It took me six years of education, actual experience in the field of social work, and the suicide of my niece to realize that “girls got issues” some more serious than the others.
Most girls are not self-aware and do not learn to act intentionally and deliberately instead of being reactionary. They often follow in the footsteps of those they believe is doing what they believe is right. Simply put many girls don’t have the needed outlets or support to get over their issues. As a social worker in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio my work has been cut out for me. The adolescent years are so awkward, and I have to manage my time working in a setting with major economic crisis in very dangerous gang environments.
The things I have seen with my experience working with girls have amazed me. I can identify mental health issues with the girls I meet. Minor or major I meet these girls and diagnose them on the spot!!! I don’t do it on purpose but every girl has a story. It is so very much possible to reduce the mental health issues among black girls by helping them become self-aware and giving them a voice. As they say “when you know better you do better”. I just hate that it took me so long to do better for myself.
In my educational work setting I’ve been called the student whisper,” lol. This is so funny to me. When the big secret is to listen. Giving a girl the power to express herself, vent, tattle, appreciate, hate on, or do whatever will gain you so much respect. Image working in a setting where its normal for dads to be in jail, moms receiving government assistance and siblings taking care of siblings in schools with which have very low expectations, no schoolbooks, or no homework given.
So how do I go about teaching these girls to become self-aware. When a girl can focus on her own strengths, challenges and choices they will soon reap the benefits of the own self-awareness. First we could encourage our girls to speak openly about issues. Many times girls shut down and their voices are taken away just for simply expressing how they feel. We can teach them to be self-advocates. We need to recognize those positives as well as the negatives. We can point out the good they do. Providing opportunities of independence is also important. These self-awareness tips can be tricky as we have generations of parents who are not educated enough about the development of children and teens and often cause more generations to be affected.
Okay, how about a student approaches me cry historically with fist balled and says “Ms. Penny I need to talk to you before I smack this b%$#h”. After providing the student with a safe environment, I LISTEN! After I listen with non-verbal cues like heading nodding the student knows I’m engaged and really want to know what the issue is. Now the issue is mostly likely going to be a common one I used to hear on a daily basis and for the girls in my 4-6 grades are fighting over boys, “she talked about my momma”, “she told me to shut up”, “she said I’m fat”, and so on. So this is pretty much for me a slap on the wrist. So I would say “ok”, “let’s bring so and so down so I can talk to her”. I would mediate between the two, allow them to share their feelings, then send them on their way. Now just to let you know they’re going to be friends by the end of the day.
I work with girls and created a girls group with a friend called Gem-N-Me a 501c3 Non profit as an outlet for girls because there are many benefits gained from being a part of a support group. There is a gem in every girl and that’s powerful in itself and whether hidden or at the forefront we are creating a voice. Encourage, enlighten, empower is how we plan to create future leaders and help girls develop a sense of self awareness, self-respect, and self-worth. No matter what walks of life they originate from they can be anything that want to be and instilling in them that higher learning is a necessity to obtain and that a leadership role is important. I am taking my grass root efforts and letting all women and children know that they are powerful and watch the world change.
Encourage girls to understand and eliminate barriers
Enlighten girls to reach out on challenges and choices in today’s world
Empower girls to become leaders by providing them access to skill development