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Boston GLOW was founded based around the concept that every female has the potential to be a leader, impact her community, and that her voice matters. We strive to teach women and girls of all ages how to effectively use their voice and realize her power.
Ideas for GLOW started percolating while its founder, Leah Moschella, was living and studying in Namibia. For her gender studies thesis abroad, Leah taught a health and sexuality class for high school aged girls living in a post-Apartheid township (where the HIV rate is over 20%...hence the health class).
This was the first gender-specific class the girls had ever experienced, and many asserted that it was the first time they had ever participated in class at all. As part of the class, each girl had to write about their self identity and their future. Girls who lived in a culture ten years post-Apartheid rule, often without electricity and rarely with a healthy diet, were writing about their dreams of becoming community leaders.
However, more than once the students had expressed to Leah that these were "just dreams." The students never believed these opportunities were available to them and thus held these aspirations in secret.
Leah concluded the class by creating a calendar that displayed monthly a piece of writing from each girl. This served as a daily reminder of their goals. Teachers later told Leah that her students had been participating much more in their regular courses during the day - they began to see that their voices mattered.
"Post-Africa, I returned to the Bronx as a sociology and women's studies major. While presenting my thesis to the Fordham community, many college-aged women attested that they had similar experiences; this phenomenon wasn't unique to impoverished communities. Something was keeping females from speaking up and taking action. On the more serious and fatal side, I was also working at a homeless shelter in the Bronx working with women and children survivors of domestic violence. As is common with DV, the women would explain that they never felt okay speaking up and asserting her needs. This further reinforced my frustration and fueled my desire to activate change."
Moschella moved to Boston for graduate school and to lead a youth leadership council in Dorchester. While the council consisted of 10 girls and 3 boys, every single time we had meetings with city councilors or were making presentations, for some reason the boys were the ones who became the speakers!"
Moschella was curious to know why this was the case, and more so became driven to fix the problem. Using her MS Thesis at Northeastern to critique the issue, Moschella held several focus groups with girls, boys, and mixed gender as well as conducted several one-on-one interviews. The culmination was a gender-based leadership curriculum based on "near-peer" mentorship, a two year data-based interactive program designed to develop young women leaders.
While the academic foundations of GLOW were being developed, Moschella was already hosting events under its title, starting with Boston’s V-Day campaign in 2007. The V-Day movement is completely about finding a voice and telling women's stories which is why it has from the start been a critical component of our Organized Women programming.
"Women of ALL ages and experiences need places to find their voices," explains Moschella. "GLOW focuses on young women with the greatest barriers as they really are our future. But, our Organized Women component ensures that there are spaces and places for all women to become involved."
Boston GLOW Today Through our Girls’ Leadership (GL) and Organized Women (OW) areas, GLOW strives to provide pragmatic programming, leadership training, and service-learning opportunities in the Boston area. GL: We work with young women in the Boston community, particularly those in under-resourced, underfunded schools in our most at-risk neighborhoods. Budget cuts across schools in Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury and Somerville have cost them talented teachers, access to technology, textbooks and have wiped out extracurricular and after-school programming. With the help of administrative advocates, we promote our annual IGNITE Change Leadership contest in these schools then conduct workshops to help entrants best voice their ideas for change. Seven finalists are chosen by a panel of dynamic female leaders. We work with finalists throughout the year to nurture their natural desire to be leaders, build self-confidence, pair them with mentors and develop and execute education plans based on their individual interests and financial needs. In the past two years our finalists have included three former high school drop-outs all of whom have received their diplomas or GEDs, five young women ESL immigrants, and two teenage mothers who have both continued on to higher education and vocational training through the support of Boston GLOW. OW: We engage our Organized Women through our monthly Spitfire series (each event has an educational incentive: we pick a topic we think women will find useful, enlightening, and fun, and build each evening around that theme with guest speakers, panels etc.), our GL/OW mentoring program, VDAY (we are an exclusive sponsor of Boston’s VDAY Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Girls, staging annual sold-out performances of the Vagina Monologues and, this year, One Billion Rising) and IGNITE the NITE, our annual fundraising gala.
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