Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
When I interviewed for an internship at Girl Up, I was asked “Why do you want to work with us?” I responded simply, “I want to engage in work that makes a real, tangible difference in the lives of girls and youth like me.” (Full disclosure: I may not have been this eloquent during the actual interview, but I assure you this is what I had wanted to say!) Within my first two weeks as an intern, I was able to fulfill my vision of supporting incredible projects, when I was handed my first major project: Selecting the awardees for the 2022 Girl Up STEM Project Awards.
The Girl Up Project Awards are $500-$1000 USD grants youth globally can apply for to implement a project in their community. The scope of these projects can be educational, service-based, community-based, or even personal. Thematically, they can encompass different issues, such as the gender gap in sports or STEM, gender-based violence, or sexual and reproductive health right and justice. Personally, I love that the Project Award initiative goes the necessary step beyond merely encouraging girls to create positive change within their communities, but actually equips them with leadership tools to become changemakers. After all, encouragement devoid of extending real resources and access falls quite short of true empowerment—and the best way to teach anyone how to do anything is to equip them to actually do it. And my goodness, are these youth implementing spectacular projects with the funding.
So, allow me to tell you a little bit about the most recent iteration of the Girl Up Project Awards cycle: The September 2022 STEM Project Awards! In total, we received 194 applications from youth ages 14-24 from more than 30 countries globally! Check out the graph below to see the regional breakdown of this impressive applicant pool.
The proposed projects fell into roughly four categories:
- STEM-based bootcamps, workshops, and mentorship programs: Projects under this category propose to offer active, STEM-based learning through hands-on methods within their communities, with the aim of imparting practical skills such as coding, robotics, cosmetic chemistry, and so on.
- STEM-focused conferences and similar initiatives: These projects focus on raising awareness on issues ranging from the importance of the HPV vaccine to the conservation of coral reefs.
- Community-improvement projects: Aim to solve a community issue through the application of STEM – such as designing a water filtration system to improve the quality of available drinking water.
- Individualized approach: Personal projects centered on research, entrepreneurship, and app development.
Every proposal I read had so much potential, which made my task of selecting only 39 grant awardees (out of nearly 200!) a difficult process.
Need inspiration to start your own project? Check out a few project spotlights below. Girl Up Project Award Applications will open in early 2023—be sure to follow Girl Up on socials for the application announcement.
Jojo’s Outstanding Jojoba Oil (JOJO’s)
Mamaie E. is a 20-year-old self-taught cosmetic chemist from the United States. Jojo’s Outstanding Jojoba Oil (JOJO’s) is a social enterprise that aims to reach individuals who find their hair care needs are inadequately met by the current natural hair care market. JOJO’s slogan and promise are to offer all-natural hair products for all natural hair types.
Teddy Bear Hospital Project
Nida C. (20, from the Czech Republic), aims to help reduce childhood anxiety and fear of medical visits by providing early-childhood education on the role of doctors and pharmacists. Children will participate in games and activities to diagnose their sick teddy bear “patient” and understand how to “cure” it. More importantly, Nida aims to help children understand the importance of vaccines and prepare them for their upcoming vaccination visits.
17-year-old Mae C. from Malaysia brings us her vision of Karang Kita, a two-day conference to educate and empower rural and indigenous youths, particularly underrepresented indigenous girls, in the conservation and management of critical marine habitats. By integrating ocean science with community engagement through coral propagation, Karang Kita will provide a platform for up to 30-40 ethnic Semai secondary school students in Cherok Paloh, Kuantan, to co-create a healthy oceanic ecosystem.
HPV VACCINE INITIATIVE
15-year-old Xinuo S. from the United States seeks to raise awareness about cervical cancer globally. Her research shows that more than any other cancer, cervical cancer reflects striking global health inequity. It is the second most common cancer among women worldwide, with about 493,000 new cases diagnosed annually. The HPV Vaccine Initiative aims to promote the importance of HPV vaccination to high-school-aged youth through awareness sessions and questionnaires, targeting countries that have not yet included HPV vaccination in their national free vaccination programs. Xinuo’s team has already conducted the first presentation in October for 11- and 12-year-olds living in northeastern China.
No matter how big or ambitious (or small and localized) your vision for change is, Girl Up is here to help you act on it. As someone who was once (rather recently) in your shoes and wished there was an accessible way to bring all these ideas I had in my head to life, I highly encourage you to apply for the Girl Up Project Awards. Not only will you develop your leadership and project management skills, but you will also create a lasting impact in your community.
Check out Girl Up’s STEM Innovation Lab on Dec 10 to meet a few of our 2022 STEM Project Award Winners, hear more about their impressive initiatives firsthand, and find out how YOU can receive a $1000 grant to fund your own STEM-based project next year!