How Girls Can End Violence In Chicago

Early in October, I spent the morning at the Chicago Sports Summit, an incredible gathering of sports teams, medical professionals, marketers and nonprofits from Chicago, all exploring sports-related issues in the city. The Keynote address and the first panel of the day addressed the topic that we unfortunately can’t escape in our city: the violence epidemic and what can be done about it.

The panel discussed using sports programs and after school activities to develop leadership skills in youth to help to stop the problem at its root. The speakers, male athletes and broadcasters, all agreed that instilling confidence in young men in the city and providing mentors to let kids know that someone believes in them will have impact and is an important and powerful starting point.

But no one on the panel really talked about girls and how they deal with the same violence on a daily basis.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx was the Keynote that kicked off the day, and she addressed girls in her speech. A woman in the audience who was at a table with a little girl asked what they thought could be done for girls. But the panel didn’t really have answers or feel confident to say that they thought that sports and what worked for boys would necessarily work for girls.

Kim Foxx addressing the audience at the Chicago Sports Summit

The interesting thing was that almost every panelist at some point talked about how their mothers were essential in helping them to develop into the men that they are. One panelist shared how his mother was the woman that many of his friends, who didn’t have a mother at home, would turn to for advice and for support.

Girls grow into women and become those mothers that keep families and neighborhoods together.

So why are girls still not part of the discussion when we talk about violence in Chicago?

They lose family and friends; they see the same sadness and feel the same fear in their streets; they may be trying to raise children already in an unsafe situation; and unfortunately in some cases, they are the ones shooting or being shot. They are part of the problem and should be given the opportunity to be part of the future change that the city needs.

The fact that girls are still absent from so many of these conversations always reminds me why I work for Girls in the Game. Girls need support, they need to feel that someone believes in them, and they need to see the kinds of opportunities that exist for them. I am proud to work with a team of people who are equally dedicated to making sure that girls have the opportunity to discover their own strength and to lead others. Young leaders leading future leaders. That’s how change will happen.

Girls in the Game, along with many other organizations around the world, celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child on October 11. This special day, created by the United Nations, highlights the issues faced by girls and promotes empowerment and equal rights for girls around the world.

Having the chance to support an event that can create the large-scale awareness of girls’ needs as we try to do on our smaller scale just reinforced what I know: that Girls in the Game is taking an important step by focusing on girls as they grow.

Over 3,600 girls were served by Girls in the Game programs last year. Think of all of the countless organizations around the world who are also working to empower girls and young women and how many more girls are being reached. People may not always include girls in important conversations, but with so many groups focusing on helping girls develop into powerful women, I think that we may see that girls and women do hold the key to helping to solve a lot of problems. Which is why we want to reach more girls in more places and share more of their stories. We teach children to learn from each other. It’s time for all of us to do the same.

Dawn Kobel is the Director of Development & Communications at Girls in the Game