‘WomanHOOD Project’ Fosters Self-Love in the Bronx

Amanda Matos (Photo by Photo by Marisol Díaz via The Riverdale Press)

Amanda Matos (Photo by Photo by Marisol Díaz via The Riverdale Press)

During high school, Amanda Matos, 23, took issue with the lack of books by women, especially those of color, on class reading lists. This planted the seeds of inspiration for the WomanHOOD Project, an empowerment and activism initiative that came to fruition after two milestones in the Bronx native’s life, reports The Riverdale Press: She got accepted to Columbia University in 2009 and later that same year, fellow Bronxite Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court.

“That was a big year for me, seeing that a woman from the Bronx was now a Supreme Court Justice,” Ms. Matos said of the leader of Puerto Rican descent who grew up in the Soundview housing projects.

Now, nine staff members — all Columbia or Barnard College students under age 24 who identify themselves as women of color — work as mentors in the WomanHOOD Project. Each week, they visit the International Leadership Charter High School on Exterior Street, near the Marble Hill Houses, where they hold workshops for 11th-grade girls.

The WomanHOOD Project gives the girls a safe space to talk about issues of concern such as “racism, sexism and self-love — a term Ms. Matos prefers over self-esteem, calling that idea cliché.”

The project got a boost this year after Matos was one of five young people to be awarded $25,000 from Peace First, a nonprofit that promotes peace among youths.

For more on how the WomanHOOD Project came to be and what the future holds for the organization and its founder, visit The Riverdale Press.

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