In honor of Girl Up’s 10-year anniversary, WWE celebrates its partnership with the global leadership development initiative, positioning girls to be leaders in the movement for gender equality. WWE is honoring Girl Up leaders by sharing Q&As and photos during October.
Name: Melissa Aldana Almanza
Club location: Girl Up Club Tec de Monterrey, Monterrey, Nuevo León, México
Age: 19 years
I’m fighting to break gender stereotypes to achieve equality.
Melissa Aldana from Mexico’s Girl Up Tec de Monterrey is hosting a video series called “Cápsulas Violetas” that focuses on issues women and girls uniquely face. The topic for May was Women in Sports. Every Sunday, the group launched a video of a female Mexican athlete. Additionally, in 2019, Melissa’s club hosted an amazing volleyball tournament. They had seven teams sign up, played 24 games and hosted a final match. Melissa came up with the idea because of the SFAP resources and her love of volleyball. The league was co-ed. After the tournament, she wrote a blog for the Girl Up community titled “Sports have no gender.” She also was a part of the first Girl Up Mexico City Leadership Summit and was able to talk about her experience.
- What inspired you to get involved with Girl Up, and what do you enjoy most about being a Girl Up Leader? What inspired me to get involved with Girl Up is the passion to fight for women’s rights, to continue breaking paradigms, and help more girls to become the best version of themselves. I believe every girl should have the opportunity to be a leader. I really appreciate being a Girl Up Leader because I enjoy being part of a movement that focuses on being a platform that highlights the potential of different girls around the world.
- How has Girl Up helped you express your leadership in your community? Any lessons learned? Since joining Girl Up, I’ve learned how to work as part of a team and make a difference in everything I do. Also, I better understand the intersectional approaches that feminism has. Each woman embodies a set of traits, including race, language, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, culture, social class and religion that make her unique and valuable. With this perspective, we move closer to achieving social justice and gender equality so that women can have access to more opportunities.
- What are some of the most pressing issues girls in your country are facing? How has Girl Up equipped you to tackle these issues? One of the main issues is the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services. Girl Up has helped us create a community and share health information with girls and women who previously did not have access to it. In May 2020, we held an event called “El poder de mi sexualidad” in which we organized different workshops on sexuality and reproductive health, among other topics. Another major issue in our community and country is gender-based violence. With Girl Up, we have opened spaces to increase awareness of gender-based violence and to reduce it.
- How has Girl Up helped you adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis? During the COVID-19 crisis, I have found refuge in my Girl Up Club because we have been able to provide services and activities for women in our community. It has been really comforting for me to have my Club members by my side through this uncertain time. Also, my involvement in Girl Up makes me think more creatively about solutions to problems. When thinking about a solution, I always keep in mind how many women and girls it will impact positively.
Name: Lily Roberts
Club location: Germantown High School Girl Up Club in Memphis, Tenn., USA
I’m fighting for equality in leadership.
Lily Roberts from the United States talks about her Girl Up experience in her own words: Sports inspired me to fight for gender equality. When I was in First grade, I consciously experienced gender discrimination for the first time: The boys wouldn't let me play basketball with them at recess because I was a girl. One month later, after joining and competing with my school's girls’ basketball team, the boys wouldn't let me play with them because I would beat them. I was underestimated because of my gender, and I had to work twice as hard to prove myself capable. I never want any other girl to have to prove herself worthy of something just because of her gender. We should be considered equals before we step foot on the court. Each Girl Up Workout Wednesday is teen-programmed and teen-led, often giving underclassmen the chance to lead the club. We theme our hour-long workouts around current events (hero workouts for BLM, legs and cardio for Pride, balance when school suddenly announced an entirely virtual start) and welcome anyone eligible to join Girl Up, not just our club members. We almost always spend an hour talking and hanging out afterward. Many of our participants say that Workout Wednesdays give them the motivation and support to work out when they normally wouldn't exercise, and our weekly sessions create the community that we need during the COVID-19 quarantine.
- What inspired you to get involved with Girl Up, and what do you enjoy most about being a Girl Up Leader? When I started the Girl Up Club at my middle school, the inequality in education spurred me to action. In my family, education was a pillar of life; how could those opportunities be denied to other girls my age, explicitly because of their gender? When I founded my high school’s Girl Up Club two years ago, my reason was slightly different. At my school, girls ran for and were elected to fewer club leadership positions than boys. I heard girls saying that they couldn’t be on board because they simply “weren’t a leader.” I wanted to show girls that they didn’t have to be born a leader; they could become one. The GHS Girl Up Club stripped away the double-standards and provided an opportunity for anyone to grow as a leader, regardless of their gender or experience. My favorite part about being a Girl Up leader is the moment when someone’s face lights up as they realize, “I just did that big thing that I never imagined I could do. And because I just did that, I know I can do it again.” I love seeing girls discover and develop the power they have in themselves.
