The right to be proud
By Aleha, Teen Leadership Circle (TLC) Peer Leader
All girls deserve the right to be proud to be a woman. Despite what the world tells girls about their limits, Girls Inc. of New York City gives them the confidence to shine.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn. Growing up with immigrant parents, I was another adult in the family, educating my parents on new cultural norms. I’m grateful that my father was open minded and did not enforce certain traditional values. In Urdu, words have gender separation. I didn’t want to be called the girl nickname, Beti, so my father used the boy nickname, Beta, for me. He encouraged me to be unapologetically myself.
My sophomore year in high school, I joined Girls Inc. of NYC’s Teen Leadership Circles. With a younger sister, I was passionate about empowering girls. TLCs helped me forge my identity as a young woman. I realized so much of what the world said to me was not right. Even little things that girls hear on a daily basis. One time I mentioned to a boy classmate that I wanted to be a doctor. He replied, “So you’re going to be a nurse right?” I called him out, which I didn't have the courage to do before.
This year, I participated in College Shower/Project REACH, which supported me through all aspects of college preparation. I’ve also been able to help other girls on their college application journeys.
Girls Inc. of NYC has genuinely been there for me, providing support on all pillars: academically, economically, and socially. Recently, my father passed away suddenly, which left my mom to support three kids on her own. My Girls Inc. of NYC instructor was a big source of comfort and support, and helped to bring in financial resources for my family.
Because of Girls Inc. of NYC, I’m a better sister and role model. I know who I am, and I have the courage to go for what I want. I've applied to many Ivy League universities, and I will walk in the footsteps of my father and become a doctor.
These days, with reproductive rights being threatened, it’s all the more important to support girls and young women. There hasn’t been a space to talk about this at school, so in TLC, we held a group discussion. We attended demonstrations and handed out resources to our peers. We also conducted a menstrual rights campaign, distributing period products to surrounding communities.
This holiday season, please support Girls Inc. of NYC, so that it can continue to equip girls to boldly make change, challenge themselves, and thrive.