What girls do you see?

annuaual4thchicago-girl

As International Day of the Girl fast approaches, the focus on girls’ issues is being held up for examination. And rightly so. Girls all over the world face injustices directly related to their gender. Those injustices become much more perilous and detrimental to their development if they are poor and/or girls of color. The issues run the gamut from poverty, structural violence, sexual exploitation, stereotypes and misrepresentation in media, criminalization, limited access, health inequity, sub par to complete lack of education, obesity, and the list can go on and on.

All around the globe there is a movement to empower girls, and galvanize advocates on their behalf. Various institutional organizations have been able to attract heavy hitting allies and funding for their efforts. That support has also raised the profile of the girls they serve.

Still, there remains so many whose marginalized experience has now been marginalized from the global girls movement. The funding appears political, and the conversation seems to exclude grassroots voices. it is time for this to change. I’m hoping to influence this change my connecting the voices/narrative of urban American girls who face identical hardship, parallel to their counterparts on the other side of the world.

When United Nation’s resolution 66/170 declared October 11 as International Day of the Girl, it provided the perfect opportunity to work towards our organization’s mission, which is to partner with organizations and institutions to better navigate the negative stigmas and media messages that influence African-American girls.  Our power is in providing girls the tools that transform communities and foster global sisterhood.  

I am proud that we’ve been able to host Chicago Day of the Girl event since 2012 where we’ve connected more than 300 girls to the monumental purpose of International Day of the Girl. We get connect them to a global community that s otherwise distant and out of reach; celebrate and advocate for their success beyond the myriad of circumstances that stifle their potential.

In Chicago, our Day of the Girl is filled with fun! From cultural performances to spoken word and giveaways we make it exciting. Yet there’s the serious business of panel discussions and resource sharing.  Ayodele Drum and Dance will set the tone for us. She’s All That teen models will showcase women/girl designers. and so much more.

Here’s some video of previous years. And our FB page has photo highlights.

How are you celebrating International Day of the Girl where you are?

Advertisements

Which Girl Issues Matter?

I hate to call this out, though I won’t apologize for it. Sadly this thing that is pressing me is centuries old. It is the thing that causes many good-hearted, well-intentioned, folks to glaze over and ignore the glaring hardship of others. It was the motivating factor behind the infamous, now known to be falsely attributed, Sojourner Truth quote. And though we are more than a century from the first National Women’s Rights Convention and suffrage movement, there’s still yet another generation who could rightfully beg the question…”Ain’t I a girl?”

Here we are in 2015, in the midst of a swelling, impassioned, global movement for girl empowerment. This movement is an appalled examination of the way girls are treated around the globe. It is a clarion call commanding attention to the majestic & transformational force girls can be in their communities if given the required developmental tools, most important amongst those are demonstrative love and genuine concern. The movement is a celebration of the greatness and resilience inherent in being born a girl.

Which girls matter?

As with most movements, while fueled by thousands, there are always a number of personal narratives held up to advance the cause. There are those whose faces and stories pull at the heartstrings to bring about awareness and connect with stakeholders, and those with the power to bring about the desired change. Oftentimes we find that that power translates into money.

And here is where we find ourselves in a conundrum. This tenuous space where women advocate for Black American girls heartily cheer for girlhood, and enlist their efforts in the fight for the equality and empowerment of all girls; yet the faces and stories of girls they fight for and alongside everyday are seldom, if at all, the ones highlighted or propelled into the public movement discourse. The stories and faces we do get to know seem to make their way to us from far across oceans. We become familiar with those from other continents through very determined and concerted efforts by those coiffed with power and access who are right here stateside along with us.


Somehow those persons of power and access appear oddly unfamiliar with the girls who are standing right on their same continent, in their same country…often in their same cities.  So we become intimately familiar with stories of child marriages in Uganda or sex trafficking in Sri Lanka; not the girls in Chicago and the other 13 American cities listed by the FBI as “high-intensity child prostitution” hubs. We know very well names and faces that connect us in a real way to the lack of access to education in Pakistan; but can’t identify personal stories of girls from the mass school closings in cities like Chicago which impacted mostly Latino and Blacks. The poverty narrative is well pronounced and easily identified with girls in just about any developing country, while muted are those who are living in nine of the worst food deserts. Chicago being chief amongst them cited by the United States Commission on Civil Rights as “
not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”

blackgirlsmatterSo there remains the experiences of girls who come of age in the urban strangleholds of violence, poverty and systemic injustices within American cities but for whatever reason are left out of this powerful girl movement. They are disconnected from the conversation. The various reasons why that is are burdensome. Some quite suspicious.

We have to ask, is this movement inclusive of Black girls who hail from systematically impoverished American neighborhoods.? And if so, what is their role?  Is it simply to observe and fight for others, or do they get to tell their stories and have others fight for them, too? Perhaps they are to be treated (as we’ve seen) as mere footnotes and asides.

