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San Diego Mayor Says Girls Empowerment Camp Will Go On Despite Discrimination Complaint

Participants in the Girls Empowerment Camp 2017

Credit: Girls Empowerment Camp

Above: Participants in the Girls Empowerment Camp 2017

UPDATE: 2:15 p.m., March 6, 2015

The Mayor's Office announced an official date for the Girls Empowerment Camp in a statement released to KPBS Tuesday afternoon. The camp will now take place over two weekends in April and May. A local attorney who complained of gender discrimination on behalf of his client requested the camp be postponed so both boys and girls could be invited.

San Diego – Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer has directed City staff to reinstate the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Girls Empowerment Camp that was cancelled last week. The event will now take place on two weekends – April 14-15 and May 19-20 – with registration reopening so more teenagers can participate.

Girls Empowerment Camp is a free two-day camp for youth ages 14-18, regardless of gender, that introduces them to career opportunities in firefighting and encourages them to consider public safety as a viable career option. Boys and girls are invited to participate. The camp’s attention to empowering girls is an effort to introduce young women to a profession where women are greatly underrepresented.

“We made a commitment to hundreds of kids and their families and we are going to stand by that,” Mayor Faulconer said. “This is an important camp that teaches kids what it’s like to be a firefighter and exposes many of them to a career opportunity they may not have considered previously. The camp is open to everyone and encourages girls to consider a profession that needs more female representation.”

According to a 2016 National Fire Protection Association study, only 7 percent of firefighters nationwide are women.

The families who previously registered for the cancelled camp will have first choice of the weekend on which they wish to participate in the new camps. Those already on the waiting list will also have the opportunity to register.

“Our firefighters, staff and volunteers put their hearts and souls into this event,” said Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. “We are committed to moving forward with this excellent opportunity for young people. Last year, we heard that the Girls Empowerment Camp was a priceless experience for the campers. We want the same for our 2018 participants.”

The camp provides campers with a realistic, hands-on overview of firefighting and exposure to all aspects of public safety career opportunities in the fire service. Additionally, the program empowers campers with life skills and professional guidance that encourages them to pursue their dreams.

“We applaud the decision of Mayor Faulconer to move forward with this camp and look forward to having even more young people educated and mentored on careers in public safety,” said Wendy Robinson, Executive Director of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation.

Thanks to the generous support of sponsors and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation, campers receive:

Hands-on training with firefighting tools and equipment

Exposure to public safety career options

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training

Backpack and t-shirt

Lunch

Prospective campers can register at sdfirerescue.org/gec.

UPDATE: 12:40 p.m., March 2, 2018

The Mayor's Senior Press Secretary, Greg Block, released a statement to KPBS saying Mayor Kevin Faulconer has "directed staff to reschedule the camp as soon as possible."

“This camp is about having fun and introducing young people to the possibilities of a rewarding career in firefighting. Families have been looking forward to this event for weeks, and Mayor Faulconer is not going to allow the threat of a lawsuit stop it from happening. The Mayor has directed staff to reschedule the camp as soon as possible and we will share more details soon.”

Read original story below.

A firefighting camp for teenaged girls in San Diego has been canceled because of a complaint that it discriminates against boys.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Foundation holds the Girls Empowerment Camp with help from the San Diego Fire Department. This week, the city pulled its resources from this weekend’s planned camp after getting a letter of complaint from local attorney Al Rava. The letter said Rava’s client felt discriminated against when he registered his 17-year-old son for the camp and did not hear anything back from organizers.

The letter also said his client was deterred from registering his son because the camp was marketed to girls. Rava asked that the camp be postponed so boys could be invited to apply too.

The Fire-Rescue Foundation said while they have never had boys attend the camp, they have always been allowed. They also said the online registration doesn't ask for gender. But the City Attorney Mara Elliott said the cities resources can’t be used for a gender-specific program, and the camp was canceled.

Sakeena Baxamusa, 15, was set to be one of the campers.

“I wanted it to open more possible career paths for me, such as firefighting, which aren't usually and stereotypically a woman’s place,” she said.

Her father, Murtaza Baxamusa, said, “It seems like such a great idea to have girls in this kind of field. Understanding that the future is female, every occupation that is traditionally closed is going to open up.”

The camp was part of an effort to increase the number of women in the department’s ranks. Currently, four percent of San Diego firefighters are women.

Camp organizers say without the city’s resources, the camp will likely remain closed.

A firefighting camp for teenaged girls in San Diego has been canceled because of a complaint that it discriminates against boys.

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