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Beth Mooney on Empowering Girls
In a nutshell what is the purpose of Girls Take Charge?
Girls Take Charge reaches young women at a time in their lives when they are most susceptible to a negative self perception.
Where are the roots of your desire to start Girls Take Charge?
I struggled during my early teen years against anorexia. Then in the 11th grade, I participated in a week-long leadership program and something clicked. I learned that I had the skills and confidence to lead if I looked within. The leadership program helped me overcome my life-threatening and debilitating disease of anorexia. I found out that anorexia affects so many women, so I wanted to offer more girls like me the opportunity to benefit from the same kind of leadership program and mentoring that had clicked for me. In 2006 I created Girls Take Charge and use it as my vehicle to “pay it forward.” In the first two years, Girls Take Charge touched the lives of more than 400. My ultimate goal is to offer programs in all 50 states.
Would you describe the new movement you’ve started?
Yes. In late 2008, I joined forces with Ana [Henao] and Erin [Darby] and created Smart is Cool! That’s a brand/movement for women and girls of all ages that is redefining smart and setting new standards for cool. We think that for too long, the focus of women has been on beauty. While we appreciate our beauty, we see our true beauty is our health and our minds. Smart is Cool reminds us that women, through their gifts and talents, can change the world. We decided it’s time to be “done with dumb,” with the media image of women that highlights only examples of celebrities’ actions that promote dumb images for girls and women. It’s time to show through media, print and online publications, and so on that Smart is Cool. While Smart is Cool involves women of all ages, it gives back by supporting Girls Take Charge, the non-profit I created specifically to help middle-school and high-school girls. Now the forces of both Girls Take Charge and Smart is Cool will be able to create even more positive change. I like to say we are a positive, optimistic community that is changing the way young women perceive themselves and so they can envision their own futures.