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9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
By Aidan Kasner, Senior Staff Writer • 7:31 pm

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9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
9-year-old boy who caught McCutchen’s 300th HR reveals significant milestones of his own
By Aidan Kasner, Senior Staff Writer • 7:31 pm

‘A place to belong’: Girl Up at Pitt offers empowering community for women

GirlUp+and+Wikimedia+Foundation+hosted+%E2%80%9CWiki+Loves+Women%E2%80%9D+Initiative+in+Uganda+on+Mar.+21%2C+2019.
Image via Kateregga1, Wikimedia Commons
GirlUp and Wikimedia Foundation hosted “Wiki Loves Women” Initiative in Uganda on Mar. 21, 2019.

Neeraja Sundara, a senior biology major, was “just looking” for a club where she would be surrounded by like-minded feminist students. When she joined Girl Up at Pitt, she said she found a “place to belong.”

“I found a community in Girl Up that really understood me,” Sundara said. “Everyone in Girl Up has the same goals and mentality that I do, so it was a really great place to make friends.”

Girl Up at Pitt is part of a larger international initiative started by the United Nations Foundation that focuses on “empowering girls and uplift[ing] women’s voices,” Sundara said. Girl Up communities and clubs can be found in 152 counties and all 50 U.S. states, including K-12 schools and universities. 

Sundara said she “really liked” the club after her first year as a member because, while pursuing her academic aspirations, Girl Up was a source of stability for her. She was inspired to run for an e-board position, where she served as business manager for her junior year and is now co-president of the club after four years.

“On a personal level, [Girl Up has] taught me a lot about what works as a leader, what doesn’t, what my strengths are and how I can use that to lead a team,” Sundara said. “I’ve really learned the importance of community. There are so many things I wouldn’t have learned if there wasn’t this community, helping me to educate myself at my own pace.”

Co-President Praditha Behara, a junior health informatics major, joined Girl Up in her first year of high school. She was secretary and vice president of her high school club, where a member from her school went on to serve as a board member at Pitt’s chapter. When she came to college, she became fundraising chair as a sophomore and now serves as co-president at Pitt.

“It’s a fun community with really accepting board members,” Behara said, “We really just care about our members having a good time.”

Girl Up Events Chair Bailey Kielinski, a junior psychology major, was “really excited” that Pitt has their own Girl Up chapter since she was also a member in high school. She became an e-board member as events chair at the end of her sophomore year, and one thing Kielinski tries to implement each semester is a self-defense class. 

“It’s always a really fun event where you can just learn — they’re free and all the instructors are super welcoming,” Kielinski said, “They’re good opportunities to learn some physical defense skills, but also just ways that you can mentally prepare yourself if you’re ever in that situation.”

Girl Up offers a range of meeting types, such as general board meetings once a month, “hot girl walks” through Schenley Park, meetings with SAFE, “Guess the song” from feminist pop stars and educational events, such as documentary watch parties about different female experiences. This semester, they are planning to do a trip to the Carnegie Art Museum where they can “point out works done by women” and discuss representation in the art space, according to Kielinski. 

“I’m really excited for our field trip this semester,” Kielinski said. “Being events chair has been a really fun outlet to get creative ideas out and foster fun social events.”

Behara said Girl Up is currently trying to engage a broader community by being more collaborative and working with other clubs at Pitt. In March, Girl Up is volunteering with Days for Girls, a club that prioritizes accessible reusable menstrual products. 

“I think it’s a good way to connect both of our groups, as well as have more people learn about our cause,” Behara said. “I hope we can continue to do more fun things like this, as well as fun things that people will want to do after a day of classes.” 

In comparison to the vast variety of feminist clubs at Pitt, which offer “multiple perspectives” on different aspects of feminism, Girl Up is focused “on conversation and casual feminism,” according to Sundara. 

“I think that a casual club is really important for people who want to see more feminism in their day-to-day lives, but aren’t quite sure of how they can apply it to themselves,” Sundara said. “One of the functions of Girl Up is mainly to serve as a safe space, whether it’s to spread information or even just be a place to vent.”

Requirements to be a member of Girl Up are simple — just attend a meeting. Members are encouraged to attend whenever they’re available. 

“We don’t have any commitments — you can just come by whenever and we’ll always be there for you,” Behara said. “It’s nice to have a big group that you can always go back to and depend on. [Girl Up] is just something dependable without any worries of being accepted.”

While it’s “super important” for girls to have safe spaces where they can come together, Kielinski said it’s also important for men and nonbinary folk to “be involved in these conversations” and support women. 

“We still live in a climate where women are put to be lesser as individuals,” Kielisnki said. “And no one should ever have to feel that way. I think Girl Up is a resource to educate … and get them more passionate about fighting for gender equity.”



About the Contributor
Briana Bindus, Staff Writer