Let Our Voices Be Heard

This featured guest piece is an excerpt of our June 2024 newsletter.

Dear women and girls of the Commonwealth,

Thank you for joining us on April 20, 2024 for our Girls Empowerment and Leadership Initiative (GELI) Summit at Simmons University. Nearly 200 young leaders from across the Commonwealth formed powerful inter-generational networks with state and regional commissioners who led sessions on leadership, elevating one’s personal brand, civic engagement, economic empowerment and so much more.

As the Chairwoman of the GELI Committee, it gave me incredible pride to learn from and listen directly from these young leaders. They are uniquely positioned and are experts in challenges youth face today.

This year was special. For the first time, we included a youth-led town hall forum where members of our MetroWest, Upper Middlesex and Essex County Regional Commissions Athena Youth Councils led a discussion encouraging participants to talk about issues important to them and propose solutions. Each year we expand on the successes of the past to ensure we are building a pipeline of young leaders participating in our youth councils who then can sit on regional commissions and eventually join our state-wide Commission.

In 2024 we appointed Shreya Kesarwani who at age 18 is the youngest Commissioner to serve on one of our regional commissions. I am also a product of this pipeline in action. In my early twenties I joined the Berkshire Regional Commission on the Status of Women and as I entered my thirties, was appointed to the state-wide Commission where I continue to be one of the youngest Commissioners to serve. Our Commonwealth benefits when we amplify the voices of all women across our state, especially those who are most impacted by sexism, racism and xenophobia.

The GELI Summit is just one of the many ways the MCSW strives to ensure we are empowering the next generations of leaders. This year we launched our first ever scholarship program which uniquely focuses on women who were already in college but need the extra funds to be able to finish their degree. I was proud to join Immediate Past Chair Commissioner Denella Clark, Commissioner Soniah Shah, Commissioner Carol Campbell and Commissioner Marianne Fleckner on the Scholarship Committee.

Each application I read reminded me of my own struggles and triumphs as the first person in my family to graduate from college. Without scholarships, I would not be where I am today. Join us in congratulating our scholarship awardees, all of whom are also first-generation students. The 5 incredible recipients will be announced at the upcoming Commonwealth Heroines celebration at the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 14, 2024.

We will continue to ensure that voices of young women and gender expansive individuals are present in our legislative priorities, hearings, reports and events. We ask that you take action to join one of our regional youth councils, attend regional and state hearings and participate in Advocacy Day in 2025!

If you attended this year’s GELI Summit, and haven’t had a chance yet, please take our GELI youth or GELI adult feedback surveys. Your voices and input are critical to informing not just our future events, but the things we fight for every day.

In community,
Christine Monska
MCSW Secretary
Chair of the Girls Empowerment and Leadership Initiative (GELI)