Feminist RSO teaches young women to ‘girl up’

Erin+Kravchick%2C+senior+in+LAS%2C+is+the+president+of+the+RSO%2C+GirlUp.+The+group+was+founded+in+2017+and+empowers+women+in+taking+on+leadership+roles.+

Cameron Krasucki

Erin Kravchick, senior in LAS, is the president of the RSO, GirlUp. The group was founded in 2017 and empowers women in taking on leadership roles.

By Jacqui Nguyen, Staff Writer

As a passionate advocate for gender equality all throughout her life, Erin Kravchick, senior in LAS, wanted to join an RSO dedicated to protecting and demanding women’s rights.

Luckily for Kravchick, she found exactly what she wanted: Girl Up UIUC.

Girl Up is a global movement created by the United Nations that empowers and guides young women on their journeys to become leaders and change makers through organization, fundraising and education. The chapter of Girl Up at the University was founded in 2017.

Kravchick joined the RSO during Quad Day her freshman year. She would later become president. Although she is no longer in a leadership position, she still remains an avid member of GirlUp. 

According to Kravchick, although there have been many advancements within the past few years, gender inequality is still an issue that impacts society in overlooked ways.

“I think a lot of people think that it isn’t an issue anymore, but that’s not true,” Kravchick said. 

For this reason, Kravchick wanted to get more involved in spreading awareness and talking about women’s issues; Girl Up has provided a comfortable space for her and the rest of Girl Up’s members to do so.

Whether as a general member or as a member of the executive board, Girl Up has worked so hard to create an environment that fosters learning where it’s OK to ask questions and have your ideas challenged,” Kravchick said. 

During Girl Up’s bi-monthly meetings, members discuss a variety of topics ranging from period inequality to the fashion industry. Emphasis is placed on intersectionality and the inclusivity of everyone’s perspectives. 

“We talk about a lot of topics and do events that are very interesting and inspiring to me,” Haley Smith, junior in AHS and the Vice President of Advocacy in Girl Up said. “It’s just something that I really like to talk about and feel strongly about.” 

In addition to discussion-based meetings, Girl Up focuses on educating its members through presentations and hosting other events. Recently, they had their annual self-defense class, participated in the campus Women’s March this past October, held feminine hygiene product drives and more. 

Outside of its follower base, Girl Up has also had a large impact on the campus community. Through outreach events and collaborations with other organizations, Girl Up has been able to create a community that promotes gender equality. The RSO has met with organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Illinois Student Government to discuss how to further promote gender equality in various ways through different realms.

“When people know your name, there are more opportunities to collaborate with different RSOs. It’s important to create a community of RSOs that are like-minded in terms of equality,” Kravchick said. 

Smith said that she joined Girl Up last semester after transferring from her community college. Throughout high school, she was part of Girl Up and participated in discussion-based activities and fundraisers that raised money for different women’s issues.

There were not many organizations that dealt with womens’ issues at her community college. So when Smith came to the University, she was excited to find Girl Up during Quad Day last fall. 

“Being on campus, I was new and didn’t know a lot of people. It was a good way to make me feel a part of the school even though it’s a smaller club,” Smith said. 

During her time on the executive board, Kravchick focused on growing Girl Up’s membership base to create a larger environment of learning and growth. She also emphasized reaching out to college officials and community organizations to promote awareness throughout campus. Maggie Katsoudas, the current president and junior in LAS, hopes to continue this mission.

“It’s important that we create a safe environment for people to talk about what’s going on, share their experiences, and also learn about issues they didn’t know about before,” Katsoudas said. 

As March marks the beginning of Women’s History Month, Girl Up is collaborating with another RSO — She’s the First — to host a presentation and discussion about women in education. Everybody, whether a member or not, is invited to learn, offer different perspectives and listen to one another.

“Girl Up has reached some really high places,” Kravchick said. “Within the school and community, we want to help out in any way we can and we are trying our best to make a difference.” 

 

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