GIRLS’ GLOBAL PLAN OF ACTION 1997
Background: Soon after Girls Speak Out began, girls asked Andrea to have a place to meet girls from other places. Andrea and Gloria worked to create a conference that was free and run by girls for girls.
140 girls ages 9-16 from 40 states in the USA and ten other countries and 75 women created this global plan of action at the historic First Girls’ Global Conference at UNICEF House in New York City on January 3rd and 4th, 1997. Girls came from big cities, tribal communities, small towns, islands, shelters, group homes and detention centers.
The Girls’ Steering Committee and women members of the National (USA) Girls’ Coalition represented 8 million girls and organized the conference. It was co-sponsored by the National Girls Coalition and UNICEF. Girls’ costs were covered by donations.
Girls ran the workshops, women were notetakers, and all-participant meetings replaced speech-making.The program for the First Girls Conference was adopted by the Girls’ Steering Committee of the National Girls Coalition from the Women’s Platform for Action developed at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing.
At the First Girls’ Conference, girls spoke out on three topics: Confronting Violence Against Girls, Girls Rights are Human Rights and Images of Girls in the Media. Over two days, each girl participated in girl-led workshops in each of these three areas.
The words in the following Girls’ USA Plans of Action are the girls’ words recorded in the workshops as transcribed and organized by Andrea Johnston, co-founder of Girls Speak Out and Convener of the National Girls’ Coalition. The words in the Girls Global Plan of Action come from the girls themselves, with changes made only for clarity and to avoid repetition. Please contact Girls Speak Out Worldwide for more information. This is not copyrighted material.
Guess what? Here’s proof that similar feelings, dreams, intelligence, sophistication and plans are shared by girls who come from very different places. Girls are truly one powerful and essential force.
Need Inspiration? FIND IT HERE–Want to do something you believe in about violence, the media and/or girls’ rights?
2015 is this historical document’s 18th Anniversary, and
the power of girls’ words still moves us ….
I. CONFRONTING VIOLENCE AGAINST GIRLS
Girls should be safe wherever we are, and not be intimidated. We know about violence because it’s something we see and feel. We learned about it as little kids, from media like television, movies, video games, music and from what happens around us. You can’t be too young or too old to know violence can happen to you, and that it’s not your fault. We have to teach each other that violence is not our fault, that no one should tolerate it, and that it can be changed. We need to understand that sexual abuse of children, for example, is bad and wrong, not just gross. We are not surprised at statistics that show violence affects us more than it does boys. Violence makes us feel isolated and alone, and it also makes us want to protect ourselves. We each experience some kind of violence in our lives: it can be emotional (treated like we’re invisible or sexually harassed), physical (being hit), mental (being made fun of), economic (living below the poverty line), or it can seem self-inflicted like anorexia and bulimia. It can happen in our homes (domestic violence), at school, on the streets, and wherever we go. Violence is unwanted and unnecessary. Some people think they can do anything they want to us. They get that idea from what they see around them, including the media. Even children sheltered from the media are influenced by other people who become violent. People who commit violent acts rationalize them so they don’t have to admit they are wrong even though a girl could be hurt for life.
What Happens To Girls
Some girls are abused, even though all of us (including girls who live in other countries) have the right to be respected by everyone. We can stand up for ourselves. It’s important that we tell what’s happening to us. We have the right to tell someone we trust. Violence is about power and control. Rape is not about sex, and enjoying your body–it’s about power. Pornography is about controlling females. Domestic violence is about power, too: whether it leaves a mark on your body or not, it’s more than that mark that hurts you.Things would be better if men were not always the rulers in the house, and if more women stood up to men. There must be more use of positive reinforcement like praise and thanks. Parents should be responsible, and there should be parenting lessons. They should acknowledge that being a parent is a privilege, and not a right. The system should educate parents or anyone who is violent against girls to stop the violence. The system doesn’t protect us from people who harm girls; for example, there should be better screening of people who work in schools and with children.We know that when you have problems as a girl, you could still have them as an adult unless you talk and do something about them. People in prison often have histories of child abuse. When girls talk about sexual abuse in groups like the ones at the First National Girls Conference, it helps take the pain away, and makes you feel strong.
