Guest Post by Meghan Fligg, Barnstable High School, English Department –
This Spring, our Community Empowerment and Leadership Club hosted an event in collaboration with the Cape Cod WE CAN ( Women’s Empowerment Through Cape Area Networking) organization. The focus was to open up multi-generational discussions about what it means to be an empowered woman and girl within our communities and within society as a whole. The world we live in today is complicated, to say the least. It is our wish to help young women come to know the power of their voice and to instill in them the belief that they are capable of enacting great change. This event was a stepping stone to the greater work which is ahead.
After meeting with Tracy, a central asset at the Cape Cod WE CAN organization, it became immediately clear that our club and her organization had similar goals. Although on a more adult level, their group also works to empower women and girls. They provide mentorship and guidance to women who may be struggling with finances, facing marital issues, dealing with substance abuse, making big life choices, or who could simply just benefit from having someone to talk to. They have come to know the power which comes from women taking care of and looking out for one another. With so many educated and experienced people within our own communities, it’s a no-brainer to use one another as resources and confidants.
Tracy and I discussed how we could take this similar idea and apply it to a younger audience. In a natural and truly organic way, the conversation evolved into the foundation for this event. However, it was not entirely up to us. The youth members of the Community Empowerment and Leadership Club needed to have the ultimate say. Their eagerness was apparent from the start. They jumped all over the idea and began to craft a solid plan for what the night would entail. The event would be held in our newly renovated high school library which allowed for an open and fluid concept. There would be ice breaker activities, followed by deep, small group discussions between groups of 3-4 of the club members and 1-2 of the WE CAN adult volunteers. The conversations would be open but would be tailored around a few central questions: What does it mean to be empowered? How do you feel empowered within your community? What services or programs does WE CAN already offer? What services or program do young females on the Cape feel they could benefit from? And, finally, how can we go about making this change happen?
Although we had all hoped for the event to go well, no one could have predicted just how incredible it was. Right off the bat, there was a positive energy vibrating within the room. There was this unanimous recognition that we were all therewith the same goals in mind. There was the utmost respect, true active listening, and a desire to learn from one another. While walking around and facilitating group rotation and flow, the sense of ‘sisterhood’ was overwhelming. The conversations being had were raw and needed on both sides of the discussion. The reciprocation of insight between the kids and adults was profound.
As we do with many of our events, we concluded with a take away portion. Each person had to explain what it was that they took away from the event. Even though each response was unique, there was an undercurrent of similarity. Individuals, both youth and adult, felt a sense of hope, a direction to move forward, and a feeling of honor and respect of one another.
And so, we are left with the question, “What do we do now?” We are going to continue to work with the WE CAN organization to hopefully begin new events and opportunities for young women on Cape Cod. The girls had so many wonderful ideas ranging from offering college and career guidance and mentorship to teens, providing adult support for young girls and teens who do not have a female role model at home, and to offering apprenticeship roles within particular fields and crafts. The ideas were countless, and we will continue to explore and develop them.
The time is now to help our girls find their voices and show them how to use them. It is also the time to connect generations and share our knowledge with one another. And, most importantly, it is time to listen to what our girls and young women need and to help them in any way WE CAN.