February 12, 2003
News Office: Eve Harris (415) 885-7277
"Be Strong, Be Heard, Be You" is the message of the day for more than 1,000 teenage girls expected to attend the at the 3rd Annual Young Women’s Health Conference Feb. 26 in San Francisco.
Featured speakers will include soccer star Brandi Chastain and actress and poet Sarah Jones. Chastain was a member of the Gold Medal winning U.S. Women's National Team at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Jones performed her solo show, "Women Can't Wait," at the United Nations International Conference on Women's Rights.
The goal of the one-day event, held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, is to empower young women and connect them to resources in their community. The conference is co-sponsored by State Senator Jackie Speier and the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.
Thirty young women from San Francisco and northern San Mateo high schools have been working for months as part of the Youth Steering Committee to plan the conference.
Committee member Julia Doctoroff interpreted the theme this way: "Be strong means to fight injustice. Be heard means to be open about your beliefs. Be you is the hardest part because finding yourself isn't always so simple -- and that's what we intend to do at the conference." Doctoroff is a senior at Urban High School.
The day's workshops will reflect the concerns and interests of teens and cover a variety of topics: mother/daughter relationships, contraception and STD's, dating violence, self-esteem and body image, cultural identity and sexism in education. Open mike sessions will encourage young women to speak their minds in front of their peers.
Young women from the conference will also be encouraged to join a legislative committee to advise and participate in drafting legislation with Speier. Last year, the teen committee participated in the research and development of SB 1884 restricting the sale of dietary supplements such as ephedra. The bill was signed into law and took effect Jan. 1, 2003.
Literature and information will be available at no cost to the conference attendees from 30 community groups including Adolescent Health Working Group, Center for Employment Training, San Francisco Youth Commission and Family Violence Prevention Fund.
Broadcasters Renel Brooks, Pam Moore and Jan Yanehiro will share the duties of master of ceremonies. Remarks by UCSF Center of Excellence Director Dr. Nancy Milliken and Speier will conclude the event.
"My goal in organizing this health conference is to engage young women in learning everything they need to know about their personal, physical, emotional and mental health care needs," Speier said. "We're going to give them the critical tools necessary so they know how to take care of themselves. Armed with the power of new information, these young women will be able to strive and thrive in today's unsettled environment and be better equipped to conquer the world."
The UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health advocates for excellence in women's health throughout their lifespans, according to Milliken, who added, "This conference – an entire day dedicated solely to learning about young women's health -- is very rare. It can be a powerful experience in helping young women take charge of their lives." Milliken is also director of UCSF Women's Health and vice chair for clinical programs in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science.
One former Youth Steering Committee member reflected on her experience at the conference. "The conference…allowed young women . . .to say the unsaid, do the unexpected, and share their new sense of self-worth," said Shirell Lowe. "I connected with young women fighting for the kind of environment I want to create for my community and future generations." Lowe is now a senior at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.
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