Violence against girls isn’t taken seriously even though it’s hurtful, degrading and harmful to us. When we see a girl who’s badly neglected, for example, it makes us very sad and angry that she isn’t protected. Some girls are scared to do anything about the situation they are in, even to talk to teachers in school. Even if they don’t ask us, it may be a good idea to do something to help other girls. A tradition like Female Genital Mutilation, that some people practice in this country, is violence against girls. It’s not acceptable, and we can make laws against it. Girls should not be scared and in pain.
Girls should be in safe and supportive environments. We need to be respected as human beings.
What Girls Can Do To Be Safe
1. Don’t accept violence; speak out about it and stand up against it
2. Inform all girls of their right not to be violated at any age; teach girls about sexual abuse early, and about letting someone know if it happens to them
3. Provide knowledge of help and resources to all girls
4. Work to make shelters and hot lines more accessible and more known
5. Find or create support groups and female self-defense classes in our home communities 6. Demand institutional support; for example, petition to get mandatory co-ed self-defense classes as part of physical education
7. Lead and organize awareness classes about violence for friends and other people
9. Create a Confronting Violence Against Girls Web page, Chat room, hashtag and newsletter
10. Have girls do public service announcements about violence
11. Contact other groups of girls about the First National Girls Conference
12. Network with girls so they can get this information, too
13. Get girls together and go to schools and other groups and talk about violence
14. Demand that family shelters have counseling for and with abused children
15. Organize crime watches with girl-friendly people to make streets safe 16. Don’t forget that bulimia and anorexia are violence against our bodies, too
17. Demand a safe way for girls to anonymously report abuse without fear
18. Pay attention to and teach about emotional as well as physical and sexual abuse
19. Talk about sexual abuse, not just as disgusting and horrible, but illegal
20. Inform leaders in community (teachers and police) of violent acts against girls
21. Expand amount of behaviors against girls that are considered illegal and learn about what laws can protect us
22. Tougher laws for abusers who abuse anyone
23. Educate the people who do the violence so they stop
24. Take home the information we learned at the First National Girls Conference, and have mini-conferences in our states
25. Get the media involved in something positive like educating girls about violence for a change
26. Sometimes one action can lead to others; for example, telling about a teacher touching you in a way that feels uncomfortable can encourage other girls to speak out
27. Get parents involved: for example, curfews should be given by parents, and parents should have parenting lessons that encourage them to communicate with kids about violence
28. Ask for extensive background checks on adults who interact with children and adolescents
29. People who are violent against girls should be monitored upon release from prison
30. Help pedophiles (people who abuse children) as well as punish them–they were probably abused as kids, too
31. Get support for victims of violence
32. Work for stricter media guidelines prohibiting violence against girls in the media
33. Create and use networks of girls to spread stories of girls who successfully fought the system and overcame violence
34. “Girlcott” products that promote violence
35. Have trained mentors or someone to confide in (not necessarily an adult) through community organizations, schools, etc. if violence is threatening a girl’s safety in any way
36. Ask victims of violence to provide counseling for other victims
37. Have self-esteem classes taught in schools as a subject like math and science
38. Form girl-support groups in girls’ organizations,
schools, homes, etc.
39. Teachers should be trained to help support victims
and/or to help teach classes about violence with girls
40. Use peaceful resistance like Rosa Parks and
41. Teach parents that violence isn’t okay
42. Ask for and use conflict resolution programs in
43. Make women aware of safe places to go
44. Don’t tolerate abuse in home, specifically sexual,
verbal and physical abuse
45. Educate teachers, police, principals, guidance
46. Bring girls and women who have experienced
violence into schools to talk to children and teachers
47. Create and/or support local or national day(s)
protesting violence against girls that’s run by girls
48. Create our own media spreading the word about
peace and nonviolence (flyers, speeches, newsletters,
Web pages, and billboards, etc.)
II. Images of Girls in the Media
Girls should be portrayed as everything.
