Beyoncés ‘Girls’ Supports 600 NYC Youth Leaders

beyonce for girlsGirls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an award-winning nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, New York that is committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women from Harlem to Hollywood. GGE’s programs of community organizing, education and training have received national attention, with its founder Joanne Smith and youth members appearing on television shows such as the Melissa Harris Perry Show on MSNBC and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  Smith recently received a pleasant surprise when she learned that GGE was among the four organizations to receive a $125,000 grant from Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.

The grant is part of the CHIME FOR CHANGE campaign, co-founded by Beyoncé and Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini, that serves to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world.  On June 3, 2014 at the Gucci Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York City, CHIME FOR CHANGE celebrated the one-year anniversary of The Sound of Change Live – the first global concert event in history to support girls’ and women’s empowerment.  Headlined by Beyoncé at Twickenham Stadium in London on June 1, 2013, concert proceeds have since funded 310 projects in 81 countries through 101 non-profit partners.

During the evening, Beyoncé committed to donate $500,000 to support projects for women and girls in the areas of Education, Health and Justice.  Four organizations received grants: $125,000 to support 100 school girls at Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) schools in Kenya for one year; $125,000 to provide 320 Embrace infant warmers in 11 Millennium Village sites in sub-Saharan Africa to help more than 1,900 at-risk newborns survive and thrive; $125,000 to provide 25 human trafficking survivors in Los Angeles with counseling, medical care, legal services, and individual recovery treatment through the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST); and $125,000 to provide 600 Sisters in Strength Youth Leaders and Alumni in New York City with educational and mentoring support, job training, counseling services, and resources they need to successfully navigate and graduate from high school and college through Girls for Gender Equity.

The founder of Girls for Gender Equity shared with BlackGivesBack.com how the organization became involved with CHIME FOR CHANGE, how grant funds will be used and words of wisdom that Beyoncé imparted to one of their participants.

What led you to found Girls for Gender Equity?

I started Girls for Gender Equity to revolutionize the way girls of color are valued and seen within the community.  We started as Girls for Gender Equity in Sports and focused on creating safe and equitable programming for girls while implementing federal policy Title IX of the Education Amendment.  After the rape of an 8 year old girl in our community, it became clear that our purpose is to advocate with and for our most vulnerable girls and women of color at the intersection of gender, race, class, and sexual oppression. We became Girls for Gender Equity, and began our Sisters in Strength youth organizing program and Urban Leaders Academy middle school programs that now serve 600 young people (girls and boys) ages 11-24 per year.  We also deliver workshops to help end sexual harassment and violence in schools and on the streets using our book and curriculum, Hey, Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets.

How did you become involved with CHIME FOR CHANGE?

We partnered with Catapult.org (CHIME FOR CHANGE’S crowdfounding partner) in 2013, a platform dedicated to equality and a world where girls and women are ensured of their basic equal and human rights. We posted our projects and CHIME FOR CHANGE held a concert in England to support them.

Tell us about meeting CHIME FOR CHANGE’s founders Frida Giannini and Beyoncé. 

Both Mrs. Knowles-Carter and Mrs. Giannini were very kind and thanked us for the work we do.  Beyoncé said she was happy to support and looked forward to seeing us do great work for girls.  She also encouraged one of our young people present to continue doing great things in college.

How will you use the grant funding?

The funds will support our capacity to deliver phenomenal Sisters in Strength youth organizing and Alumni programming.  As the late Dr. Maya Angelou said, “Girls are leadership waiting to happen.” So this support will allow us to create those conditions for our young people to thrive.  Our young women of color show us everyday that when you invest in them they will lead and be their sisters and brothers keeper.

How can readers get involved in your work?

Subscribe to our our monthly newsletter here, support our work with a donation, and follow us on social media (Facebook and Twitter). Our work to combat sexual harassment is featured in the Anita Hill movie, Anita: Speaking Truth to Power! available beginning June 17 on iTunes. Volunteers are also needed in communications and IT support. Contact us at jns@ggenyc.org or media@ggenyc.org to learn more.

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