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Real Girl Leaders: Fatima Shields - Women, Girls and Financial Literacy

Today is the 8th day in our Real Girl Leaders series.  At the beginning of the summer we started sharing the real, actionable and fundable ideas from our ten IGNITE Change Winners of 2013.  Each of the plans you see are the independent ideas of Boston area teens who answer the question, “If you had one year and one thousand dollars, what would you change about the role of women and girls in your community, city or school?”

Today’s response comes from Fatima Shields.  Fatima is 18 years old and lives in East Cambridge, MA.


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As a young woman living in Cambridge, Massachusetts one issue that I strongly believe exists in my community, which directly affects women, is ignorance of economic and social justice.  This was brought to my attention after taking an economics course during the first semester of my senior year in high school.  This course has exposed me to society's allocation of scarce resources, as well as the economic reasoning made by people as consumers, producers, savers, investors, workers, voters and government agencies.  We examined important elements of macroeconomics: this included the study of scarcity, the role of incentives, market structures, the role of government, national income determination, money and the roles of financial institutions, economic stabilization and trade.  Every day I felt like I started to think like an economist, my friends notices a slight change in how I spoke and National Public Radio sounded a lot more like English, Coming from a single parent, first generation immigrant home my mother has been out of school for a little over a decade; times have changed and I felt like I wasn't up to date about economic issues.

 The dial "Do Now' at the beginning of each class is aimed to teach at least one current or past event; this was my favorite part of class and lead me to start finding my own articles.  Outside of class, often on my cell phone, I started to visit news paper websites, fish through headlines and read the articles that interested me.  One article headlined, "Women's Pay Gap Starts Right after College, Exacerbates Student Debt: Study" on Huffington Post's website, interested me as a senior in high school applying to colleges.  "In their first year out of college, millennial women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers, according to a new report from the American Association of University Women".  As a seventeen year old, full time student with two jobs; after reading this first sentence, there was no way I could afford not to read this article.  Another article, "Financial Advice By Women for Women" on the New York Times website said, "women live longer, earn less and take more breaks from the work place to care for children and elderly parents"   questioned why there was a gap between women and men, and it turns out there is no obvious explanation for the disparity, found by researchers.  Prior to reading this article, I was not completely oblivious to this matter but I wasn't informed enough.  I can only hope and imagine that I was not alone.  Researchers have tons of accusations as to why, even after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed by President Kennedy, unequal pay between men and women still existed.  

 An article, "Financial Advice by Women from Women" stated, "the real issue, experts say, is that many women, despite strides in education and in the workplace, simply aren't as confident and knowledgeable about financial matters as men."  This sentence was most striking to me because women are extrememly significant to society and in my eyes girls truly can run the world.  But to be more specific, women handle households as they say; which also indicates that women are purchasing and budgeting for their families.  Women in fact are being paid less than men, because they devote more time to their families.  Informing other women about public policy can help remove the obstacles of working women.

My plan to ignite change in my community directly for women is to create a society.  In order to obtain membership of this organization each person would be required to complete a seminar.  This society will be open to all women, but specifically directed towards the recruitment of high school girls.  I believe the earlier the introduction the better, but to guarantee that we are utilizing our time, each individual workshop will be specifically tailored to each age group.

 The first workshop will teach the women about financial literacy and cover the logistic of saving, spending and investing.  The second workshop will be a debate on current and past policies.  The third workshop will be focused on the physical and mental well being of women.  These seminars will be offered once a month; one month will allow me enough time to organize a team to help lead the day.

 Cambridge Savings Bank offers a financial literacy workshop and could possibly be a potential facilitator for the first workshop.  This workshop is intended to help these ladies make smart decisions with their money and also teach them about how the government spends the nation's money.  Money can be a huge factor in what freedom these ladies can have to attend either a far away college or visit another country.  I think it is important to expose all age groups to the importance of creating and maintaining your own funding. 

Expert economists or educators in the field of economics would lead a debate on current and past polices with the girls to develop their own opinions and ideas.  Not everyone is comfortable with debating but those who are watching will still observe the information and different points of view during the debate as well as educated themselves on history and possible future policies.  

 Female community leaders such as the city of Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis or radio personality Pebbles from Jamin 94.5 FM will conduct a motivational speech on the importance of one's well-being as a woman.  This is intended to give the confidence and support high school girls need to be comfortable in their own skin.  A woman with experience in health care will lead a workshop on hygienic importance.  An anonymous submission boy will be available to answer any questions about the female body to ensure that these girls will be leaving the seminar confident and comfortable  

I am truly passionate about community service and turning my plan into a reality because these women cannot afford not to know how the economy will affect them in the future.  By creating this society, I hope to form a legacy of leaders that belong to one sisterhood.  After the seminar the ladies will receive a certificate and belong to a group of other girls with whom they share a once in a life time experience.  After the seminar we will encourage the girls to keep in t ouch with everyone they met.  To stay connected with the girls there will be an annual reunion and a monthly newsletter to keep the girls up to date about topics that effect women.   After the girls complete the seminar, I hope they will become leaders and teach others about what they learned, spreading awareness to all.  

 To learn more about Fatima’s project,  the 9 other IGNITE Change Finalists of 2013 or how you can get involved with the IGNITE Change 2014 contest with a chance to win scholarships, prizes and the chance to enact change for women and girls in your community, email AC at  We can’t wait to hear YOUR idea for change. 



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@Boston_GLOW tweeted this page. 2013-08-07 16:49:31 -0400