The media should offer truthful, positive role models for girlsandweshould not be exploited by the media. Wearephysically diverse, in all shapes and sizes, fromdifferent cultures, races, and classes, with different abilities and preferences. Girls are strong, healthy, balanced, heroic, independent and self-assured. We see “beautiful” as having some of these qualities: kind, POWERFUL, intellligent, motivated, noble, unique, of a strong heart and mind, respectful of yourself and others, having self-esteem, including how everyone looks.Girls can redefine what’s beautiful, not have the media do this for us.
Media Images of Us
Girls are often portrayed as skinny, blond, white,
helpless/incapable, victims, sweet, bimbos, fluffy,
dumb/ditzy airheads, connivers who want to catch
males, shown as possessions, always late, influenced
by boyfriends, only concerned with clothes and boys,
clumsy, weak, fragile, fake, ignorant, easy sex
objects, not saving the day and hos. Normal girls are
outcasts. Some music lyrics trash girls. The media
emphasizes girls’ sexuality and sees teenagers as a
problem. Girls in the media are judged by their looks,
they’re shown as afraid to be adventurous and
they’re not interesting.
Girls Already Know the Media Can Be Sexist and
But even so, not all girls know they don’t have to
measure up to sexist standards in most of the media.
Some girls feel inadequate because others will judge
them by the media’s impossible “Barbie” standards.
In addition, our spirituality is left out. Media images
can affect a girl’s subconscious. Sometimes images of
girls in the media control girls’ lives and they don’t
know it. For example, some girls feel they must diet in
order to be beautiful and they become anorexic and
bulimic. Girls should be free to look however they
want–the goal is to have more realistic images of
girls in the media.
Girls Can be Heard
We can look beyond the negativity about us in the
media. We can support what’s positive. We can set
high goals, be strong, and still be girls. We can make
girls valuable. We are consumers with power. We can
go to the people in control of the media and we can
also become the people in control. We know our
efforts may spark other action and change may come
later, even if what we do now doesn’t seem to be
having any effect. We need to start awareness early
for boys and girls, and teach gender equity ourselves.
Guys need to understand. We can discuss the
consequences of media images of girls, and make it
clear that it affects us in many ways we want to
How To Change Images of Girls in the Media
1. Be role models and accept different looks
2. Organize and work for change alone and together
3. Be public about our feelings about the media:
4. Be public about the positive things we do
5. Be sure of ourselves; support positive individual
images of girls we know
6. Promote the good stuff, teen and girl magazines,
shows, movies, music, videos, etc.
7. Support truthful portrayals of girls
8. Make girls around us aware of our value
9. Get support, use connections with people we
respect who respect us
10. Tell women they shouldn’t accept unfair
11. Be strong and try not to be affected by what
12. Have famous models come out without make-up
and show us that they look like everyone else
13. Promote healthier images of girls
14. Involve friends
15. Just don’t accept harmful images, replace them
Suggestions for Action
2. Put warning signals on untruthful, anti-girl
products yourself even if manufacturers don’t
3. Communicate with corporations and celebrities
4. “Girlcott”: petition and advertise against bad ads,
and tell others what real beauty is
5. Write letters over and over to different people
6. Teach awareness classes/educate others
7. Involve your community in girl-led groups
8. Start a Web page, Chat Room about Girls in the
9. Create realistic commercials we’d like (figure out
how to get in touch with the right people)
10. Help with writing TV shows and movies when
you’re a kid, then work to the top
11. Do public service announcements
12. Get involved with other help groups; teach them
to teach others
13. Organize girls to help younger girls to control and
14. Educate girls on self-inflicted violence like
anorexia and bulimia
15. Have peer groups meet at school
16. Reach out to strippers, hookers, etc., telling them
they could have other choices and respect their
17. Include education for boys and men
18. Get involved with TV, music, movies, and
advertising to change it
19. Put pressure on government to support girls in
20. Encourage the use of natural images and selling
without using females as objects and
21. Ask advertisers to have more normal looking
people doing realistic things
22. Don’t Stop! Be Heard!!
Where have our words been used to help change the world?