The Importance of DEIA and Intersectionality

The Importance of DEIA and Intersectionality

Chrysalis’ current strategic plan includes several efforts toward ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in our policies, our training and education activities, and our daily practices. For this reason, our GirlPower high school mentors, a cohort of our nonprofit partners, and our staff have undertaken an extensive training for better understanding of each of these areas as well as the nuances and applications of DEI in our daily lives.

Although the nonprofit leaders and our staff are mid-training, the GirlPower high school mentors have completed the training. Our evaluator, Dr. Wade Leuwerke, conducted a focus group with the mentors to gain input on what mentors learned and how they will apply this knowledge in their work with younger girls in Chrysalis After-School, as well as their own lives. Here are a few of the responses to this powerful training:

As you think about everything you have learned over the past few months, what has resonated with you, and what questions do you have?

  • I loved learning the importance of DEI and intersectionality not only in clubs but also, at schools and in the workplace. Thinking about how oppression can be systematic was also very interesting and helps me think more critically about the world.
  • I liked the different levels of discrimination information. It has taught me a lot of how it works inside people along with how it works in a system.
  • I think I’ve definitely noticed how important, although they may sometimes be uncomfortable, these conversations are and how important it is to understand that my way of life is different from others.
  • What’s going to stick with me is knowing the true difference between equity and equality.
  • The fact that culture is not race, ethnicity, etc. but, the rules and boundaries set within a group of people.

How will you apply what you have learned to your everyday life?

  • I will be able to educate others as well as reflect on myself and my actions and be willing to have the uncomfortable talks.
  • Noticing what is happening in new settings - college and the workplace. Thinking out power structures/dynamics.
  • I’m West African so I’m going to show my culture proudly.
  • I think I’m going to try to just be more aware of my actions and thoughts and understand that everyone interprets things differently.
  • The best thing about knowledge is that it can be shared, so I will apply it by sharing it to anyone who’ll listen.
  • Think more critically about the world and systems around me. Ability to gain new info, listen and validate others experiences and reflect on them. Take these skills wherever I go and use the inherent privilege I have to help others. Understand it better so I can teach others.
  • There is a lot of stuff that our brains think when they’re on autopilot. I have really worked to consciously try to de-program those thoughts.

As a peer mentor what legacy do you want to create as you complete the Girl Power Program?

  • I just want the girls I teach to understand that life isn’t meant to be walked alone, and that they all have such great potential.
  • I want to build and leave an environment that leaves each person feeling valued and heard and with tangible tools/ knowledge that can actually impact their future.
  • I want the girls that I’ve been teaching to really learn and connect to the curriculum so that one day they can say, “ I want to teach girls to be powerful like they do.”
  • I want to encourage the girls to go out and share what we have taught them. Also, to apply everything in their life.
  • I want to help create an inclusive environment for all (mentors and mentees). This also looks like creating a space where people feel comfortable to share their feelings and be themselves.
  • For the young girls, I hope we can allow them to think about things they may not have considered.

Although Chrysalis After-School programs started in 1998 and GirlPower mentoring in 2012, we continue to be impressed with how these programs affect adolescent girls. How they view themselves, how they approach their own lives and the lives of others, in what ways they benefit by involvement. We can be proud to report that GirlPower mentors believe they have not only grown and evolved themselves – they believe they have changed the future for girls in this community in ways they will become stronger and more confident women.

Social change happens when cultural norms and patterns change over time – improving human and social conditions, and society as a whole. For Chrysalis, we know that when girls fulfill their potential and women achieve their goals, families grow healthier, communities thrive, and everyone benefits. We’re in this work for the long term, and it’s exciting to see our results.