In honor of the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, Sunrise of Pasco is inviting young people to answer three questions:
What empowers you?
What does it mean to you to be a girl?
How can you empower girls?
The questions are important to Maddy Phinney, a fifth-grader at West Zephyrhills Elementary who volunteers at Sunrise and is spreading the word about the Day of the Girl celebration, which includes an empowerment workshop and a noncompetitive creative arts component. The creative arts part is co-hosted by Know Your Peace, a Sunrise education program for young people, and Miss Heard magazine.
"I think that the Day of the Girl is important because it shows girls that they are important and worth something," said Maddy, 11. "Sometimes people say men are better than women but that is not true. We are all equal. So this event can let people know if they do not already."
Maddy plans to contribute a song about equality to the creative arts effort, which encourages female and male students to create a theme-related painting, drawing, poem, song or photograph.
Amanda Markiewicz, primary prevention educator of Sunrise Domestic and Sexual Violence Center, says she always has thought about and spoken out on these issues, but now she also has a personal investment in this cause.
"I never knew what love was until my 3-year-old niece Ella was born," she said. "I want to protect her. I want to give her a good future."
She sees the Day of the Girl art event component as a way to combat weak or sexualized images of young women presented in today's media.
"Girls need to see images that empower them and build their self-esteem," she said. "We need to build leaders for the future."
The art will be displayed Oct. 19 at Sunrise's Day of the Girl Empowerment Workshop and through the Know Your Peace social media outlets, and will be showcased in the pages of Miss Heard, an upcoming girls' empowerment ezine edited by Lindsey Turnbull, a Land O'Lakes High School graduate.
"Previously, I worked with middle school girls and when asked (about empowerment), they positively flourish," she said. "Often, teens — especially teen girls — are written off as frivolous, shallow, vain ... but they're not. There's real genius in there. They just need a space to share and someone to listen."