Girl Rising: Empowering Women Across the Globe

Authored by: Jessica Castaneda, SRA Student Ambassador, Class of 2019

Just before starting high school, I saw a movie called “Girl Rising” about girls from different countries overcoming obstacles to get an education. I was shocked that I had never heard about this issue before then. When I started high school and realized there were no clubs focused on female empowerment, I was inspired to launch Girl Rising to build awareness about women’s issues and take action to improve the situation.

Now four years later, Girl Rising has 16 members and has been the driving force for the conduction of several social justice conversations in classes and the development of other clubs related to specified social justice movements across the ICA Cristo Rey campus.

Jessica with Girl Rising club members

As President of Girl Rising, I led discussions and debates, organized workshops, and focused on raising awareness for women’s issues. I encouraged members to contribute research and present on important issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, mental health, and gender equity. Both students and teachers were eager to participate. Together, we organized an anti-bullying campaign, hosted a suicide prevention awareness workshop, promoted an open-mic for the topic of gun control, as well as co-led a walkout with the March For Our Lives Movement. As a direct result, other students were inspired to start clubs specific to their interests, such as Pride Without Prejudice (LGBTQ+), Refugees Welcome, and Black Student Union.

In addition to hosting workshops, I wanted our student body to be able to take action. Girl Rising hosted two key fundraisers. We partnered with a nonprofit called One Dollar For Life (ODFL) to create sanitary kits for women in Africa so that they could stay in school even when they are menstruating. We also partnered with Support Girls, which helps women in Zimbabwe receive new or gently used bras to reduce the risk of sexual assault. In the end, we were able to create up to 80 sanitary kits and provide over 300 bras across these global communities.

Every year, in the second week of March, we host International Women’s Week. It is a time filled with empowerment, love, and appreciation to each other at school. We use that time to spread awareness for less privileged women across the globe. As a club, we also used the week to educate and empower the school community by hosting the “International Women’s Day Panel” which consisted of inspirational women in our community, who spoke on key issues relating to their identity and how it has impacted their journey to where they are now. This year, we will be holding a panel filled with alumna at ICA Cristo Rey!

Creating this club taught me that it is possible for me to impact those around me. It has enabled me to learn about social justice issues and I now better understand the conflicts faced by thousands of women across the world. Girl Rising was created by women, for women. Thanks to Students Rising Above, I will be able to go to college and carry on the mission of Girl Rising by creating a club that will focus on the empowerment of women. I hope that when I leave for college, Girl Rising stays true to its mission of supporting girls everywhere.