Student organization tackles gender disparity

Photo courtesy Aarti Madhu
By Ashley A. Williams

Photo courtesy Aarti Madhu

Student organization tackles gender disparity

By Ashley A. Williams
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, the University of Miami chapter of the Girl Up group continues to make strides to help advance women and girls locally and internationally.

After spending hours and hours researching health disparities in Black women with HIV, Aarti Madhu, a premed student at the University of Miami, joined the student organization Girl Up during her first year with the intention to create change in the Miami-Dade County community and beyond.

Today, Madhu is a senior and the president of the organization. She and her all-female cabinet and adviser, Collette Mighty, work to empower underrepresented girls around the world through advocacy, service, and fundraising.

“Girl Up was created by the United Nations Foundation and we are one chapter under their national organization,” said Madhu, a biochemistry major. “Our chapter gives individuals the opportunity to use their passion for gender equality to raise awareness and also funds to help reach some of the world’s hardest to reach girls.” 

The organization strives to provide equal opportunities for education, health, leadership, safety, and development for girls across the world. From international, underdeveloped countries, to inner-city youth in Miami’s backyard. 

“During my first year, I went to a volunteer event where we got to tutor girls in ACT/SAT prep,” she said. “I made such good connections with the girls and it meant a lot to me—I still remember those girls today.” 

Over the years, the University’s Girl Up chapter—one of the advocacy-based student organizations advised by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership—has sold products ranging from pencils displaying encouraging notes during finals week to chocolate covered strawberries, and all proceeds go toward educating girls around the world. The chapter has also collaborated with other local branches, organizations, and businesses including Honey Shine, Inc., and The Salty Donut.

“Because of the coronavirus, all our fundraising and advocacy has been done through social media this semester,” Madhu said. “We have hosted virtual discussions and invited experts to speak about child marriage, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, period poverty, and any predominantly gender-based issue that has affected women and girls during COVID-19.” 

Based on her past efforts with Girl Up, Madhu was invited to speak at the 2019 Zero Hour Youth Climate Summit in Miami. 

“My speech was about climate and environmental justice,” Madhu said. “I spoke about the intersection between the climate crisis and women's issues. It was so interesting to see all the guys and girls [in attendance] who were so passionate about the topic.” 

University of Miami Girl Up members constantly create space to welcome new members. Their Engage page has more than 400 members and 12 board members. Madhu said all students are welcome to join the organization. 

“Throughout the academic school year, they've continued to stay true to their mission with a vibrant social media presence, innovative fundraisers for local community organizations, mentoring, and collaborative programming initiatives,” Mighty, assistant director of programs for the Butler Center, said about the group. “As their adviser, they have continued to impress me with their dedication to intentional service.” 

For anyone interested in joining the organization, email the chapter for more information.