Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!)

The Problem

I launched Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!) at age 15, in the spring of 2007. I wanted to do something to address several issues in my community of Madison, Wisconsin relating to young women: poor self-esteem, political apathy, and little knowledge of how they as community members could affect grassroots change. I contacted several groups that work with girls and women to create a comprehensive program to address some of these issues. Working with the Girl Scouts of Black Hawk Council, YWCA Madison, Girl Neigbhorhood Power, and the Wisconsin Women's Network, I created a series of fall workshops for girls to discuss issues of concern to them and learn about ways that they can get involved in their community. The focus of these workshops would be to show girls how to speak out and use their voices to affect change--that's how Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!) was born. We began accepting applications from girls at Madison high schools in May. Over the summer, I worked on creating a program of speakers and presenters for our six 90-minute workshops in Madison this fall. A diverse group of 20 high school teen girls will meet under the direction peer leaders and women mentors/co-facilitators. While the first few sessions will focus on discussing local issues of importance to girls, we will focus on community leadership and grassroots activism. Girls will hear from young women activists in the community, and they will develop activism and leadership skills like public speaking, letter-writing, and lobbying. Over the winter, we will work to develop a unique report on the status of teen girls in Madison. This report will allow local policy-makers, including elected officials and leaders of groups that work with girls, to better serve teen girls. We will hold listening sessions and conduct personal interviews to include girls' personal stories in the report. Personal stories and narratives will be interwoven with position papers and data. We will publish this report in March--Women's History month--and hold press conferences on our findings. In addition to working with local media, we will meet with elected officials and policy-makers to discuss our findings and talk to them about the changes we would like to see made in the community. We will also hold trainings for nonprofit community groups on this subject. The final result of a year of Madison SOS work will be a team of well-trained teen leaders ready to keep fighting for issues affecting girls and women in our community, and a greater community that better understands the needs of teen girls. After conversations with statewide groups and politicians, I hope that Madison SOS will be successful as a pilot program for use in other parts of the state of Wisconsin and in the U.S.

Plan of Action

I contacted several groups that work with girls and women to create a comprehensive program to address some of these issues. Working with the Girl Scouts of Black Hawk Council, YWCA Madison, Girl Neigbhorhood Power, and the Wisconsin Women's Network, I created a series of fall workshops for girls to discuss issues of concern to them and learn about ways that they can get involved in their community. The focus of these workshops would be to show girls how to speak out and use their voices to affect change--that's how Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!) was born. We began accepting applications from girls at Madison high schools in May. Over the summer, I worked on creating a program of speakers and presenters for our six 90-minute workshops in Madison this fall. A diverse group of 20 high school teen girls will meet under the direction peer leaders and women mentors/co-facilitators. While the first few sessions will focus on discussing local issues of importance to girls, we will focus on community leadership and grassroots activism. Girls will hear from young women activists in the community, and they will develop activism and leadership skills like public speaking, letter-writing, and lobbying. Over the winter, we will work to develop a unique report on the status of teen girls in Madison. This report will allow local policy-makers, including elected officials and leaders of groups that work with girls, to better serve teen girls. We will hold listening sessions and conduct personal interviews to include girls' personal stories in the report. Personal stories and narratives will be interwoven with position papers and data. We will publish this report in March--Women's History month--and hold press conferences on our findings. In addition to working with local media, we will meet with elected officials and policy-makers to discuss our findings and talk to them about the changes we would like to see made in the community. We will also hold trainings for nonprofit community groups on this subject. The final result of a year of Madison SOS work will be a team of well-trained teen leaders ready to keep fighting for issues affecting girls and women in our community, and a greater community that better understands the needs of teen girls. After conversations with statewide groups and politicians, I hope that Madison SOS will be successful as a pilot program for use in other parts of the state of Wisconsin and in the U.S.

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