As the granddaughter of immigrants, I've seen how education can transform lives, including both my mother’s and, now, my own.
I still remember the first workshop I co-facilitated for International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC) two and a half years ago at a local school in Abu Dhabi. Alongside my Class of 2018 peer and now close friend, Ritu Muralidharan, I developed a workshop focused on exploring how education has shaped and impacted our lives. IDGC seemed like the perfect opportunity to engage university students and girls in our community through reflection and conversation.
As I walked around the room, listening to NYU Abu Dhabi student facilitators share their perspectives on education with 6th graders, I saw how much these conversations mattered. Looking back, I could never have imagined how the lessons Ritu and I learned that day would later serve as the catalyst for creating the Girls’ Education Network (GEN) with the NYUAD Office of Community Outreach.
GEN has now grown into a full-fledged leadership development program offering free workshops to the community. GEN aims to support girls as they navigate their own leadership journeys and provide inclusion spaces for dialogue, discussion, and self-discovery. Collaboration and teamwork and listening and mindfulness form the fabric of each of our lessons.
As the granddaughter of immigrants, I've seen how education can transform lives.
Since August 2014, we have conducted 40 workshops and served over 350 girls in our community from 26 middle and high schools.
As we seek to strengthen our GEN community, the program has expanded to include Alumni Engagement workshops that engage the young girls who've completed our core program. These workshops aim to deepen the girls’ leadership journeys, and urges our GEN cohort to explore action around topics such as refugee issues, empathy as a tool for peace, sustainability, and crafting your career journey.
As I reflect on how GEN has grown, I recognize that at the heart of each decision lay some important questions: How are we continuing to build a community of self-aware women and girls? How do our workshops support, nourish, and build new relationships?
What I have learned is that giving is ultimately an act of creation. It is about building systems and relationships bigger than yourself or a single team. It is about inspiring trust and giving space for others to spark and seed new ideas. Giving is a generative process and its power lies in the possibility it creates beyond you.
When I think of GEN, I smile. I smile because I think of the family I have here at NYUAD and the gift of working with such phenomenal women and girls. GEN has always been — as I hope it will continue to be — about the ‘we.’
Sofia Gomez-Doyle, Class of 2018, co-founded the Girls' Education Network. 2017 has been declared the Year of Giving in the UAE. NYUAD's Office of Community Outreach (OCO) and student volunteers give back to the community in many ways, by contributing time, skills and knowledge to the community. We call this drive for social good NYUAD Heart.