YLA leadership development spotlight: Bailey

Youth Leadership Academy Member Bailey In Washington DC

Following the YLA, you will get to address an issue you are passionate about in your community. Read more about what Bailey did for her Leadership Development Project!

Plan International USA (Plan) hosts a Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) every summer for youth ages 14-18. At the YLA, you learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as develop and expand your leadership skills. During the YLA, you will select an SDG of your choice and design a community-based Leadership Development Project (LDP) to implement post-YLA.

The project will target your school or community, and you’ll have support throughout from a Plan mentor. An awesome bonus of the project is that it can count toward your junior or senior capstone project and service-learning credit!

Meet Bailey

Bailey joined the YLA in 2019. At the YLA, she developed a project to educate her classmates about women’s health and gender inequality, and to provide a safe space for women on her campus to come together and support each other. Find out more from Bailey’s LDP interview!

Q: Which Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) was your project centered on?

A: My project was centered on Gender Equality (Goal #5) and Reduced Inequality (Goal #10).

Q: What need or problem in your community did you address in your project?

A: In my community, my peers are not aware of the challenges that women face on a daily basis, and I wanted to educate them on issues like gender inequality. There used to be a women’s empowerment club on my campus but it was inactive. Therefore, I created a new women’s empowerment club to focus on the advancement and empowerment of women. My club served as a safe space for women to share their experiences, receive support and mentoring, and establish meaningful friendships.

Q: What were some key activities you implemented as part of your project?

A: My club held bimonthly meetings. To kick off our meetings, members would highlight their new resolutions and goals and share something they liked about themselves. I implemented other exercises such as confidence builder games to help members gain more self-confidence. As a club, we planned a feminine hygiene drive for International Women’s Day, but due to lockdown orders, we were unable to host the drive. My club will host the drive when stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Q: How did your project impact your community?

A: I live in a predominantly conservative community, and I received backlash from peers who viewed my club as unimportant. Nevertheless, my project had a direct and significant impact on the women who attended my club meetings. My club was a safe space for women on campus; the women in my club felt comfortable and secure sharing their stories. As a group, we shared similar experiences as women, and we supported one another through immense love and encouragement.

Q: Were there any changes in your community that resulted from your project?

A: I was able to provide a safe space for women to discuss their experiences and come together to address issues involving gender inequality and women’s health. In addition, my peers grew more comfortable talking about women’s health issues (i.e., menstruation). My peers learned a lot about themselves and each other. We built a close-knit community and increased our presence on campus and in our community through the powerful experiences, bond and friendships that we shared.

My club initially planned to launch a Feminine Hygiene Drive on International Women’s Day in March. We want to collect and donate feminine hygiene products to women in our community, and once lockdown orders are lifted, we will meet to host the drive. We look forward to hosting this event and other similar events during the upcoming school year to make up for the time lost.

Q: How many people participated in the activities you incorporated in your project?

A: On average, eight women attended club-related activities. And on a good day, about 15 women participated in activities. Though they were not members, our male counterparts participated in our club meetings and activities. It was very nice to receive love and support from our classmates.

Q: Do you think your project was successful? Why or why not?

A: As I like to say, “Every small success is a big success!” When I created my club, it was a challenge to engage my peers because some of them showed minimal to zero interest in having a women’s empowerment club. But as time passed, I observed an increase in the number of people attending my club meetings and reaching out to share their experiences. In addition, my school’s cabinet advisors, teachers and guidance counselor supported my project and helped me run my club meetings. Lastly, my project inspired a young woman to create a website of her own for women to anonymously submit/post their personal stories about their experiences.

Q: What would you describe as the highlight of your project?

A: Witnessing my peers become more passionate about gender equality and women’s empowerment. In addition, I created a close-knit community of people who would not have come together to raise awareness about and address issues women encounter daily. My club also created an Instagram page (@womenempowermentec). We collaborated with our fellow classmate, Jillian, to create a website as part of a capstone project focusing on women’s empowerment.

Q: What advice would you offer to incoming YLA members to help them with their projects?

A: I would like incoming YLA members to know that small projects are a catalyst for change in a community. When you start a project, see it through to the end because you can inspire the people around you to create change of their own, based on the impact you had on them. Lastly, I encourage future YLA members to take leadership or social justice classes. Personally, the three different leadership classes that I took in school prepared me to design and implement my project.