The advocate: ‘We’re about fixing the culture ?that girls are growing up in’

The advocate: ‘We’re about fixing the culture ?that girls are growing up in’

Megan Williams, 28

Executive director,

Hardy Girls Healthy Women

www.hardygirlshealthywomen.org

Though many programs that work with girls focus on boosting their self-esteem, Megan Williams, 28, said that is not the mission of Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

“What makes Hardy Girls different is that we’re not about fixing girls,” she said. “We’re about fixing the culture that girls are growing up in.”

To do that, Williams, who has been the executive director for five years, said the organization gives girls the opportunities to think critically and be their own agents of social change. Their programs include Adventure Girls, which focuses on expanding girls’ horizons by connecting them with women with nontraditional careers or hobbies, such as welders, hockey players, dairy farmers and rock climbers; and Girls Coalition groups, where girls have a place where they can have safe conversations about the issues in their lives. At the end of each unit the girls do a social action project, which could involve creating their own magazine or spreading awareness about sexual harassment in school.

“It’s one thing to have conversation but it’s quite another to set a space for them to do it,” said Williams.

Williams became involved in the organization while attending Colby College. She was the first staff member of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, working through an Americorps Visa program. One of the group’s founders told her that if she wanted to be the director the following year, she would teach her everything she knew, including fundraising and program management.

“When you’re a one-woman show, you do it all,” said Williams, who is now in charge of a five-person staff.

Though Williams said the organization plans to stay “small and nimble because that’s worked so well for us,” the message is growing. Their newest initiatives have been conducting training and workshops in different parts of the country for adults who would like to start their own versions of Hardy Girls Healthy Women and launching a media literacy program with the website PoweredByGirls.com. Williams said she hopes it will be a place where thousands girls who are interested in social change work can find each other.

“It’s a place where girls can go to connect with each other and use their wit and humor to talk back to the media,” said Williams. “You can’t go to girls and say your media’s bad because girls love their media. They are so saturated in it. It’s a pretty integral part of girls’ lives.”

Megan Williams has been leading Hardy Girls Healthy Women for five years.

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