La Jolla ‘Girl Up’ chapter to host speakers, fundraiser July 29 at library


For the members of the La Jolla High School “Girl Up” chapter, an upcoming fundraiser at La Jolla Library means more than an afternoon of advocacy. For club president Isha Raj-Silverman, it signifies how the club has made its chapter unique by its focus on community outreach. For vice-president Amaya Duncan, it means she’s one step closer to fulfilling her “Beauty with a Purpose” project as part of America’s Miss World Teen beauty pageant.

The event runs 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at the library, 7555 Draper Ave., and will feature speakers on various women’s causes. Amaya said she would discuss the “Girl Up” advocacy campaign (the local branch of which she helped establish). Another speaker is the “outstanding teen” from the Miss San Diego pageant who will talk about causes near to her heart. Another is a rape survivor and there would be more. The event is open to the public, admission $15.

“I’d like participants to know more about the impact of ‘Girl Up’ and the women in our community — what’s going on in our community and what people are doing about it,” she said. The event doubles as a fundraiser, and Amaya said she would like to raise $400 in donations to send to “Girl Up,” which would be distributed to educational programs in Uganda.

According to its website, “Girl Up” is a United Nations Foundation’s campaign, which engages teen girls to take action, specifically by raising awareness and funds to reach girls living in places in the world where it is hardest to be a girl. The La Jolla High School chapter was established formally in 2015 (there were informal gatherings before that), and in addition to participating in the global campaign, Isha said the club has made “Girl Up” their own and targeted local issues as well.

“As the club grew, we started doing community projects and chose to focus our efforts on sexual assault awareness, and we’ve done our best to supplement what’s offered at school by bringing in speakers and hosting workshops and events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April),” she said. “We focus on adolescent empowerment.”

The club has also hosted screenings of documentaries that focus on women’s issues, such as “He Named Me Malala,” about Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban because she spoke out on behalf of girls’ education; and “Miss Representation,” in which leaders such Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Condoleeza Rice, Gloria Steinem and others discuss sexism in American society and the media.

Taking it a step further, the group organized the July 29 fundraiser. Amaya came up with the idea to meet the terms of her “Beauty with a Purpose” project. “I’m participating in the America’s Miss Teen World, which is under Miss World, one of the four largest international pageants. They are very service-oriented, which I like. One thing they have for everyone that competes is a ‘beauty with a purpose’ project. Each person chooses and organization they would like to work with and because I had already done a lot of work with ‘Girl Up,’ I chose them,” she explained. This year is the first time the beauty pageant offers a teen title.

Amaya has participated in local and national pageants, and is a national finalist in Miss Teen World. In August, she will go to Orlando to compete for the national title. “If I win, I get the title for the whole year and I would get to travel. If I do, I’d want to be able to talk about ‘Girl Up’ as my platform and draw attention to the campaign,” Amaya said.

Isha said she appreciates that Amaya has taken an organization not typically associated with feminism and uses it to shed light on a feminist cause. “Being a part of ‘Girl Up’ has helped me understand sexism around the world and in our own community,” Isha said, adding that she wants to be a part of policy-making in the future. And as she and Amaya enter their high school senior years, they are solidifying the club’s foundation so it can be passed on to the next generation.

“For those with an interest in advocacy or policy, this is a great group to be a part of,” Isha said. “It’s an excellent campaign and so structured, so it’s a great way to get involved. It’s also a great way to learn about how lucky we are as girls in this country, but also how far we have to go.”

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