When girls stand up together as activists for each other, SO many good things happen. We are so excited to be starting our Strong Girl programs in schools next fall. Through this program, girls will learn to build and maintain inner strength, stand up for each other, and be culture CHANGERS! You are going to love this article. Eight great reasons to empower girls in schools.
1. Activism moves girls from passive consumers to active citizens. Media and marketers sell girls a pop-culture version of power in which their primary project is to fix themselves. Inherent in activism is the challenge to look beneath the surface of outside messages and no longer accept them at face value. Girls who question the justifications of media and policies laced with sexism, racism, and homophobia are psychologically healthier.
2. Activism invites girls to voice their thoughts and feelings. Plugging girls into prefabricated civic-engagement programs and encouraging them to succeed on someone else's terms fails to give them what they need most: practice developing and voicing their own solutions to problems, trusting their own perspectives, and experiencing what it means to stay true to themselves even as they risk dissent.
3. Activism makes schools safer for all girls. Participating in girl-led activism helps to create a school climate where gender diversity is visible and valued. When more girls challenge qualities traditionally associated with girlhood (such as compliance) with assertiveness and agency, they make schools safer for all girls to do the same. When more girls publicly say what they think, it opens up space for others—especially for those who, because of race and social class, are more likely to be discounted or disciplined for outspokenness or resistance.
4. Activism affirms the power of diversity. Effective change requires a coalition of people from different backgrounds, experiences, and skills who share passion for a common cause. Girls engaged in activist work see how differences in social class, race and ethnicity, disability, and gender expression alter their individual experiences with sexism. They come to recognize how, together, they can create more effective and inclusive solutions.
5. Activism helps girls negotiate a "culture of power." To advocate for change successfully, girls must think about how their school system operates and who has the power to make change. When girls are aware of existing networks of power, it enables them to communicate effectively and makes space for their opinions in school and beyond.
6. Activism invites belonging and creates trusting relationships. Engaging in activism gives girls a sense of community and brings them together for a shared cause. This can help dissolve what is often a culture of distrust between girls, as well as subsequent bullying. Activism decreases girls' feelings of alienation by offering them connections that help counter all the justified reasons they can feel numb, angry, alienated, and powerless.
7. Activism is an important form of supplementary education. Activist work can offer students on the margins educational opportunities that are often readily available to more-privileged students. Students can identify a problem they care about and study it deeply, brainstorm solutions, and engage in student-led discussions and exploration of solutions.
8. Activism is the most effective form of leadership training. Through activist work, girls learn to lead by actually leading and fully participating in what matters from the ground up. There are opportunities to think critically, speak up, and take risks—all leadership skills. They aren't learning skills to take advantage of some future possibility, but rather practicing leadership in the present tense.
Supporting student activism is not easy work. It disrupts assumptions of how students—especially girl students—should behave. It asks adults to see youths as experts on their own experience and to recognize the value of student-generated solutions.
by Lyn Mikel Brown