March 4, 2019
To jumpstart our 2019 journey to gender justice, WomenStrong International is publishing online our Strong Girls Make Strong Women Girls’ Clubs Handbook, a free new resource to help girls build the protective assets they need, in order to thrive.
Now more than ever, resources such as Strong Girls are needed, as we see girls continue to be victimized and commodified in the United States and around the world, by noted celebrities, billionaires, and political leaders.
Our Handbook is designed for educators, facilitators, mentors, and policymakers seeking tools and activities to use with a group or groups of girls, to impart the knowledge, tools, and life skills known to help girls feel strong, empowered, supported, and capable of achieving their goals.
Our journey to gender justice begins with girls because, as half the population and all the mothers-to-be, girls – and their level of wellbeing, education, and economic viability – will determine our future. It is no exaggeration to say that girls’ ability to realize their rights fully – to grow up in safety, in good health, and in the freedom to become educated and to bring their ambitions to life – sets the stage for every form of human freedom – freedom from hunger and privation, freedom to live in peace in pursuit of one’s dreams.
In the U.S. and across the globe, “girls’ rights” means guaranteed access for every girl to decent housing, health care, and schooling; it means equal access to higher education, to future careers in tech, business, finance, law, engineering, or design, and to equal pay for that work. It also means support for her unpaid care work, for the hours spent feeding, shopping, and caring for children, parents, spouses, and others.
In America and abroad, girls’ rights can also mean freedom from sexual assault, from forced or early marriage, from human trafficking, from female genital cutting, and from discrimination on the basis of religion or race, income bracket or neighborhood, sexual preference or gender identity.
We start with girls because they are young and full of hope and promise. They may not yet know that the world hasn’t always helped their dreams come true. To transform that world into one committed to ensuring girls’ bright future, we need to change our own minds regarding girls’ rights and potential, as well as the minds and behavior of boys and men and those in power. We all need to imagine, and to be ready to live in a world where girls can go as far as they are able, and where women have the power and freedom to lead.
At WomenStrong, our more modest objective is to prepare as many girls as possible for that day: to empower groups of girls in the chronically impoverished urban settings where WomenStrong members work, and hopefully also in rural, coastal, and mountain settings, and in post-conflict, internally displaced, and refugee settings, with the knowledge, skills, awareness, and sisterhood that can help them succeed.
The power of the group cannot be overestimated, as a high-energy fuel driving sustainable social change. Within the safe, heartening structure afforded by being in a circle of her peers, a girl can learn to know, honor, and respect her body. She will come to understand their family, community, and the world around her, and she and her colleagues can learn to respect and open their minds to new information and new opportunities. They will study their future options, consider the obstacles to achieving their goals, and learn when and how to use and raise their voices to speak out for what’s right, for their right to be safe, for their right to thrive.
Strong Girls Make Strong Women celebrates this opportunity to empower girls through their participation and membership in a sisterhood that enables them to learn, grow, and stretch their wings. Based on the work of WomenStrong member organizations with more than 9,000 girls in India, Kenya, Ghana, and Haiti, our Handbook incorporates as well best practices documented by leading scholars, practitioners, and research institutions worldwide. Strong Girls is now downloadable either in full, or module by module, as needed, from the link here or from our website, at www.womenstrong.org; hard copies are also available upon request, at [email protected].
As a global women’s organization, all of us at WomenStrong International are deeply committed to girls’ ability to realize their rights, lead healthy and fulfilling lives, and play a positive, determinative role in our future. We are honored to take our first step along our 2019 journey to gender justice by making this helpful resource readily available to all who share this commitment and this journey.
To further our progress together, we invite you to join our Learning Community — in particular, our Girls’ Education and Empowerment Lab, later this spring, to share with us and with others your experience of educating and empowering girls.
For more information about our Girls’ Clubs Handbook, Learning Labs, or Learning Community, please reach out to [email protected].