Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Girl Power is Family Power

How does education impact the lives of women and girls? When a girl gets an education it helps her, her family and her community. What happens when education is denied to women? What role does poverty play? What are the inequities in education and why is equal access important?

Featured Guest Opening Remarks:

Susan Lennon: President of the Women’s College Coalition

  • The best way to describe the work of the Women’s College Coalition is that they are changing the conversation about women’s colleges. It is not the absence of men that defines women’s colleges, it is the work they are doing with women and girls.
  • The ways girls are left behind is difficult to measure. These ways are imbedded in our culture, whether it’s social, economic, technological, or environmental.
  • We have to think like oceans--meaning, we need to look at all dimensions of our lives and the lives of women and girls.
  • Engaging in research will provide a deeper understanding of education for women and girls and answer question like, how are women and girls denied an equitable education?
  • Many families have different objectives for daughters than they do for sons. How do we broaden those horizons? We can look at their technology and HOW/WHY they use it.
  • A forthcoming movie entitled: In the Game, focuses on the impact Title IX (a federal law to build up women’s athletic programs) had in urban schools. The results of their studies showed that girls who play sports in under-privileged schools have greater chances for graduating on time, less chance of pregnancy, and less chance of obesity.
  • We have to understand that the adolescent brain is not as developed as we sometimes expect it to be. They can’t necessarily do what we expect them to do. Research shows us how to reach them and how to broaden opportunities.

Patricia Salner: Community Programs Director for Achieve Hartford!
  • The focus of Achieve Hartford! is to be a catalyst for education reform in the city. Traditionally, parents receive their child’s report card, but have minimal role in development of their children’s education. Achieve Hartford! works to change the role that parents play by encouraging more involvement.
  • Achieve Hartford! still has a long way to go for a majority of students to reach their potential. When looking at the relationship between parents and schools there is evidence of language barriers, parents who had an education experience that is negative, and parents who are intimidated by schools. Their goal is to break these barriers and make space for everyone to feel they have access to an equal education.
  • Pat is also a part of the Women’s Educational Leadership Fund, which promotes projects and internships focused on women’s leadership. Undergrads, graduates, and professors are all involved. They strive to open up fields that have been closed to women in the past such as science, engineering and math

Lourdes Fonseca: Community Programs Coordinator and Parent Organizer for Achieve Hartford!

  • Choice is one of the most important pieces of education reform, but it’s not easy to understand or navigate. Achieve Hartford! Has hired 9 women, Hartford mothers of all ages (none have a college degree yet, some have not finished high school yet), to help Hartford parents with school choices. They are giving back and changing their own lives in the process. These women embrace parents, simplify process and break down the barriers. They have doubled the number of choice applications from last year.
  • This program provides all of the tools parents, grandparents, and guardians need to provide the best education for their child.
  • Some parents are afraid of sending their children to Hartford schools, but after doing the research these parents have changed their minds and enjoyed their child’s education along with them.
  • A lot of the conversations about education are at daycare centers, churches, laundry mats. Learning happens everywhere. So we go to where the learning happens.
Group discussion:

How does Women’s Colleges do hands on work?
  • By partnering with organizations like Girls Inc and Girl Scouts to do research and programs for girls like math camps, athletic camps, science samplers.

Science and math are commonly talked about now for girls. What about typical women’s occupations like nurses and subjects like writing and poetry?
  • There has been a swing to technology because for so long women felt intimidated in these fields. Humanities should go hand in hand.
  • There is a need to elevate professions of teaching and nursing. Teachers are a critical role in elevating and empowering students.

What do the school systems do to provide support for parents and girls?
  • Family Resource Centers: but not all schools have them. Some have a Family Resource Aid.
  • Some school have “parent rooms”.
  • Independent orgs run a lot of the programs.
  • Budget issues cut them out more and more.
  • Before and afterschool programs, health clinics.
  • Many schools have PTOs and Parent Orgs that pick up the role that a paid employee would have.
  • Parent Leadership Training Institute: Provides training to bring parents into leadership roles. Run by Commission of Children statewide. How we can be more educated and be more active.

Where do you find the families in need?
  • Work closely with the school system central office.
  • People within the schools know about Achieve Hartford!
  • Visits are made to early-learning centers.
  • Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Families
How do you answer questions like, why do we need women’s colleges? And, what do women’s colleges do that co-eds don’t?
  • This is part of the research agenda. How present are women in the curriculum?
  • Princeton University study about leadership of girls showed that men run for high visibility positions (student government) and women do not. Women wanted to participate in programs that made more of an impact. Programs are still run through the male lens. Roles in students government need to be more compelling for women.
  • The Princeton report also states that girls and women feel obligated to act in a certain socially acceptable ways such as “poised, witty and smart—but not so witty or smart as to be threatening to men”. This was called “effortless perfection”. More needs to be done to crack these “obligations”.

How do you deal with issues of work/life balance when educating girls?
  • Girls and women navigate themselves towards family.
  • Studies have shown that girls are already thinking about the family life balance by 5th grade. Corresponding study with boys showed no similar feeling.
  • Until the structure of work changes women will not participate in certain seats at the.
  • In Europe, maternity leave is much longer. Women in US go back to work after 6 weeks. Women have tostrategize more than men when you are going to have a child based on time off. It typically falls on females to be tactical and strategic.
  • There are women who don’t have the choices and it boils down to the status of children. If we value children then we value families. We need an evolution of society.

What is the biggest challenge for both Achieve Hartford! and women’s colleges?
  • Communicating and getting the word out there that there are resources and advocates in the community.
  • More women can gain the skill sets to further empower girls.
  • Identifying and bringing awareness to these issues.
  • You can’t talk about girl power until you talk about women power. Fastest growing student population in the country is adult women, not the traditional.
  • Encourage girls as early as you can and build their self esteem and the importance of education in their lives. Plant the seed as soon as you can.

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