What’s the big idea?
Ever since big names like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Charlie Rose, Larry Nassar and other high-profile celebrities, politicians and newsmakers made headlines for sexual assault and harassment, women all over the world have responded to the #MeToo rallying cry. This cause was most pronounced in the Supreme Court Justice nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, and have politicized a once bipartisan issue. Better or worse, these news stories and the #MeToo movement in general has elevated this cause, and victim empowerment in general to ensure these individuals are not silenced. While we know what is happening at the national level, I was curious about one particular organization (a former client) and how this has impacted their work.
How has the #MeToo Movement impacted organizations that primarily serve women and girls at the local level?
Focus on Girls’ Empowerment
Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with a former client, Elizabeth McGlynn, Executive Director of Girls on the Run of Montgomery County. I asked her about the #MeToo Movement in general has impacted their work, and she shared some interesting feedback that it has and hasn’t changed what they do. Girls on the Run International was developed with the premise that the collective power of girls working towards the goal of running a 5k, coupled with coaches that led a curriculum focused on building their self-confidence will help build their self-esteem, self-worth, and allow them to feel accomplished. Their programming begins when girls are eight years old and coincides with the drop in girls’ confidence levels after age nine, and can plummet after middle school. Using this proven approach to counteract this decreased self-esteem, Girls on the Run already has a baked in solution and did not have to change who they are as an organization because of #MeToo.
Elizabeth did share though that while the girls are receiving the same type of programming, and that hasn’t changed, more adult women and men are interested in becoming coaches and are extremely supportive of the curriculum used. Many even say that they wish they had such a program growing up in their own communities (when they battled confidence issues themselves). Given the organization’s well-established reputation in the community, they continue to have a number of sponsors and there is public interest in their work. In addition, Girls on the Run International serves as the advocacy arm for the organization and is pushing out strong messages about women and empowerment, and these messages are magnified to funders and parents.
While there is no local task force to address these issues, Montgomery County remains supportive of the cause and in general encouraging women and other victims to speak out and share their stories. The Girls on the Run message is geared towards girls having a voice and being able to speak their minds. Seen this way, Girls on the Run was at the forefront of this cause and offers a solution to empower girls during a time when they are most vulnerable.
What should we learn from this?
Some ways that we should think about this issue and how to address it locally are to:
Empowerment is central to success, whether it be in response to the #MeToo movement, overcoming job loss, mental health issues or other challenges. What is your organization doing to empower clients to become their best advocates?
Don’t Fix the Wheel if your programs are already successful and have proven results. This could mean that your solution is what a funder or partner is looking for.
Policy Changes within your organization might be needed if there are no safeguards in place to protect victims from assault and harassment.
How is your community responding to the #MeToo movement? Are there additional working groups set up to address this issue? Are you building in new service offerings?