there is a parity between boys and girls. However, there are parts of the world where girls go through a very tough time from birth to death just because they are a girl. I want to do everything I can do to help girls both in my backyard as well as around the world. We have to come together, partner, and leverage the great work that is already being done in this area and build on it. Empowering girls and fulling their human rights is not a choice, it is an obligation of our society and we must ensure that this is done and done now.
I choose to support girls’ empowerment because an empowered girl will help herself, her family, and her community. I am being raised by a strong mom who believes in parity and supports me and my sister in every possible way. She is our rock, our coach, our friend and our critic. The word “impossible” and the phrases “ I cannot do it” and “ I know it all” do not exist in my mom’s lexicon. She teaches us that you can always get better and things can always be improved and that you learn everyday of your life. My mom encourages us to be strong in every situation, have confidence, practice good judgement, have good work ethic and derive strength from our personal values. She has infectious energy and endless passion in her. Everything she does is done with passion and you can see that how passion makes a difference. She encourages us to see the leader in every girl and support others to accomplish their goals and dreams. My mom taught me that a strong foundation is necessary for a strong building to follow and that is the reason for the name of my non-profit organization, Foundation for Girls. It focusses on working with underprivileged and underserved girls in the greater Charlotte area. Foundation for Girls works to nurture the leader in every girl. We have been working with girls who are homeless, coming from drug rehab, survivors of human trafficking and victims of foster care neglect. All of our programs focus on hands on engagement. The current programs of the foundation focus on weekly bread delivery to crisis centers and shelters, self-confidence building workshops, finding passion skills series, tutoring and financial well-being workshops.
I strongly believe that we all do better when we feel empowered and are supported. I get that strength and support from my family and particularly my mom. At Providence Day School as the Founder and President of Girl Up, our work focuses on empowering our own girls through the PDS Incubator Series- Leadership and Entrepreneurship program. I research, identify, contact, and invite business leaders and entrepreneurs who can come and share their leadership journey with us. We had a successful last year and are now into our second year of the series. Secondly, during the national launch of human trafficking awareness month, January 2016, we campaigned for awareness and prevention of human trafficking and fundraised to support human trafficking survivors. On a global level, we work with GirlUp to support girls in Ethiopia, Malawi, Liberia and Guatemala.
My journey has just started. I have a lot to learn and give back to the community. Being a sophomore in highschool I do not have as much time I would like to have for working on my social enterprise. However, I am making gradual progress in accomplishing our mission of “nurturing the leader in every girl” with the help and support of several strong women in my life starting with my mom, my sister Sahana, my paternal and maternal grand mothers, Ms. Sharon Reed and Mrs. Liz Mockler. There are also many wonderful women that volunteer their precious time for Foundation for Girls and I am grateful for their support — Coach Lindsey Sutton (web design), Mrs. Rachel Peck (yoga), Mrs. Janna Miller (jewelry design), Mrs. Karen Moore Pressley (logo design), Mrs. Terry Bauer-Brown (career counseling), Mrs. Laura Budd (legal counsel), Mr.s Janet Ganoung (Great Harvest Bread Company), Ms. Lori Okimura (sports and entrepreneurship) and Mrs. Anita Skogland (Art Institute, Charlotte). Everyday, I see the power of collaboration and how much we accomplish when we support each other.