SU, US Embassy conclude first Girls Congress
Students from Silliman University (SU), Foundation University, and St. Paul University Dumaguete completed the first Girls Congress, a leadership and mentoring program initiated by the SU Office of Strategic Partnerships and the US Embassy in the Philippines.
In the culmination of Girls Congress last March 11, 2020 at the American Studies Resource Center of the SU Library, 31 students graduated from the program after attending nine sessions of workshops with various mentors on different topics such as public speaking, mental health, climate change, parliamentary procedure, design thinking, among others.
“(Girls Congress) comes into the form of a Saturday program, similar to an after-school program, [wherein] young women [are] capacitated in issues that are very important, that affect them on a daily basis or issues that they encounter as well on a global scale,” said Dr. Jenny Lind Elmaco, SU Strategic Partnerships director and Girls Congress coordinator.
Philip Roskamp, US Embassy Public Affairs counselor, said the program is the first of its kind in the country.
“Girls Congress teaches you as emerging female leaders how to use your voices for change. Your voices can unite, spark social change, and inspire all of us to do better,” said Roskamp in a message addressed to the program participants, called Girls Congress ambassadors, during the culmination.
Roskamp recognized the program for developing among the participants skills like public speaking and critical thinking, and for allowing them to experience working with the local government unit (LGU).
“With Girls Congress, we are given the voice to voice out what we feel are the injustices in society…Girls Congress had taught me things I didn’t even know about myself. Girls Congress had taught me things about societal issues,” said SU student Aprylle Marie Catarata in her testimonial as a Girls Congress ambassador.
Throughout the program, the participants produced a handbook, which Roskamp said will be shared to LGUs.
Elmaco said the Girls Congress handbook is a compilation of documentation done during the sessions, including photos and texts about each session.
“Hopefully it will also become a trainer’s kit (for the participants), which they can use as well to educate and empower more young women in the same way that they have been empowered and educated through this project,” said Elmaco.
Launched in November 2019, the Girls Congress was proposed by Elmaco and SU foreign affairs student Shamah Bulangis to the US Embassy, which financially supported the program.
Elmaco and Bulangis, both alumni of US government-sponsored programs, came up with the program as a way of honoring the legacy of the 25th year of the Beijing Platform of Action for Women and the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, on women, peace, and security with sustainable action.
Elmaco said that the program also recognizes the importance of investing in women for the betterment of society.