New organization aims to empower women and girls


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Women and girls in the Virgin Islands have a new local resource to turn to for guidance in health, wealth and everything in between. Sisterhood Agenda, the award-winning global nonprofit organization, has re-located to St. John, with plans in the works to open the doors to a new Global Training Academy where women and girls from the territory and beyond will be able to participate in youth activities, programs, training sessions, workshops, retreats and more.

Founded by Princeton graduate and Ashoka Fellow Angela D. Coleman, the 17-year-old organization serves more than 5 million women and girls every year, with 3,000 global partner organizations in 32 countries. Sisterhood Agenda’s activities and programs are aimed at women and girls of African descent, and focus on the empowerment principles of sisterhood, self-knowledge, self-development and self-esteem.

Coleman, who is originally from New Jersey, says she has received a warm welcome from government agencies and local organizations. Sisterhood Agenda held its first community meeting on Sept. 29 at the St. John Community Foundation, with attendees including community leaders such as Second Lady Cheryl Francis and Sen. Craig Barshinger, and Vivian St. Juste of the Family Resource Center and Tio Livingstone from COAST.

Sisterhood Agenda got its start when Coleman was still a student of psychology and African-American studies at Princeton. It was during this time, she says, that she began to look at her own heritage and learn about all the African-American female role models, women she had not known existed.

“I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to give this information to young girls as opposed to what I did, which was to get a late start,’” said Coleman.

She started off small, intending to meet with just a few girls on the weekends. When she sent out her invitations, however, she was inundated with parents wanting to sign their daughters up. She began to write grants, and was awarded funds to hire a staff and create a standard program.

Over the first 10 years, Coleman says Sisterhood Agenda was able to prove its success as more than just a “feel-good program.” Among the young women who completed her youth program, there was a reduced rate of sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies, less drug use and less missed school days. With the success, the program began to garner national, and then international, interest.

Between 2004 and 2010, Sisterhood Agenda grew exponentially from having just a few hundred global partners — organizations that are active with women and girls that use Sisterhood Agenda resources — to now having over 3,000 global partners in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

The most popular of the Sisterhood Agenda programs is the Sisterhood Empowerment Program: A Journey Toward Womanhood, aimed at teens ages 12-17. This multimedia program is taught at a local level, usually integrated into an after-school program. It consists of 52 module teaching hours that can be completed over a longer or shorter time period, depending on the local agency. More than 95 percent of young women that begin this program finish it, says Coleman.

Other projects include Positive Media, Sisters: Healthy and Empowered (SHE) Weight Control, Health and Wellness System and Sisters In Business. Global partners interested in becoming involved with any of these projects can join the Sisterhood Agenda global network online by signing up at www.sisterhoodagenda.com. At the website they can engage in a number of webinars, take advantage of support services, sign up to receive the Sisterhood Agenda Magazine and purchase curriculum packages from the online store.

On St. John, says Coleman, the aim is to find the organization a permanent home to establish its new Sisterhood Agenda Global Training Academy, which will serve as both a boarding school for girls and a base of operation for Sisterhood Agenda where the organization will host its global partners for training, workshops, retreats and more. In the meantime, the Academy will float between hotels and other locations.

Upcoming Sisterhood Agenda activities include:

• 1 p.m. Thursday — Free Webinar: “Sisters: Healthy and Empowered.”

Individuals interested in signing up for the free webinar may do so by joining the global network at www.sisterhoodagenda.com. The interactive webinar, which can be viewed at any computer with Internet access, will be focused on holistic health approaches to fight obesity and other issues.

• 1 p.m. Nov. 9 — Webinar: “Sisters In Business: Empowerment Series I.”

• 1 p.m. Nov. 10 — Webinar: “Sisters In Business: Empowerment Series II.”

These two interactive webinars will focus on women who start, or would like to start, their own businesses. For information, visit www.sisterhoodagenda.com.

• Nov. 18 — The V.I. Department of Education Conference for Girls.

Co-sponsored by the V.I. Department of Education, this conference will be held at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef Beach Resort. One hundred girls from grades 7-11, who have been selected by the Department of Education, will participate in the conference, which will focus on building leadership skills and drug prevention.

• 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dec. 31 — Sisterhood-Brotherhood Agenda Youth Extravaganza, Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation, St. John.

Registration for this New Year’s dance party will begin at 8 p.m. on location. Parents who sign up their children for this event will also be signing them up for Womanhood and Manhood training to being in 2011. Sponsors are still needed.

For more information, visit www.sisterhoodagenda.com or call 714-7076.

— Contact reporter Genevieve Ryan at 774-8772 ext. 340 or e-mail gryan@dailynews.vi.

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