- How has Girl Up helped you express your leadership in your community? Any lessons learned? Girl Up allowed me to teach other girls how to lead. Prior to Girl Up, I was on the receiving end of this education, learning everything I could from my friends and teammates in sports and other international organizations. With Girl Up, I had the opportunity to spread that knowledge. I quickly learned, however, that the girls I was mentoring had just as much to teach me as I had to teach them. They challenged me to continue growing as a leader, showing me that “leader” is not a static term.
- What are some of the most pressing issues girls in your country are facing? How has Girl Up equipped you to tackle these issues? In the US, girls are told they can be anything, yet we still see a lack of female political representation due to gender construct and societal norms. From the moment we enter this world, we’re prescribed a tidal wave of “feminine” characteristics like pretty, sweet and helpful. Boys are called strong, dashing and independent. Because of these gendered expectations, girls and boys develop different senses of their own capabilities: A girl might not consider serving as a politician before she considers working as a teacher (and vice versa for boys). When girls don’t expect themselves to succeed in these arenas, they might not even approach them in the first place. Girls drop out of sports, pursue fewer higher-level math courses, and only go for what they’ve been told is possible and acceptable for us as females. We need to change the expectation, because girls are capable of achieving so much more than what American culture gives us credit for – and we shouldn’t have to walk backward in high heels to prove it.
Girl Up has helped me recognize these gender normativities, and it has given me the tools to advocate against them. One important tool in this fight is education: If we can educate girls and boys about the impacts of these limiting and sexist expectations – whether that be through statistics or storytelling – we can change what we view as “possible.” Next time a girl wants to get picked for a basketball team at recess, she won’t be overlooked for some unknown (and clearly unathletic) boy.
- How has Girl Up helped you adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis? Girl Up provided me with clear opportunities for action when everything else got cancelled. With school on hiatus and sports seasons cut short, I dove head-first into developing my Girl Up Club and region. On the club level, we increased the frequency and variety of our programming. We began weekly Workout Wednesdays (programmed for 22 consecutive weeks) and interspersed those community- and fitness-building moments with events like Skype a Scientist, Feminist Netflix Parties, Girl Up Trivia Nights and CoffeeHouse discussions. On the regional level, I founded and spearheaded the US Southern Region’s first SoutHERn Summit. I worked with 30 girls from 11 different states to create our region’s capstone event, featuring famous speakers and teen-led workshops. COVID-19 might have caused some extracurriculars to slow down, but Girl Up only sped up, and I grew so much as a leader in the process.
Name: Luana Lira
Club location: São Paulo, Ipiranga, Brazil
I’m fighting for girls in leadership.
Luana Lira from Brazil and her club members were going to host a girls’ soccer competition, but then, COVID hit. They turned to the internet to find a way to reach more girls to help them realize their interest in sports. They hosted a webinar on June 20th called, "Marias no Esporte." The webinar featured Brazilian female athletes who inspired the girls to stay active and keep up with sports even during the quarantine.
- What inspired you to get involved with Girl Up, and what do you enjoy most about being a Girl Up Leader? The Girl Up community was what inspired me to get involved and also what I enjoy most about being a Girl Up Leader. As soon as I and my Club members got engaged with Girl Up, everything in our lives change! We were introduced to girls from all across the world, and the connections we have created are amazing. Being part of Girl Up, I feel completely understood and secure to be myself and change the world.
- How has Girl Up helped you express your leadership in your community? Any lessons learned? There are so many lessons that I have learned from Girl Up that I couldn't count all of them. But the most important one is that I learned how to inspire other girls to be confident enough to be bold. In the beginning of our Club, we never tried to do big activities or outreach events; we were just focusing on the impact we could make in our school's community, but now my Club members and I are thinking about taking actions that will impact the whole country! Now when I see a woman in a leadership role, I believe I could one day be in her shoes. I learned this lesson because of Girl Up.
- What are some of the most pressing issues girls in your country are facing? How has Girl Up equipped you to tackle these issues? I will cite two issues: the menstrual poverty and the climatic collapse. Inside both problems, Girl Up has helped girls create advocacy plans to tackle these issues. In Brazil, five states have introduced anti-menstrual poverty bills that were introduced because of Girl Up Club's work on this issue. We received training, knowledge, and support to knock on congressmen's doors and ask for their help! Also, Brazil is facing one of the most complicated climatic situations in years; my Club is helping to fight this issue by founding a campaign to generate knowledge about our climatic collapse and how to stop it.
- How has Girl Up helped you adapt and thrive during the COVID-19 crisis? After many conversations between the Brazilian Clubs and also after reading the “Virtual Activities” toolkit multiple times, we realized that the plans we had before COVID-19 definitely wouldn't happen as we wanted, but that didn't mean that we couldn't adapt them. We feel supported because of the online platform we use to still connect with each other, and the support from our Regional Manager and Regional Leaders make completing Club challenges and activities easier. We are creating stronger bonds inside our Girl Up community, and that has made everything seem easier because we know we aren’t alone.