Local Rotary chapter to launch research-driven website to empower girls

(Photo provided)

The Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club (ELR) will finish Women’s History month by launching a multimedia website with messages to “empower girls” in the age of toxic social media messages. 

ELR will launch the website “because so much of the stuff that girls are seeing is happening on social media. A lot of fights and arguments, a lot of body shaming … it’s happening in cyberspace,” said Evanstonian Rebeca Mendoza, who has worked as a grant officer at Rotary International for nine years. She’s taking the lead on this year’s local service project and wants to put positive, research-based messages “in a space where girls could visit anytime.”

The website will go live March 3, the same day ELR will host an “Empowered Women” celebration at Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge for 50 local women.

‘Empowering girls’ starts with research

Rotary International is a worldwide organization, as its name suggests, and each year it elects a new president equipped with new initiatives. Shekhar Mehta of India is the 2021-2022 president of Rotary International. One of his presidential initiatives is to improve the future of girls, whether it be girls without access to menstrual hygiene, sanitation or literacy.

Evanston is the world headquarters for Rotary International, and ERL is one of three local clubs. Each presidential initiative is shared with all members internationally, but individual chapters retain full autonomy to make their service project suit the members’ interests. 

When deciding what to put on this webpage, Mendoza and her team conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups. Mendoza said that she doesn’t want to make any assumptions about what girls need and decided this would be an excellent opportunity to hear from girls what they need to feel empowered. Mendoza has conducted focus groups with prominent youth-centered Evanston organizations, including Digital Divas, a civics fair at ETHS and Family Focus. 

“Adults often make assumptions based on our experiences growing up. … Unless we ask [our children] direct questions, we’re creating solutions for things that we know nothing of. … Hearing from girls directly is what we need to be doing.”