1390635_791359160900085_2676085894225698668_n

I personally sought to include their experiences producing the annual Chicago Day of the Girl in observance of International Day of the Girl as designated as October 11 by the United Nations. Since its first declared celebration in 2012, we have connected more than 500 Chicago-area girls to this movement, ensuring activism and global sisterhood was our focus. The goal is to show girls that they are not alone in facing issues that debilitate their quality of life. That they can stand in solidarity with their sisters beyond their blocks and neighborhood, beyond their cities and their own country. This very grassroots effort, and others like it, need to be supported and embraced by all who claim to advocate for “all girls.” We need to provide a pathway for power brokers to look their way. To look and see the girls who have been left out and marginalized, whno are not traditionally associated with the illustrious, well-funded, institutionalized girl organizations.  Fund programs birthed in their communities by women who have found their way out and now selflessly serve on behalf of girls. See their need as a state of emergency and aid in the resolution of their issues.

And the list of needs/issues is long. We can choose from any of the those listed below to begin. Then we can consider the impact of incest/molestation which take on different levels of generational trauma in certain communities.

Finally after that, ask ourselves, is this important to me? How will I help.

The reality is, girls are living in the margins of our society in plain sight of privilege, access, prosperity, and quality living. They can see it, hear it, and smell it. Yet there remains a glass wall blocking them from touching it.

Let’s all break the glass!

  • Disproportionate school disciplinary actions and overcriminalization of Black girls as examined in African American Policy Forum and Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality.
  • According to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), “Fifty-two percent of females’ commitments to IDOC youth facilities of 13 to 16 year olds were for offenses against a person and 35 percent were for property offenses.
  • The FBI labeled Chicago as one of 13 locations of “High Intensity Child Prostitution.”
  • Black children are more likely to have an incarcerated parent, and twice as likely to have both parents incarcerated.
  • Mainstream media has placed Black girls outside the realm of standard beauty, describing them as “less classically” beautiful and manly-looking.
  • Black girls are disproportionately dehumanized and otherwise portrayed in media as sassy, hyper-sexualized, and violent.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Commission on Civil rights reported that “the food desert neighborhoods are almost exclusively in African American neighborhoods. Therefore, the problem of food deserts in Chicago is not simply a public health issue, but an urgent civil rights issue.”
  • Based on the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) which monitors six categories of priority health risk behaviors among youth, dating violence is a serious issue for teens.  A staggering 18.5% of Chicago youth surveyed reported that they had been hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.  Rates are highest for African American girls, with 22.6% reporting that they had experienced dating violence.  Overall, this is a significant increase from the 2007 data.
  • A new report from The World Health Organization (WHO) landmark report, Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, reveals suicide kills more girls between the ages of 15 and 19 than any other cause—more than pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, road injury and diarrhoeal diseases.
  • Violence and misogyny are tantamount in media influencing and consumed by youth, which includes an overwhelmingly large female population.

Chicago Girls stepping out for their Day

GIMPI Facebook Banner final with age

Once again it’s on! The world stage is set to celebrate the 2nd annual International Day of the Girl on October 11 as declared by the United Nations.

For the first Day of the Girl, Girls Like Me Project joined a collective movement to celebrate International Day of the Girl as millions of girls and women around the globe participated in the movement to advocate for, as well as, educate girls. From now moving forward this day remains a day to shed light on social and political injustices impacting girls.

254690_445251435510861_1768947932_n-2

GLMPI was proud to host a local event to connect inner-city girls to this movement because so often their voices are missing from this international dialogue.

Like the fact that the face of sex trafficking victims are almost always foreign girls, when there is a prevalent majority of cases involving local girls as illustrated in this recent Chicago Sun TImes article by Mary Mitchell.

And there has been low attention paid to the increasing crisis of drop out rates among girls, which the National Women’s Law Center reports Illinois as having 22% of its girls drop out before graduating high school.

Or the discussion around the grave teen birth rate in Chicago which remains one and a half times higher than the national average.

And perhaps the most influential factor of all that needs actionable discourse, is that female characters are disproportionately stereotyped and sexualized in media popular with youth which feeds a vicious cycle of exploitation and paints a false portrayal and devalues what girls bring to their spaces.

This is why Girls Like Me Project, Inc. and our partners are committed to hosting another Chicago Day of the Girl event.

This year’s International Day of the Girl theme is Innovating for Girls’ Education.

Right here in Chicago, GLMPI is hosting 2nd Annual Chicago Day of the Girl: Stepping Out for a limited group of 150 adolescent girls ages 13-18. The free event is scheduled for Friday, October 11 from 6-9:00p at Pilgrim Baptist Church, located 3300 S. Indiana. The evening will feature community resource sharing, food, thought-provoking programming including performance by Ayodele Drum and Dance, spoken word by Def Jam Poet M’Reld Green interactive fun games, raffle prizes and giveaways, plus an engaging panel discussion, as well as intentional engagement with prospective mentors.

Here’s just a sample of the rhythm the night will bring:

Don’t miss out. Add this to your calendar and spread the word!

All attendees must register by October 5, 2013. RSVP by email to glm@lakeishagraysewell.com or call 773-599-3490.

We are thrilled about having Chicago girls step out and dream big for Chicago Day of the Girl!

Follow ##RoadToTheDayOfTheGirl for other celebrations across the country and around the globe!

Tell us what you have planned for Day of the Girl 2013….

Support us!

If you cannot attend but would like to support Chicago Day of the Girl or other GLMPI programs, feel free to make a donation and share the information with your networks.