In honor of International Women’s Day 2 weeks ago, this post is dedicated to all the women and girls around the world who are working hard everyday and are persevering to have equal rights and opportunities.
While volunteering in the refugee camp of Piraeus in Athens Greece, I noticed many teenage boys did not believe their teenage girl peers could for play football (soccer), volleyball and other activities. Being a teenage girl myself, these stereotypes bothered me so much that we tried our best to break these stereotypes and encourage the other girls to do the same. My family and I started by primarily empowering girls to believe in themselves and give them confidence and show them that they could do anything a boy could do. We involved them in every sports game and activity and soon enough the girls were self confident and felt like equals. A lot of the girls never had the chance and opportunity to play sports on a team and being involved encouraged them to be themselves.
Many of the boys and girls had never played sports together in their home countries and the teenage boys initially were quite uncomfortable with the idea. So one day we set up a football tournament and organized teams, but since the boys did not want to play on the same team as the girls, we made one team of all boys and one with mostly girls. The team we had put together of all boys initially boycotted the game in disapproval of the girls participating on the opposing team. To make a statement, Riley, one of the volunteers, offered to play on the girls’ team. Once the boycotting team saw how good the girls were playing they agreed to a match. In the end, the score was tied and the team had to do a shoot-out to end the game. It was so exciting when Riley scored the final goal and the girls’ team won! In the end, the guys got over the habit of “only boy sports” and they rarely argued about girls playing alongside them again.
Since I’m also a teenage girl, I know that your teen years are the most critical time to build up self esteem and I think that for these girls in the refugee camps, being involved in normal teen activities is essential. I also tried to be very active and not only in the sports category but also with activities that are labeled as “a man’s job” – not just to prove a point to the boys but to show the girls that they shouldn’t have to be a certain way to please a boy or to follow the so-called “guidelines” of our gender.
What I learned about empowering and encouraging girls and teens isn’t just treating them equally, but establishing a feeling of trust and a bond with them. When we were in the refugee camp everyday and showed these kids that we were their friends and peers, it showed our dedication to them and created a family-like relationship. I now encourage you to empower girls in your community to raise their voices and for all the young ladies reading this, YOU GO GIRL!
How have you empowered girls in your life? Share any tips or advice with us!
Hi, I’m Cassidy. I am 15 years old and have been traveling and volunteering with my family for the past 4 years. I grew up in Italy where I found my love for singing, dancing, and pretty much all things Italian. My favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy – where I spent my childhood and consider my true home. I love to write about the interesting and funny side of life and travel and hope to share my unique perspective as a traveling teen with you! You can follow my adventures at Ciao Cassidy and learn about my passion for volunteering at Kids Unite 4 Hope.