EMPOWERING GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN:
FEMINIST CURRICULA WITH HEART
Welcome! The curricula on this website are intended for
use by facilitators working to educate girls and young women on gender
and other issues in order to 1) help them become more aware, confident,
compassionate, and empowered, and 2) help them cherish and celebrate
being female. The curricula stem from my experiences over several years
as a facilitator supporting girls and young women in after-school workshops, particularly at the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside in Santa Monica, California.
Not finding any age-appropriate feminist curricula, I developed and wrote
In offering these and other educational materials for free to facilitators
working with girls and young women, I hope to widen the circle of those
who may benefit from them. Many other people working with and for adolescents
may also find this website helpful -- for example, parents and guardians,
social workers, counselors and therapists, and health providers. In addition,
young people themselves may find the curricula useful as resource material.
A few of the materials you will find on the website are:
• Girl House and Beyond:
A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Young Women
• Moon Magic Workshop on
Puberty: A Facilitator’s Guide for Helping Girls Come of Age
• Taking Our Place in the
Art World: Feminist Arts Curriculum
• Girl House Art Project (film)
Please note that the curricula are not presented as anti-male
(as some parents/guardians may be concerned about), but rather as pro-female.
They are designed to be affirming and relevant to each and every girl
and young woman---that is, inclusive of all races, ethnicities, sexual
orientations, and any other factors. Exploring gender and other issues,
especially the cultural/social context in which these issues occur, can
help all girls and young women live their deepest values, determine --
and reach for -- their own goals, and develop healthy “partnership
relationships”* based on equality, mutual respect, and kindness.
Girls and young women deserve to be seen, heard, supported, and valued.
This is their birthright. We, as a society, need to nourish their capacity
to live fully and thrive; in turn, we benefit from their uncompromised
energy, spirit, and wisdom. This website is one small contribution in
support of this beneficial exchange.
Why I Created These Curricula
During my own adolescence, I often felt oppressed by cultural and social
forces that thwarted me because of my gender. My friends and I were made
to feel -- both through explicit words and implicit societal expectations
-- that girls should, for example, wait to be asked out and never take
the initiative in social interactions with boys, and that a girl should
never appear smarter than a boy in whom she was interested. Like many
other college-bound girls, I heard my parents express hopes that an important
part of my college experience would be finding a husband.
As an adult, I found that learning about gender inequities in our society,
as well as about the women who succeeded despite such obstacles, made
me feel more confident, empowered, inspired, and whole. I realized that
I did not, in fact, need to be in a relationship with someone in order
to feel “complete,” and that if I were to be involved with
anyone, a true partnership relationship is what I wanted and deserved.
Learning about gender inequities also made me better able to stand up
for myself and others in many different kinds of circumstances.
My hope is that today’s girls and young women, who are vulnerable
to degrading media images, sexual harassment, and other injustices, will
benefit as I and so many others have from learning about gender issues.
For girls today, growing up female can be a far better -- indeed, joyful
and empowering -- experience than it was for so many of us in the past.
Note: It is, of course, not the responsibility
of girls and young women to fix the societal problems that underlie an environment
of gender inequity. However, because of society’s general lack of responsibility
in this area, it is imperative that girls and young women learn about gender
issues so they can be more attuned to cultural influences and better able to
deal with instances of gender inequity.
A Threefold Approach to Teaching
Each curriculum follows the teaching of basic skills (such as active
listening, conflict resolution, and group decision making) with a threefold
participatory process.** Through this threefold approach, students (1)
learn how to handle specific difficult situations related to the particular
curriculum, (2) consider the cultural and social forces that have allowed
such situations to occur, and (3) educate others about what they have
learned. This approach gives girls and young women -- who often feel
powerless in our culture -- ways both to make a difference in their own
lives and to positively impact the community. The process also helps
them increase their self-esteem and build stronger senses of self.
of the Threefold Approach
||Girl House and Beyond curriculum: (1)
Participants learn how to handle specific incidents of sexual harassment.
(2) They consider some of the cultural/social factors that contribute
to an environment in which sexual harassment is likely to occur.
(3) Participants express their feelings about sexual harassment
by creating posters, which are then displayed for the community.
||Taking Our Place in the Art World curriculum: (1)
Participants examine gender stereotypes and discrimination in their
own lives. (2) They consider gender discrimination in the lives
of women artists from the Middle Ages to the present.
create a research and art timeline to educate both themselves and
the public about individual women and women’s organizations
that have positively impacted our society.
||Moon Magic Workshop curriculum: (1)
Participants are provided a safe space in which to talk about their
experiences of menstruation, to discuss the positive aspects, and
to learn practical ways of managing their periods. (2) They consider
the reasons why talking about menstruation in the larger culture
is often considered taboo.
(3) Participants critique menstrual
product ads, then write to the product manufacturers to express
what they like and don’t like about the ads.
Driving Forces: Love and Joy
The primary driving forces of any feminist curriculum must, I believe,
be love and joy, which counter the sadness and anger that girls and
women are likely to feel when learning about gender injustice and exploring
their own and others’ experiences of this. The curricula in this
website therefore provide ways for facilitators to create a loving
and safe environment (for example, see “Creating a Safe Space” in
each curriculum). In addition, these curricula incorporate many uplifting
and fun learning activities, including art-making and interactive exercises.
The “Red Jellybean Celebration” (in Moon Magic Workshop
on Puberty) and the “I Am the Hero of My Life Story” activity
(in Girl House and Beyond) are particularly enjoyable.
I hope that the educational materials and resources in this website
will be of help to you in your work with girls and young women. It
is highly rewarding to a facilitator to have someone who has completed
the workshop say -- as I have had workshop participants say to me -- “I feel
more confident in myself,” “I feel that what I have to say
is really important,” or “I was able to stand up to some
guys who were trying to harass a girl.”
I encourage you to share with me your experiences in using any of the
curricula, as well as to share any information about your own projects.
I want to learn from you, too. (Please use the “Talk to Kesa” feature
in this website and/or the evaluation forms for facilitators at the back
of each curriculum.)
There is so much work to be done. All of us, as individuals and as a
society, must help to build and sustain the profound shift of consciousness
that is occurring in which females and the feminine are becoming more
valued and honored. To keep the momentum and achieve this goal, we need
the involvement of government, corporations, and institutions on local,
regional, and national levels. We need diverse programs using different
approaches, with input from young people. Working together, we can and
will make our vision of a just, equitable, and compassionate society
* Author Riane Eisler uses the term “partnership relationships” to
describe relationships based on “empathy, caring, and equality.”
**I am very much indebted to a number of “second wave” feminists
for my inspiration in creating the threefold approach used in these curricula.
I am immensely grateful for Mary Nadler’s editorial assistance
in the writing of this overview, as well as for her suggestion for the
© 2008 - 2017 Kesa Kivel