Volunteer Salute: Local high school student, friends bring attention to gender equality issues

Maddy Melichar, Becky Monroy, Hayley Flanigan and Catalina Foothills High School Principal Angela Chomokos with Day of the Girl proclamations from the City of Tucson and the Pima County Board of Supervisors (Alison Hughes/Pima County/Tucson Women's Commission)

Last month, at the request of sophomore Becky Monroy and four friends at Catalina Foothills High School, the City of Tucson and the Pima County Board of Supervisors issued proclamations naming Oct. 11, 2012 “The Day of the Girl,” building on a successful campaign in almost 100 countries to establish the United Nations International Day of the Girl.

Monroy, 15, learned about the campaign from her older sister, Amanda, a freshman at Northern Arizona University, who helped arrange for a similar proclamation in Flagstaff.

The local proclamations cite support for “increasing girls’ participation in sports, science and math-related activities, increasing girls’ high school graduation rates, and providing equal opportunities for all girls by speaking out against gender-based injustices, celebrating all girls’ potential, and encouraging all girls to pursue their dreams.”

“The Day of the Girl” isn’t about just one day — it’s a movement, Monroy told the AJP. With her friends Hayley Flanigan (who, like Monroy, is Jewish), Anastasia Matiatos, Maddy Melichar and Ruby Corrigan, she has created a group called The Girl Project, which is planning an event to spread awareness throughout Tucson about gender equality and the need for “equal opportunities for girls, equality in education and pay.”

Although their work on the proclamations began before the Oct. 9 Taliban shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who championed education for girls, the incident “was definitely something that has to do with the movement, because that is discrimination against girls. She wasn’t given the opportunity of education, of voicing her opinion,” says Monroy.

Volunteering is important to her family, says Monroy. Since the age of 12, she has volunteered at the Pima County Public Library, the Nonviolence Legacy Project and the office of a local political official. She participated in the Tucson Jewish Community Center’s Leader in Training program last summer and, at her high school, she volunteers in the community through positions in the student council, Key Club and the Thirst Project (a movement to raise awareness of the global clean water crisis). For her Bat Mitzvah project, she collected books for a homeless shelter for women and their children.

The Pima County/Tucson Women’s Commission helped the Girl Project members arrange for the proclamation from the city. Women’s Commissioner Alison Hughes and CFHS principal Angela Chomokos, along with the girls’ parents, attended the city council meeting where the proclamation was read. Supervisor Richard Elias, who sponsored the county proclamation, says Monroy, “also had us mention breast cancer in the proclamation ceremony, which is a women’s issue that affects many Jewish women, because Jewish women have a higher risk of breast cancer.”