When they first arrived at the University of Richmond, first-years Anya Dinh and Ngan Bui browsed clubs and groups on campus but didn’t find one that resonated with them.
They looked for activism organizations and they were surprised that they could not find many and that the groups they did find focused on a specific issue, Dinh said.
Dinh and Bui wanted an inclusive and diverse environment where they could feel comfortable to share their opinions and discuss social issues. They also wanted the opportunity to be involved in the City of Richmond community, Dinh and Bui said.
Dinh and Bui said they had taken it upon themselves to create the kind of environment they were looking for, and they found it last semester with their establishment of Girl UP* UR, which is recognized by the Center for Student Involvement and is receiving funding from the Westhampton College Government Association.
Although Girl UP* UR’s primary goal is to raise money and advocate on behalf of girls globally, Dinh, the president, and Bui, the vice president, also want to create an open space where people feel comfortable sharing their opinions and perspectives on social issues, they said.
“There are people who really want to make a difference but haven’t found a place for that,” Bui said. “Hopefully Girl UP* UR can be that place where they can feel comfortable sharing their vision of what they want the community and school to look like.”
Girl Up was founded by the United Nations Foundation in 2010 to work for gender equality worldwide, according to its website. The organization includes Girl Up Campus Leaders, a program that allows students to raise money and lead gender equality advocacy campaigns in their schools and communities.
“I was interested in this kind of movement for a long time,” Dinh said. “I thought when I came here, I would find many of these kinds of activism organizations, but I didn’t. They’re more focused on a specific issue.”
Dinh said she had been looking for a club that involved her interest in gender equality but wasn’t limited to just that. She wanted Girl Up’s network with other organizations, leadership conferences and opportunities but also wanted the club to be involved in a broader range of social issues beyond the gender equality focus of the global organization.
Dinh also wanted to be a part of an organization with a broader focus than the clubs at UR offered.
“While I think it’s good to have that kind of focus, I wouldn’t really be able to touch on many different areas and topics, so that’s why I said, ‘Let’s start a new club,’” Dinh said.
Dinh also said she wanted Girl UP* UR to be a support network for its members. Given the recent racist acts on campus, it’s especially important to have a safe space where people can feel comfortable and accepted when expressing their opinions, she said.
“It’s a support group,” Dinh said. “We try to talk about different aspects of identities and issues, not just in the area, but also around the world.”
Dinh said the club was in its beginning stages. To start, Dinh and Bui are planning movie screenings, inviting speakers and providing volunteer opportunities on campus and in the area, they said.
The club’s goals right now are to find new members and generate interest, said first-year Nichole Schiff, the group’s marketing chair. She has been working on logos, posters and advertisements to attract members, Schiff said.
“What really drew me to it is just doing something that has to do with social change and bring[ing] awareness to different issues that go on in the world and on campus,” Schiff said. “And to be surrounded by a group of women that think the same things and being able to help lead. That is something that I think is really special.”
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