Author: cadelazizi

The Mission of All-Girls Schools: Do They Help?

Learn. Lead. Live a Legacy. This mantra is woven throughout our curriculum and culture at Agnes Irwin. Here, education comes not only from the classroom, but from the community, one made unique by the fact that it’s made up almost entirely of girls. We are part of a legion of countless other schools for girls that work to educate, empower, and inspire the young women who walk their halls.

It’s a hot topic of debate: does single sex education truly pose an educational benefit to girls? In my experience, the answer has proved to be a resounding “yes.” Going to school without boys around has given me the chance to evolve as a person without paying any attention to the way I look. It’s a blissful freedom that’s invaluably confidence-building. And studies show the advantage of an all-girls education. Without the presence of boys, girls are more likely to take risks and engage in healthy competition (Kessels and Hannover, 2008). Simply being in a same-sex environment is empowering to girls, for they can pay less attention to their identity as females and begin to explore their identity as individuals.

Ironically, the history of girls’ schools quite contradicts their mission today. Generally speaking, as little as forty years ago, most girls’ secondary schools were akin to manners schools. They taught the skills and decorum necessary to be a “lady” (Rogers). Assigning girls to roles of docility and subservience is dated. Now, we are part of the movement away from these standards. Lessons in table manners and sewing have been replaced by physics class and athletics teams. Most importantly, girls are now taught to use their voices and be assertive rather than to be delicate and agreeable.

Education is important. It lies at the core of girls’ empowerment and the center of our mission in the Council for the Advancement of Girls. It’s a fundamental right, as well as key to not only personal, but also widespread economic and social development. It’s important to do it right.

Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi

Kessels, Ursula. and Hannover, Bettina. (2008), When being a girl matters less: Accessibility of gender-related self-knowledge in single-sex and coeducational classes and its impact on students’ physics-related self-concept of ability. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78: 273–289. doi: 10.1348/000709907X215938

Rogers, Rebecca. “Girls’ Schools.” The Gale Group, 2008. Web. Jan. 2015.


Malala Yousafzai and the Liberty Medal: A Second LIfe

On a brisk Tuesday evening in October, Malala Yousafzai received the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center, and I was lucky enough to be in the audience, soaking in all of her grace, conviction, and passion. The event featured a series of moving and impressive speakers, including Amy Gutman, the president of the University of Pennsylvania; Michael Nutter, Philadelphia mayor; and Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the “Little Rock Nine.” But, naturally, the main event was the girl whom the ceremony was hosted to honor, the girl who, at the age of seventeen, has become an international icon for liberty and justice.

Amidst all of her fame and legend, it’s easy to forget that Malala is just a teenage girl. Yet, at the ceremony, I was reminded of our common ground in the most tiny and endearing of ways. When she was introduced at the beginning of the event, Malala thought it was her turn to speak and started walking over to the microphone, only to hurry back to her seat upon realizing her mistake. It was a small slip-up, negligible to most members of the audience, but to me, the moment was incredibly valuable. It was clear that Malala is not yet accustomed to all of the attention she receives but is rather just a teenager, unsure like any other. All the more, she went on to say (when it was her turn to speak) that she had homework due when she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. Even in the face of a great honor such as her Nobel Prize, Malala’s homework was still a priority to her. To me, it’s this very groundedness and humility that makes her such a compelling icon for education and women’s rights.

During the ceremony, clips of Agnes Irwin classrooms and students flashed across the screen, presented as the ideal of girls’ education. It was a pleasant surprise, but it also made me realize the stark contrast of my own fortune with those of girls struggling for their fundamental right of education. The experience prompted in me a pertinent shift of perspective: How dare I feel burdened by school and homework when I’m lucky enough not only to attend school, but also to attend one where the quality of education is so high?

Finally, Malala rose to accept her Liberty Medal, and this time, she was right on cue. She started by saying clearly and slowly, “I speak for those without voice[s]…for those who have been persecuted.” Her speech, spoken in imperfect English but with astounding poise, gave me actual chills. The most remarkable thing about it was the pure straightforwardness with which she spoke. Everything that she said seemed so simple to her. After acknowledging that many people do not understand her remarkable acts of courage, she explained that she only had two options under the threat of the Taliban: to speak out or not to speak out. She demanded,“Why would I not speak?…it is our duty!” To her, the right decision seemed as clear as day, and she conveyed this to us with such inspiring passion, professing that, “[The Taliban] did a big mistake…strength, power, courage was born [when they shot me].”

She referred to her life after her recovery from being shot as her “second life,” a new opportunity to spread justice. With her mission renewed after her “second coming,” she fought with more strength than ever for girls’ education. Two years later, after receiving both the Nobel Peace Prize and Liberty Medal, she stood in front of me, an inspiration.

“We are stronger…Let us…make change by becoming the change.” Malala certainly exemplifies her own advice; she has become a wondrous change, an international icon of liberty and justice for all.

Catherine de Lacoste-Azizi

Highlights of the Leading for Change Conference 2014

Last Saturday, CAG hosted its second annual Leading for Change conference. The day was educational and empowering for all those in attendance, complete with two phenomenal keynote speakers, a meaningful group activity, and a variety of enlightening workshops. Additionally, we officially launched Girls CAN! For those of you who weren’t there (and those of you who were), here’s a recap of the day.

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Zerlina Maxwell kicked off the conference as our first keynote speaker. She gave an intriguing, informative presentation on Social Media as a Catalyst and the role that it can play in business. Ms. Maxwell is a political analyst, writer, and commentator for MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News.

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 The conference then shifted gears to the “Color Game”, a simulation activity that aimed to send a message about inequality. The girls formed groups labeled by color and were instructed to build a business and a network–but some groups found it harder to expand than others. They met unexpected obstacles because of the color printed on their tag.

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 After the game, Girls CAN was officially launched. CAG’S new chapter organization aims to build a network of empowered girls across the nation! For more information about Girls CAN, or to start your own chapter, visit the above tabs.

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Attendees then engaged in workshops of their choice. The lineup included Emerging Entrepreneurs, Girl’s as Activists, Understanding Gender Norms, Finding Your Gumption, Public Relations and Media Training, Black Girls’ experience in Private Schools and Introduction to Negotiation. Each offered a unique experience, but all were wonderfully informative and taught by remarkably accomplished women.

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Members of the CAG Council with our featured speakers and special guests #LeadOn