Making Life Better for Girls Worldwide

Head Shot - Joi B Smith - cropToday's guest blog comes from Joi B. Smith, vice president and chief operating office at Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis.

Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis was invited to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellows' recent visit to Lilly. While I had read many of the fellows' biographies in preparation, it doesn’t compare to hearing in person the depth and breadth of their work and commitment to impacting the lives of others. I was glad to join this group for lunch and present to them in the afternoon.

Many of the fellows noted a commitment to empowering girls and young women. It was no coincidence then that Girls Inc. was invited to present to them. We teach girls to be strong, smart and bold. At the same time, the Mandela Fellowship teaches emerging civic leaders to be innovative, resourceful change-makers. Both Girls Inc. and the Mandela Fellowships are trying to address social injustices in the world, but there’s a big difference between our young girls and the young fellows: The Mandela Fellows already have the power to enact large-scale change for women and girls in their communities at home. 

608x608_Mandela Washington Fellows - Photo by Jacob KluthDuring my presentation, I shared how a collaborative service-delivery model impacts thousands of girls annually, helping them develop the social-emotional learning skills (non-cognitive skills) to become successful in the future. More importantly, I pointed out that many aspects of how we help girls can be replicated within any service-delivery model for girls and young women – helping them find their voice; feel competent, worthy and comfortable in their own skin; and recognize positive female role models.   

Because the Mandela Fellows have already found their voice as emerging leaders, I asked them to inspire girls and young women in their communities to find their voices as well. I hope that my presentation about Girls Inc. of Greater of Indianapolis and our engaging discussion on what girls and young women need for healthy development will spur change in their communities. 

I was inspired by the work of these young emerging leaders, these Mandela Fellows, and hope that they are encouraged to be persistent in their work to champion women and girls.


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