Empowering Girls Through Travel
Female Strong’s Kristin Tews talks confidence-building for young women and the benefits of travel, both near and far.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
In its most basic definition, travel is simply a journey. But there’s nothing basic about the benefits of venturing out of your comfort zone, whether nearby in your own backyard or many miles away, can provide. Engaging with different cultures, exploring unfamiliar surroundings and embracing new adventures allows us to gain an appreciation of and respect for different points of view and ways of life, teaching us about ourselves and each other in the process.
And exposure to travel early in life helps build valuable skills that can last forever.
“Travel at a young age allows children and young adults to know what is possible,” says Kristin Tews. “Travel lets children to understand all the different ways we can live and the opportunities that are available in the local and world community.”
CREATING TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIRLS
As director of development/sponsorship for Female Strong, Tews knows a thing or two about creating opportunities for young adults. Based in Chicago, Female Strong is non-profit organization and a community of committed individuals that offers hands-on programs, mentorship and experiences that build confidence in middle and high school girls. The organization supports all girl, trans, gender-fluid and non-binary youth by empowering them with the skills they need early in life, equipping them to realize their potential, and preempt the inequities that exist for women in the workplace today.
“The gender gap begins at a very young age for girls,” says Tews. “By providing targeted education to young women from the age 8 through high school, we can address these issues and build confidence, so they build on the skillset to reach for and achieve the same access to strong personal and career advancement and close the gender gap.”
A big part of Female Strong’s work has involved building community awareness that confidence in young women is an issue in the first place and that it is resolvable. By creating programming for hundreds of girls, the impact has been powerful with many of their candidates taking these skills to college and beyond. Some of those programs include a one-day “Idea Camp,” a student ambassador program and book clubs.
HOW TO EMPOWER GIRLS THROUGH TRAVEL
For Tews, travel is another important way to empower girls. “Education in the classroom is imperative and life experience is also imperative but seeing the communities ‘firsthand’ allows them to relate and build relationships with people outside of their inner circle,” says Tews. “Mentorship happens both with personal connection but also with observation, which travel provides.”
Travel, at any age, provides us with valuable life lessons, broadening our horizons through exposure to different cultures and traditions, allowing us to celebrate both our similarities and our differences.
“We believe in community travel first,” says Tews. “Sometimes just going in your own backyard community to see the different ways people work and live is very impactful. We create programming where girls are involved in different areas of the community to share and learn with local mentors. Traveling is a great way to learn and create aspirations for change.”
Now that we’ve determined the value of traveling for young adults, what are some tips to ensure they get the most out of their travel? First off, says Tews, they need to be open to new experiences. Perhaps that can start first in the classroom with an initial immersion into the history, culture and gastronomy of the area they will be exploring. Equally important is to think about the people and how the opportunities or lack thereof affect their everyday life. Important questions to ask beforehand, says Tews, include How do you want to change the world and What do you want to see more in the world.
“When young women have the opportunity to travel outside the state or country, this is another way they can learn from others. Travel is a wonderful way to become more knowledgeable through experiences,” says Tews. “The best empowerment is knowledge and knowledge is power.
For more information on Female Strong, visit femalestrong.org
TOP PHOTO: Participants at Female Strong’s YEA! Chicago Entrepreneur Girls program, Photo courtesy of Female Strong.
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