Jess Knight, youth engagement worker with the British Red Cross, reports on a girls’ night out in Coventry as our EmpowHER participants reached out to girls in care
I had the ultimate girls’ night out with EmpowHER as one of our Coventry groups set up an evening of fun for a group of girls with a lot on their plate. The group are looked-after children and care leavers who have been working with Stacy from Creative Optimistic Visions (COV) through the EmpowHER programme. EmpowHER provides social action opportunities to girls and young women in order to help them lead change in their communities, increase their self-esteem and build their wellbeing.
Their social action idea was to highlight the fact that it’s not easy for some young women to let loose and have a good time if they feel they are not in a comfortable, supportive safe space. They wanted to create this space for young women to not only enjoy themselves, but to also highlight the need for other such spaces. This invite-only event was advertised to other EmpowHER groups in the West Midlands to also showcase what girls can do when they get together to make change.
While planning the event, the girls had asked if the British Red Cross could help them to approach strong female role models to speak on the night. As part of my work as a youth engagement worker, we have access to a database of over 80 ‘role models’. These women have offered their time to the girls to teach them new skills, offer advice, set up workshops, provide mentoring, shadowing, work experience and much more.
From listening to the girls’ list of wants for their event, I knew we had the perfect role model already eager to be involved – Latifah. Latifah works for refugee services within the British Red Cross. Once I had told her about the girls’ idea and how they wanted her to speak at the event and possibly DJ too, she agreed and we began the all-important planning.
I was able to facilitate conversations between Stacy, the girls and Latifah, who also led a fantastic Q&A about being a young woman in the male-dominated field of dj-ing. The girls asked challenging and thought-provoking questions around the speed of her progression in the DJ community and if she thought that had been affected by her gender.
Latifah also spoke about her role within refugee services – a topic that is close to Coventry’s heart, as many communities of refugees are supported within the city. On the night itself, I was filled with pride watching the girls put their new-found confidence into practice, taking centre stage and talking to the audience about their journey through EmpowHER and what it meant to them.
It was incredible to hear the thanks they were giving to everyone who was involved, and articulating so well their understanding of the double benefit that is embedded into what EmpowHER does.
During the girls’ social learning, I was also able to pass onto them some examples of work other EmpowHER groups had made around “The Power of Kindness”. These included postcards of love and support handed out at Pride parades, positive messages hidden on postcards around schools, and letters to be distributed from the British Red Cross refugee support service for newly arrived families.
These all inspired Coventry’s group, and the power of kindness behind their own awesome event was obvious. During the evening, I spotted girls facilitating conversations between others who had never met before, lots of encouragement to dance, exchanging of social medias, making sure people were eating, drinking and having a good time, and a warm and positive atmosphere throughout. The concept of kindness was not only evident throughout the evening, it was embedded within it.
Among those who spoke on stage were the WeChangeAdversity EmpowHER girls. They have created a reproductive rights and equality Instagram (@wechangeadversity – go follow!) and were there to promote their campaign and inspire attendees.
The girls’ night was such a huge success. I’m so proud of everything the girls achieved. They have become amazing advocates for not only EmpowHER but the for the power of kindness too.