BIFP's Energized Leaders Continue U.S. Expansion and Initiate Global Growth
Updated: Mar 19, 2021
A significant part of the Bipartisan Feminist Project (BIFP) mission is our chapters. BIFP chapters are localized clubs run by high school students in New York, New Jersey, Utah, Italy, and soon, Florida and Connecticut. With the guidance and training of the BIFP Team, our chapters host workshops to garner bipartisan support for feminism and organize political activism projects in support of women’s rights legislation.
Over the past week, I had the opportunity to meet with some of BIFP’s enterprising Chapter leaders virtually. Sophia Katinos, Co-President of BIFP at The Clinton School in New York gave me a glimpse into the power of bipartisanship to foster change in diverse communities. “At this week’s meeting of our Chapter we will be educating members on the Enough is Enough Act, a New York law which combats sexual assault and violence on college campuses,” she shared excitedly. “We will deliver an informative presentation on the Act and its shortcomings and then begin planning a campaign in support of BIFP’s petition to amend it.”
Many of our Chapters were launched after their leaders attended our Bipartisan Advocacy Program (BAP) in the Summer of 2020, a class BIFP held to educate high school students on pro-women legislation. Each Chapter enables students to affect pro-women change by pursuing leadership in their own communities.
Kourtney Bobb, President of BIFP at Baldwin High School on Long Island, epitomizes this leadership, explaining to me over Zoom, “I have run my Chapter in conjunction with my nonprofit Be The Change to organize local workshops about how both bipartisan feminism and intersectional feminism can be used to support women.”
The BIFP Expansion Team has worked with these women since July 2020 to coordinate expansion to international high schools and shape bipartisan feminism to address struggles of communities ranging from New York streets to the rural pastures of Umbria, Italy.
Federica Lombardi is a third year student at the Licello Classico in Umbria’s capital. Federica’s interest in feminism was intrigued by the Bipartisan Feminist Project’s second Bipartisan Advocacy Program in Fall of 2020. “We don’t talk about women’s rights in my community,” she carefully articulated when she sat down for a conversation with BIFP Founder and CEO Veronica Tadross in January. “I strongly believe in the BIFP mission of educating people on feminism regardless of political affiliation - and I want to be the one doing that education.”
Veronica: Did any of your peers have doubts about this mission?
Federica: We are all acquainted with the controversy over feminism from news coverage and social media, so more than skepticism or doubt, I experienced significant interest in the ideas of this organization. BIFP looks at feminism in a way we seldom see, and many of my classmates have approached me to learn how they can get involved.
Veronica: That’s great! What major issue are you hoping to tackle with all of this support?
Federica: I believe a prerequisite to pro-women change is dispelling fear of feminist discussions in the first place. In Italy, saying that you are a feminist is perceived as rude or offensive. Through discussions and workshops developed by the BIFP Executive Team and which I have adapted to Italian issues, I want to transform feminism from a sign of shame to a positive signal of fighting for your rights as a woman.
Veronica: Of course. I remember working together in the fall to translate the BIFP mission and some of our workshops into Italian. It’s amazing that you have been able to not only overcome the language barrier but develop presentations specifically suited to Italy. Is there a project that you and your Chapter are currently working on?
Federica: We had our first meeting last week as an introduction to the BIFP mission. I assembled a presentation on the history of Italian feminism, how it has materialized globally, and led a discussion on how our personal definitions of feminism impact how we view women’s rights. We have also partnered with other local social justice initiatives to host online webinars to reach a greater audience.
Veronica: What do you see for the future of your Chapter?
Federica: I am hoping to garner greater membership for my Chapter from high school students across Perugia, the city in which I reside in Umbria. I am also cooperating with one of our Chapter members to make BIFP an activity at her high school so students can participate in it for school credits. This can be an important step to making feminism an innate aspect of our education system.
One of the most recent projects of Federica’s and our other Chapters has been garnering support for the Enough is Enough Act, a law promoting fair responses to sexual assault on college campuses.
Since fall, the BIFP Political Action Committee has met with New York State legislators to set stricter standards for adjudication of sexual assault trials on college campuses. At the same time, Chapters have ardently campaigned for our petition to make these changes a reality. Over the past two weeks, their collective efforts have increased the urgency of the New York State Department of Higher Education to cooperate with BIFP to ensure every student feels safe on campus.
The progress our Chapters have made in their communities has driven Chapter leaders to expand and get younger students involved.
Aarohi Kuthari, President of BIFP at Millburn High School, has brought the same energy to her Chapter that she brings to her Squash team everyday after school. “Our club has a mixed membership of students of all genders,” she explained to me. Since fall, Aarohi’s Chapter has email-banked for the Equal Rights Amendment, a Constitutional amendment to make all laws gender neutral, and begun producing a video to educate their school community on feminism. “Getting a diverse group of students involved and giving them leadership positions has been essential to sustaining our efforts.” The club’s Instagram page serves as a platform for information on feminism and women’s issues.
Aerin Ellard, Co-President of BIFP on the Upper West Side, articulately told me about her recruitment experience with Co-President Aima Riaz. “One thing Aima and I agree on is the importance of a strong foundation in ensuring sustainable growth for our Chapter over time.” Aima, Co-President and member of the BIFP Advocacy Committee, added in agreement, “After I graduate high school I see our Chapter expanding to provide workshops on bipartisan feminism to students across Manhattan. And, with the growth we have already seen, I expect that other Chapters will do the same.”
Responses have been edited for accuracy and clarity.