She Votes 2010 participants in Santa Barbara, California.
Photo Courtesy of Girls Inc.

One of our national partners, Girls Inc., offers a variety of programs aimed to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold by equipping them to achieve academically, manage money, navigate media messages, lead healthy and physically active lives, and discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Each year they serve 150,000 girls, ages 6-18.

Although they aren’t yet eligible to vote, Girls Inc. is celebrating girls’ voices. Since 2004, Girls Inc. affiliates across the country have been hosting mock elections through their She Votes initiative, actively engaging girls in elections and the political process. In 2010, more than 3,600 girls across the country participated in a mock election coinciding with the November midterm.

Not only did the girls get to vote on a national Girls Inc. ballot initiative, but many local chapters also included mock elections for Governor, Congress, and local offices. In Omaha, Nebraska, girls had the opportunity to use real voting machines, and in Shelbyville, Indiana, the girls campaigned among themselves to be elected President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

In Tarrant County, Texas, the mock election raised questions about the nature and purpose of elections with one girl asking “Why is voting secret? Is it to prevent voters from cheating off of one another?” These and other conversations helped participants better appreciate the importance of voting. She Votes also creates excitement around elections–with girls running through the door on Election Day and applauding for one another as they drop their ballots into the box.

While Girls Inc. focuses on direct service, they also appreciate the need for broader action through advocacy. Girls Inc. recognizes that public policy affects girls’ everyday lives and opportunities, and that they can inform those policies. Although encouraging civic participation is not the focus of their work, programs like She Votes empower girls to speak for themselves and show that voter engagement can complement any public service mission.

Every election is a teachable moment, particularly because Girls Inc. wants girls to become active and engaged citizens and leaders. Their She Votes initiative shows that it’s never too early to prepare future voters or inspire future candidates!

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