Girls For A Change (GFC) is a national organization that empowers girls to create social change. They invite young women to design, lead, fund and implement social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods. GFC works to accomplish its vision through various programming including Girl Action Teams, New Girls Network, GFC Action Network, and an annual Girl Summit conference. In 2009-2010, Girls For A Change served over 1,860 girls in ten states in India, Rwanda, and Swaziland. In Fall 2010, in their partnership with Kotex, they presented a special training to 800 girls in six cities to help girls understand how they can make change for themselves and their communities, removing the mystique and shame around their bodies. In 2010-2011, Girls For A Change engaged over 1,200 girls, ages 11 – 18, and 200 women volunteers on Girl Action Teams and Change Your World Trainings.
(Interview conducted with Lori Fitzmaurice)
What problem is Girls for a Change solving?
As part of GFC, I feel we are solving one of the key issues that face every girl, regardless of circumstance or background – the pressure to lower her voice, doubt herself at times, and be influenced by others vs. forging her own path at a critical time in her life.
What is the most valuable resource to you in the work you’re doing?
The girls themselves. At GFC, we say that girls are creative, resourceful, and whole, just as they are. The primary tenet of our program is that girls lead the process, they have the answers, and our job as adults is to create and hold a safe place for them to believe in the power of their voice and the wisdom of their ideas.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer someone doing similar work?
Listen. That is the most powerful thing we can do with our colleagues, our children and our volunteers. Listen to the collective wisdom and find ways to lift each other up.
Who has been the most influential person in your life as you are working to make a difference?
My mother and father were very involved in social justice when I was young – we participated heavily in the fight for farmworker’s rights in the 70’s as well as anti-war and anti-nuclear movements. However, this was just what we did – it wasn’t grand and large, it was small and diligent; it made it a part of who I was vs. being something “special”. It’s just what we did. I feel lucky to have had that in my life. Now, my daughter inspires me because she has reminded me to listen to her wisdom. Whitney Smith, our CEO and Founder is very inspiring; she has worked tirelessly and created something incredibly special where women and girls come together to support each other and where girls can truly be heard.
What is an experience you’ve had that has made you stay motivated in the work you’re doing?
It’s funny, having had a private sector career, I could easily make twice or more back in a corporate environment. The moment I began working in non-profit, especially with youth, my heart grew to love this work – this is my life and makes me a better person, a better contributor, and especially, a better parent.
How can people join you in what you’re doing?
There are so many wonderful programs across the world – I encourage everyone to call programs to see if they can observe and then commit to volunteering. We welcome women as coach volunteers and also men as board members – we believe in the power everyone brings to this mission.
About Lori – Lori Fitzmaurice is the Chief Operating Officer, responsible for development and oversight of all fundraising, operational and program activities within the organization. Lori brings over 25 years of management and development experience to her role. Most recently the Director of Development at Keys School, a growing independent school in Palo Alto, Lori also served as Director of Fundraising Events for the San Francisco Zoological Society, and Director of Development for The Center for Grieving Children, the first children’s grief support program on the East Coast. As a Senior Director at Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. she honed her project management skills across myriad disciplines, including marketing, strategic planning, customer service, and information systems. While at Schwab, she also managed the Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts offices as Vice President and Branch Manager. Lori is mom to teen Caitlin Rose and lives in Santa Cruz with her two dogs.