International Day of the Girl is a movement to speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere and today is the first day it’s being celebrated.
Girls face a lot of challenges growing up, including sexual harassment at school and on the streets. Because our society doesn’t want to acknowledge this happens, few girls are given the tools they need to name the harassment, know their rights and stand up for themselves, and take action to end it. (And few boys or girls are given the chance to learn and decide for themselves what are appropriate ways to interact, how to give and ask for consent, and what is flirting versus harassment.)
When it comes to street harassment, fortunately there are a growing number of groups that have fostered amazing girl activists who are speaking out strongly about their rights and demanding an end to street harassment. I hope there will be more and more of them!
Through the Sisters in the Strength program, girls in New York have tackled the issue of street harassment by creating their own documentary, hosting a summit, organizing and giving workshops, and speaking at rallies and testifying at city council hearings. You can read more about their work in the book Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets.
Though this youth-driven group in Chicago shut down a year ago, the work the girls did is still very noteworthy. The girls tackled street harassment many ways, including by surveying their peers and issuing a report, successfully lobbying businesses and local legislators to make changes to make the streets safer for girls, organizing a day of action against street harassment across the city, surveying their peers about sexual harassment on public transportation and then successfully lobbying the Chicago Transit Authority to launch a campaign, and organizing workshops and tool-kits.
Ileana Jiménez is a high school educator in New York who has talked about street harassment a lot with her students. In addition to bringing street harassment activist guest speakers to class, she created a video PSA with them and encouraged them to speak at a NYC council hearing and rally against street harassment.
Several other groups have given girls the opportunity to speak out through videos and rallies:
A Long Walk Home – The Girl/Friends Leadership Institute members decided to hold an anti-street harassment march around their high school and they passed out materials about the issue to their classmates.
Free Spirit Media – Teenagers in this media program made a video PSA about street harassment.
These girls’ voices are strong, their willingness to use their voices to speak out on behalf of themselves and girls everywhere is inspiring.
Thanks to their work, there is a chance that the next generation of girls will not have to face street harassment and instead will be able to safely and confidently go to school, work, the park, the movies, the mall or their friend’s house. Go girls!Share on Facebook