Garden of Girls – “Empowering Taiwanese Girls to Chase Their Dreams”
The Garden of Girls center, based in downtown Taichung, is a community center with a difference.
Offering free educational and sporting facilities, as well as frequent activities, the center aims specifically to empower Taiwan’s teenage girls and their families – in order to fight sexual and domestic harassment and violence, as part of the Garden of Hope Foundation.
Ingrid Chen, the manager of Garden of Girls, says that despite the rhetoric surrounding the election of President Tsai Ing-Wen in 2016, Taiwan still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.
“Although we have a female President, that doesn’t mean Taiwan has completely achieved the goal of gender equality.” She says.
“We have personally witnessed many different cases – of domestic violence, sexual harassment, and so on – and we are sparing no effort to help solve this problem.”
While Garden of Girls has organized events as successful as the Asian Girl Power Camp, and the Women Make Waves Film Festival since its opening in 2015 Chen says she doesn’t consider any single event to be the center’s biggest achievement.
“Our goal is to empower Taiwanese girls - but as empowerment is an abstract process, I can’t really say what our biggest achievement has been.” She explains.
“Often, 15-18-year-old children – especially girls – are too shy to share their ideas and feelings in front of adults like me. However, I have noticed that girls, after attending our activities, have had the confidence to state their ideas in front of people.”
“Once taking part in our activities and discussion groups, our girls can stand on a stage and tell even the Social Affairs Bureau what they need!” She laughs - referencing an event held last year where teenage girls had the opportunity to discuss policy with representatives of Taichung’s Social Affairs Bureau.
In the future, Garden of Girls wants to organize even more within their center – from a sex education room, to exhibitions on LGBT rights and gender discrimination.
“We believe these issues are important for young children to learn about.” Chen says.
“Girls need to be empowered when they’re young and taught how to look after themselves –then they can truly succeed!”