Vivy Phan: GirlAdvocates! Co-Founder
1) WHO ARE YOU? Tell us about yourself, hey, even brag a little.
I’m a graduating UT senior from Allen, Texas, studying neuroscience, studio art, and exercise science. I am pursuing a career in medicine with the hopes that I can empower people, through their health and their bodies, to achieve their optimal quality of life and potential. I am also an artist, primarily creating installation sculpture revolved around the human experience and condition. Though I am a full time student, I am also a part time running, travelling, and outdoor enthusiast. On a good day, you can catch me running along Lady Bird Lake or reading in a hammock out on Shoal Creek.
2) TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU ARE DOING AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT.
About 3 ½ years ago, me and a few of my friends met in the Kinsolving dining hall and talked about creating an organization based on girl empowerment, led by the amazing Lauren Caton. On that day, we barely knew what GirlAdvocates would look like, just that we wanted a place that we could come together and get involved in affecting girls’ lives positively. Through our diverse passions for empowering girls, we built GirlAdvocates on the tenets of service, mentoring, and philanthropy. GirlAdvocates seeks to empower girls locally and internationally via aid, self-image, and mentoring. Locally, we partner with Webb Middle School to mentor middle school girls, giving them the confidence to pursue their dreams as they enter a critical stage of growth and maturity in their lives. We also partner with many networks like GenAustin, GirlStart, and Girls on the Run to support programs designed to promote various aspects of self-image and education to young girls in the Austin area. Internationally, we do local fundraising events like benefit concerts, yoga nights, and awareness events to raise money for our philanthropy, the GirlEffect.
Why is it important? Why girl empowerment? Because when I coach, I hear my girls lower their goals or self deprecate based on their bodies. Because a few summers ago, I saw so many women and girls that, due to trafficking, assault, or unfortunate circumstances found themselves ostracized and without belief in their capabilities and intelligence. Because child marriage still exists and hinders girls across the globe from getting an education and a chance to fulfill their dreams. But most of all, because they should know that they CAN do it, whatever "it" may be. One day I was coaching at Girls on the Run and one of my girls, who had formerly lacked confidence or motivation in her running, showed me "why girl empowerment". Before this, she was quite pessimistic about her running ability and would constantly say "I don't think I can do it" to our goal of the day. But then one day, she was coming around the corner, and I asked her "Do you need a water break?". She paused, and looked at me and said "Nah, I can do it, I'm going to get these 3 miles today." Hearing her say "I can do it" was so powerful. Even in that small moment, her change in mindset would carry her to believe in her capabilities and pursue her dreams with the confidence she would succeed, and that's "why girl empowerment".
3) WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME CHALLENGES IN PURSUING THIS WORK?
It has been a challenge the past few years to get men involved in our events and our organization because it does tend to be girl-driven. I think it’s important to get guys involved in the conversation of girl empowerment because how we interact with our youth, specifically girls, shapes the constructs they believe to be true later on in their lives. Opening up dialogue about how to equally motivate and instill confidence in our youth as well as in our adult population will promote a change in constructs over time.
4) WHERE AND HOW CAN WE SUPPORT YOU IN YOUR QUEST?
The best way to support me and GirlAdvocates! in our quest is to be aware of how you are addressing youth in their perception of gender roles, especially in regards to education and self-image. With respect to boys, it will help them Interact with girls their age in a way that gives their peers confidence and strength rather than oppression. With respect to girls, how their peers and how their role models and community treat them will affect their own perception of self. If treated with respect and support, they can flourish and further progress education and self-image to girls of future generations. This will change our culture and world over time and propel us forward in equalizing the empowerment of both genders.
5) WHAT animal best represents you?
My animal is a tiger because I am continually pursing the next goal with a fierce passion and drive. I am also very protective of my loved ones. Though I am generally friendly and calm, if provoked, I will bare my teeth.
You can learn more about GirlAdvocates! and the work they are doing on their website.