26 March 2013

Jane Hinton: Powerful Voices: Embracing Youth Activism

The Ms. Foundation for Women is celebrating Women’s History Month with a blog carnival featuring the voices and profiles of women across the country. This Month of Action is generously supported by our friends in Seattle.

“Powerful Voices has made me realize that …no matter how much women are looked down on in this society, I still matter. I still have a voice, and I do realize it is powerful,” raves Shaundriqua Webber. This 15 year old activist from Seattle participated in a program at Powerful Voices to help strong girls become strong women. Through Powerful Voices, Shaundriqua gained newfound confidence and power in her own voice. She was invited to speak out about the issue of teen prostitution to almost 200 people at the Powerful Voices’ annual Girlvolution Conference.

Almost 20 years ago, Powerful Voices’ founders came together to build an organization to address disparities faced by girls at their roots. By developing and implementing innovative, evidence-based programs that facilitate leadership skills, and foster the development of critical thinking, we have promoted the individual and collective potential of more than 5,000 adolescent girls since 1995. Through groundbreaking events like the Girlvolution Conference and publication of alternate media, Powerful Voices creates platforms for youth to voice their opinions on social justice issues that are the most relevant to them.

We focus attention on girls who face the largest disparities – girls of color, living with a low income - by meeting them in public middle schools and juvenile detention facilities.

Powerful Voices celebrates the survival skills, accomplishments and dreams of girls. Program Manager Molly Pencke notes, “It is part of my consciousness to challenge adultism (my own included).” Molly encourages people “not to devalue or tokenize youth but to listen to girls whose voices have typically been silenced and give them a platform to be heard as valuable, active, contributing members of our society.” Read more.

Powerful Voices teaches youth activists to analyze oppression and then encourages them to address inequality in their everyday lives and communities, now and as they lead us in to the future. And the program is making a real difference. As Shaundriqua says, Powerful Voices gave her “more confidence, something new that I didn't know about the world and, most importantly, a sense of belonging.”

Jane Hinton is executive director of Powerful Voices

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