A LEADERSHIP PROGRAM FOR YOUNG WOMEN

Peekskill High School, New York

In the last two decades there has been a growing trend amongst youth in America with regards to two phenomena that seem to appear in conjunction with one other. The first is to do with a growing delay in what could be termed ‘the age of responsibility’. Adolescence marks a new stage in life, with the onset of puberty, which calls for increasing responsibility and maturation towards preparation for adulthood. Although not true for all, some youth choose to indulge in irresponsible and destructive behaviors, whereas in recent generations, a teenager would carry multiple responsibilities, and exercise leadership within the community. This growing reality contradicts the very nature of this stage in life, wherein energies are high, and the young person is geared towards doing and becoming more mature and responsible.

The second growing trend is to do with the increase of aggression in youth. Some schools and communities have experienced a rise in aggressive behavior, delinquency, and bullying in recent years. Of significance within this is that the increased rate is higher among girls and young women. Girls also tend to engage more in cyberbullying than teenage boys and current statistics reveal that the average teen girl in America sends over 4,000 texts per month along with hundreds of photos and videos via Snapchat and Instagram. Sexting and cyber sex are also appearing in younger and younger ages. Hence, bullying related depression and anxiety are on the rise – which can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders and has even resulted in suicides.

Due to our concern with these rising issues, Feminenza North America (FNA) decided to activate a Young Womens’ Leadership Program for high school girls in Peekskill, New York – to provide young women with specific knowledge, skills and training related to their gender and personal development needs, while at the same time creating opportunities for them to take initiative, make responsible decisions, and thereby exercise leadership within their school and/or community with addressing various needs. In this way they can potentially become ‘positive contagion agents’ to their surrounding peers, and thereby help in bringing remedy towards these growing trends.

So in addition to participating in FNA’s programs of Understanding and Managing Fear; Forgiveness and Reconciliation; and Transformative Leadership; they also created and developed projects which served a need within the community. This program (with sessions on a weekly basis throughout the school year) also included field trips to enhance their knowledge and leadership skills such as interviewing other leaders in the community about its needs; going ice skating together while engaging in various teamwork and leadership exercises; attending the Women of the World Summit at the Lincoln Center in NY city to expand their scope about issues for women from around the world; and having the extraordinary opportunity to interview Leymah Gbowee, a famous Nobel Peace Laureate who led a women’s peace movement in Liberia that helped bring an end to the civil war in 2003.

Becoming a Positive Contagion Into the Community