Girl Advocates! raise funds to empower girls around the world

GirlAdvocates! is a student organization that strives to empower girls globally, locally and individually.  They encourage and promote education, positive self-image and mentorship for young girls in Austin.

According to Girl Rising, an international organization dedicated to empowering girls, 66 million girls around the world are out of school. According to local organization GENAustin, around forty percent of female high school students in Texas report depressive symptoms, and feel sad or hopeless. Enter GirlAdvocates!.

GirlAdvocates!’s members serve as one-on-one mentors to local middle school students. GirlAdvocates! also works with the philanthropic group the GirlEffect, to raise awareness for issues that young girls around the world face.

The Swing Out Awards even recognized GirlAdvocates! for their efforts by awarding them with the Best New Organization in 2013.

“I have always been very passionate about investing in youth and girls,” GirlAdvocates! Founder and President Lauren Caton said. “When I got to UT, I could not find an organization that was tailored to my specific interests. So, I decided to start an organization that would allow me to share my passion with others and connect them with existing opportunities to empower young girls and give them the confidence they need to cope with the challenges life may bring them.”

GirlAdvocates! has been active on and off-campus, organizing their own events and engaging with other female advocacy groups.

Last year, GirlAdvocates! hosted a fundraiser called “I believe in the power of girls.” People donated money to place their handprint on a colored board to pledge their support for female education around the world.  They raised approximately $400 and donated funds to Senhoa, a school for at-risk girls in Cambodia.

This year Girl Advocates! held a yoga benefit in October, donating all proceeds to GirlEffect. They will also host a fundraiser entitled “We Believe in Girls” Wednesday, Nov. 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For a minimum donation of $1, students can share their story about a girl or woman who has made a significant impact on their lives and then add their name to a global map to show their support for empowering girls all around the world.

With strong leadership and passionate members, it is easy to see why GirlAdvocates! has been successful thus far.

“My favorite part about GirlAdvocates! is the fact that everyone involved is so passionate about female empowerment--all in their own unique way,” Co-founder Geetika Rao said. “Everyone truly wants to be there, and it’s a great thing to see, especially for a relatively brand new organization!”

Amanda Cruz, Plan II junior, enjoys the volunteer aspect of the organization. “Some of the best experiences I have had with GirlAdvocates! involve spending time with my mentee,” Cruz said. “I know that every minute I spend with her will have an influence in her life, and I hope that I can be a positive role model for her. I’m glad this organization can bring such different people together for the common purpose of helping girls be the best they can be.”

Looking to the future of GirlAdvocates!, Caton is inspired to make a lasting difference. “We hope to instill confidence in the lives of the girls we touch,” said Caton. “But we also want to ignite a passion for service and empowerment in our membership base so that they continue to enrich the lives of others no matter what field of work they decide to delve into.”

Interested in joining GirlAdvocates!? Meetings are held every other Wednesday from 6-7p.m. in CLA 1.104. Members can enjoy snacks and a chance to listen to and network with distinguished speakers, who range from professors and non-profit workers to advocacy partners, who work directly in the field of youth and adolescent empowerment.