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Women’s History Month: Girls discuss growing up in North Central Florida

Courtesy Pace Center for Girls Alachua

In honor of Women’s History Month, WUFT-FM spoke with three students at Pace Center for Girls Alachua to get their thoughts on what it’s like growing up as young women in North Central Florida. Angel is 16 and lives in Hawthorne, Amelia is 14 and lives in Gainesville, and Anabelle is 16 and also lives in Gainesville. In accordance with Pace Center’s confidentiality protocols, we have decided not to publish the girls’ last names to protect their privacy as minors.

Over the course of an hour, the girls talked about what their experiences of girlhood and womanhood have been like so far. They talked about abortion rights, how they’re perceived by others, the women they look up to and how they plan to navigate adulthood. They said as young Black women, their experiences so far have not been easy.

“You're not waking up like, ‘Yes, today I am a Black woman in America. I'm gonna do that, I’m gonna do this,’ said Amelia. “You just wake up and it's just like, another challenge, another day. How will I go about this day? And you gotta go with a positive attitude.”

“It's not that exciting to be a woman or a girl,” said Angel. “You see your rights still being taken. And you don't know if you're going to get them back because it already took them a long time for it to even pass it. So, taking it away, that was easy. But gaining it back, that's going to be a whole other thing.”

Anabelle talked about another challenge women face on a daily basis.

“The cat calling. I hate it. It is so scary. And the men think it's like, ‘Oh, she actually likes me’ when it's like, no, not really. She's just scared to say ‘no’, because she knows what's going to happen if she says ‘no’, you know?”

I asked them if there was anything about being a young woman that felt really good.

“We're all just so beautiful in, like, our own little way, you know?,” said Anabelle. “The best thing about being a woman is like, even though it may seem we might not have as much power as it is, as we do, we all have, like, an extreme amount of power in our hands.”.

We talked about role models. Amelia says she’s inspired by actress Taraji Henson who played Cookie Lyon in the FOX series, “Empire.” Henson received a Golden Globe Award for the role, making her the third Black woman to ever do so. 

“She's a boss in real life,” said Amelia. “She is proof to these people that Black people can do it. Black women can do it. Women in general can do it. But you know, Black women, we can do it. You just gotta believe in yourself.”

Angel says she looks up to her grandmother. “She was going to school when desegregation started. She went through a lot just growing up like that. But, I mean, in general, I look up to a lot of them, like Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Sojourner Truth, the women that basically make the blueprint, the ones that set the stone.”

I asked them how they plan to overcome the obstacles they’re facing right now as they get older.

“By continuing to be me and to be myself,” said Angel. “And to help women along the way and to bring awareness to it so that women know that they're not alone or that they're heard and that they're seen. And even maybe going into politics”

“We can do it and we will do it. You got to stop saying ‘We should and we could.’ We will and we can. Give us a few more years. We got you,” said Amelia.

Áine Pennello is a multimedia reporter and Morning Edition news anchor for the College’s Innovation News Center. She has a background in video news and documentary and most recently worked at WCBS Newsradio in New York City covering local news and the tri-state area. She has also reported internationally, freelancing from Paris and Berlin during the Syrian refugee crisis. During the Syrian Civil War, Pennello reported from the Golan Heights while on a reporting grant from the International Center for Journalists.