“As girls become the carriers of unvoiced desires and unrealized possibilities,
they are inevitably placed at considerable risk and even in danger.”
– Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice
In general, being an adolescent is really complicated and emotional. It is a time that everyone experiences, but it’s rarely turned into a shared experience. Schools throw young people together in the same classrooms and teach them facts about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the lessons lack in the emotional support and education that young people need to be successful. Adolescents are unable to benefit from the skills they are learning in the classroom without the confidence to apply them to real world challenges and opportunities.
Growing up, I witnessed firsthand the infamous drop in self confidence in teenage girls that we all know is incredibly damaging to their development. In high school, the lack of self confidence in my female peers was most apparent. My new friends quickly entered into unhealthy relationships and fell into the trap of perpetually trying to please others and being dependent on their external image. I was so frustrated by the fact that they could not see themselves the way that I did, as intelligent and capable.
I realized that young people need the confidence to express themselves in orderto maintain their mental well-being and take steps toward their academic and professional achievement. Psychologist Carol Gilligan makes the claim that girls specifically fall victim to self-esteem damage as a result of “unvoiced desires,” but I feel confident in claiming that young men fall victim to the same stifling of emotions. It is important that teens have safe spaces in which they feel comfortable enough to voice their feelings – positive, negative, or indifferent – and to learn practical skills that will be necessary when they live on their own.
The Teen Empowerment Project at A Woman’s Place (AWP) provides the practical skills with the group support necessary to really develop the skills necessary to live on one’s own – understanding personal finances, maintaining a healthy life, communicating effectively, recognizing strengths, goal setting, and critical thinking. The project provides a safe space to explore new ideas and a forum for teens to express their opinions without apology and with conviction. Across all programs, the empowerment project addresses what I’ve determined are the 3 main needs of teens: Support from peers and adults, courage to try new things and push one’s self to the next level, and direction about where to take the new knowledge learned.
WHAT ARE YOUR “UNVOICED DESIRES”?
The Empowerment Project Teen Volunteer