For Girls, By Girls

Imagine a world where all girls are confident and strong young women. Imagine a world filled with gender equality and respect. Imagine a safe space where girls are never brought down or judged for their appearances or actions. The Girl Up Club is working hard to make those hopes a reality. 

Founded in 2010, Girl Up is a worldwide organization formed by the United Nations to inspire girls to change the world, become leaders in society, and fight for gender equality. Through leadership development training, Girl Up gives girls the resources to start a movement for social change. Student leaders across America are bringing Girl Up to their schools in hopes of creating a generation full of future female leaders. 

During her junior year, senior Angelica Almonte was selected from a pool of 500 young women to be a teen advisor for the organization. Along with help from other aspiring female leaders, Almonte has succeeded in creating a medium for social justice as well as many opportunities to help girls around the globe. Along with the work that she and her fellow teen advisors have done on the global level, Almonte has left her mark by bringing the club to LHS.  

Despite being introduced to the high school only two years ago, the Girl Up club now has over thirty members and is hoping to grow each year and reach its goals. Freshman member Emma Leighley commented, “I have learned so much about how important it is to speak your mind and take initiative. The club has really inspired me to speak up for myself and what I believe in…it’s such a good environment to be around, and I can learn so much from it.”

The club has hosted various events and programs at LHS over the last two years to raise awareness for the motives it was founded upon. For example, each year, Girl Up hosts an advocacy event during lunch periods in honor of International Women’s Day. The club also held a bake sale to raise funds that were later used to gift a bike to a young girl in Malawi, enabling her to attend school each day. On Human Relations Day, the club gave an informative presentation on consent and respect. The club also recently hosted a self-defense class in the gym and raised over $150. In addition, members rallied over 100 students to send emails to congressional representatives in an effort to aid in the creation of legislation to protect refugee girls. Their efforts ultimately succeeded and played a role in the creation of a new law. Junior Casey Labarbera believes the club is doing an effective job of promoting feminism at LHS, saying, “They run events that encourage everyone to get involved, and that show girls at the school what feminism is really about.”

Feminism is a broad term that tends to have a negative association. The Girl Up club chooses to change this narrative by celebrating feminism and promoting gender equality. “The word ‘feminism’ definitely turns many people off, but what I wish people knew is that the core belief of feminism is to achieve gender equality. It doesn’t mean that women are better than men or that men are incapable of struggling. Not all of us are radical. I’m proud to call myself a feminist because I’m advocating for all women who couldn’t before me,” says Almonte, the club’s current president. 

The mission of the Girl Up club is to procure safety, education, and freedom to practice equal rights for all women, no matter ethnicity or social background. “I take pride in knowing that our club has done our part in spreading the Girl Up message to Lynbrook. Girl Up has made an impact on so many girls I know. Whether it be giving them a safe space or letting them find their voice they didn’t know they had, there is a place for everyone in Girl Up!” reflects Almonte. The club treasurer, junior Djellza Pulatani, stated, “The Girl Up club truly strengthens the women in our society. I, myself, have noticed a major shift in the person I was two years ago and the person I am today. The Girl Up club not only shapes women to be strong and independent, but it pushes us to our highest potential. After all, we are better together than we are apart!” 

Pulatani, who will take over as the club’s president after Almonte graduates this June, is planning to take the club to even greater heights next year. “Along with the entire club, I say confidently that the club will host more events to educate the young minds on the problems and conflicts we aim to stop. We plan to give more consent presentations in health classes, host more self-defense classes, and so much more,” says Pulatani. Almonte and Pulatani encourage all young women to join Girl Up, become one of the next female leaders of LHS, and help change the lives of girls around the world.