Several months ago, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida joined the national Stand Beside Her movement. It is a call to action for women and girls to band together and support each other, end comparison and competition, and create more collaboration. The year-round initiative was created by Girl Scouts Heart of the South, and is recognized by Girl Scout councils and other groups and organizations across the country.
Troop 257 from Sarasota took a particular interest in Stand Beside Her, and decided to take action. “Our troop is interested in community involvement and making a difference in the world,” said troop leader Jeanne Koren. Some of the girls in her troop had noticed a difference since starting middle school in the way they feel about themselves. This directly affects self-esteem, and can have a negative impact on a girl’s ability to reach her full potential. “When we looked at the [statistics] online about this it was surprising to us,” she explained.
The troop decided to kick off their own campaign with a “Chalk It Up to Being a Girl” Encouragement Project, one of several suggestions offered on the Stand Beside Her website. The concept is simple, but powerful: girls use chalk to draw outlines of their feet on a publicly visible sidewalk, and then write messages of encouragement next to them.
The girls drew a lot of attention during the project, which they completed at United Church of Christ Sarasota. “One man told us how he stood beside his two daughters (now grown) when their science teacher told them that girls just don’t do as well as boys in science,” Koren explained. Sadly, his daughters’ science teacher was herself a woman. Other onlookers were equally moved. “An older woman had tears in her eyes and was speechless when we told her what we were doing.”
But Troop 257 isn’t stopping there. They are also planning to meet with two school principals to have “Chalk It Ups” at their schools and girl-led awareness speeches at faculty meetings. “And,” said Koren, “we have ideas for much more!”
The troop is challenging others in the Gulfcoast Florida council to organize at least one Stand Beside Her-themed activity or event over the course of this school year. Their suggestions include:
- Asking permission to bring in Stand Beside Her posters and post cards to hang up or distribute at your school, or asking to speak at an upcoming faculty meeting about ways in which teachers can help raise girls’ self-esteem
- Arranging a “Chalk It Up” event at your school, church, or other organization you belong to (be sure to get the property owner’s permission first)
- Asking local dance studios, gymnastics centers, YMCAs, etc. to hang Stand Beside Her posters in the locker rooms where girls and women can see them
- Asking school counselors to prepare a talk or panel presentation on ways that parents and other adults can “Stand Beside Her” and help every girl reach her potential
- Challenging adults (including troop leaders) to do a “stand-up selfie” once a day — look in the mirror and say something to boost the confidence of that 13-year-old girl who’s still inside you
- Starting a Stand Beside Her blog on your troop’s web page
Will you accept Troop 257’s challenge? How will you and your troop “Stand Beside Her?” Email your stories and photos to email@example.com.
~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.