The big question of the day? Do you think having boys in your girl power space would keep you from being yourself? If so, how do you see that happening?
The conversation, nationally, has been around topics such as gender equality and women’s rights, but on Friday, female students from Hamilton Elementary held a discussion around gender equality as it pertains to their school community.
Students from second through fifth grade marched into the school’s auditorium to participate in the conversation led by nonprofit Mission Propelle.
Co-founders, Jill Carey and Annie Warshaw, wanted to give the female students an opportunity to decide if they wanted to include the male students in their after-school yoga program.
Currently, the program only reaches girls, but the co-founders have been exploring the idea of including boys too. At the end of the special morning session, each group had a chance to vote. They said they’ll include the information as they continue gathering other opinions from staff and parents.
“We do believe that when girls are empowered, it’s a win for everyone and so gender equality is not just a girl issue,” said Carey.
Warshaw said the younger they can reach girls, the better, explaining that the inspiration for holding this conversation came from today’s current gender issues and movements.
“We have been having a lot of conversations about masculinity and how we as a society move forward in this #MeToo movement,” she said. “Like how do we involve men and where do we put the ownership in making change?”
Principal Amy Vondra said she loves the after-school program in the school.
“It’s amazing and we love them as a partner,” she said. “Our school focuses on the whole child and self awareness and this program reinforces that.”
The five-year-old organization is in nearly 100 schools throughout the Chicagoland area, bringing girl power yoga and their 90 Mission Propelle storybooks to girls.
About half of Hamilton’s female students participated, the co-founders said, which is why they wanted their feedback before incorporating any changes.
The girls had mixed views, but the majority of the groups shared that they wouldn’t have a problem with boys joining them.
“What’s the difference, we’re both people,” said one student.
“I don’t think anyone should be separated because of gender because if we had rules we would feel more separated,” said another.
Any changes made to the program wouldn’t be seen until the fall.
Guest speaker, state Rep. Juliana Stratton (D-Chicago), shared a few words with the girls about why they should always speak up and share their opinions.
“I still remember what it was like to be your age and I remember some of the things I learned that helped me to find my voice,” Stratton said to the students.
“One of the things I remember is having strong opinions about things that were happening at school or home, or with my friends, but even though I had strong opinions, I sometimes felt people didn’t want to listen to me.”
She said that the lessons she learned as a girl, she still uses as an adult.
“Stand up for what’s right, even when it’s hard,” Stratton said. “When you really believe in something, you have to take a stand. Sometimes you’ll look around and nobody else is with you, but still stand up for what you believe in even when you have to stand alone.”
Stratton said after her speech that she’s glad to see the students engaged in this conversation so young.
She said this will not only help them be better young women, but it’ll help their “male counterparts to also recognize that we have a space and we deserve a space at the table.”