Category Archives: social justice

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8!

By Liz Peters, Editorial Intern

Girls celebrate all sorts of holidays: Thanksgiving, Independence Day, their birthdays and those of their friends, maybe even Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza. But how often do you celebrate being female? International Women’s Day gives you the chance to scream, shout, and make merry over your womanhood!

Designed to connect girls and inspire futures, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909, driven by women taking a stand against their discrimination the year before. In inspiring futures, let’s take a look to see where we have been in the past. In 1908, 15,000 women stormed the streets of New York City, demanding shorter hours and better pay for their work, as well as the right to vote. One hundred years ago, women were not allowed to vote. They were not allowed to serve in the military; they were banned from many sports and jobs; they were not allowed to have abortions. I don’t even think they had the freedom to wear pants!

Today, all of that and more is possible.

We’ve come pretty far, ladies, but there is still more to conquer. And progress hasn’t come without a fight.  Recently, for example, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer charity, pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood, a sexual health and reproduction organization, because of various concerns. In 2008 alone, Planned Parenthood provided nearly 3 million people with health services, some, but not all, related to reproduction. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide medical services, it provides knowledge. As the nation’s largest sex educator, the organization brings issues and methods of contraception, family planning and sexual diseases to light, preparing women, younger and older, for anything that may come their way. Many women don’t have access to affordable sexual and health care, except through Planned Parenthood. In offering breast cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood examines the full health of a woman, possibly catching early signs of cancer and saving lives, at a minimum, encouraging women to get checked regularly.

It’s no wonder that the backlash to pulling funding was so strong. After facing heavy criticism, displayed on several social media sites, the Susan G. Komen Foundation listened to the concerns of the public and reversed its initial decision a mere three days after pulling its funds. They also offered an apology. But the fact that this incident happened at all is scary, and symbolic of how disturbingly women are positioned in this society. Can you imagine funding for men’s prostate cancer screening being pulled without warning?? It’s something to think about.

So despite many successes, the reality today is that women are still outnumbered in politics and the workplace, still receiving unequal pay to their male counterparts [check out our blog post on the Paycheck Fairness Act], still facing a glass ceiling in many fields. It’s clear that we still live in a patriarchy, where men hold the majority of the power. It’s time to even things out.

Under-represented and often misrepresented, women in today’s society need to jump the hurdles that the women of the past could not. It’s a lot of responsibility, but we can handle it. We’re up for the fight. Remember where we were 100 years ago? With your help, just imagine where we’ll be 100 years from now!

How You Can Join the Fight for Women

  •  Set goals and see them through
  • Get involved with your school’s student government
  • Find yourself an afterschool job
  • Play a sport traditionally viewed as for “the guys”
  • Volunteer at an organization focused on empowering girls and/or women
  • Investigate, question, and stay informed on issues surrounding women today

Lastly, on March 8, get together with your girls and celebrate being you—an empowered, intelligent, beautiful girl!  Happy International Women’s Day!

Logo courtesy of International Women’s Day

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Planned Parenthood Rally

By Lauren Castner

Planned Parenthood has been around for almost a century, offering affordable healthcare to both men and women all over the U.S., and providing information to women so they can make informed choices about their healthcare.  A wide variety of services is available, from gynecological appointments and cancer screening, to sex education and family planning options, to STI (sexually-transmitted infections) testing and vaccinations.

Funding for Planned Parenthood is currently being threatened at the national level. Like many health centers, Planned Parenthood receives federal funding from Title X.  In existence since 1970, Title X was specifically enacted to provide funding for family planning services.  The program aims to make contraceptives, information, and other family planning supplies available to anyone who needs or wants them.  Title X gives priority to individuals from lower-income families.  Its overall goal is to help families be happy and healthy and have positive birth outcomes. Although an amendment that would have eliminated all Title X funding was defeated in the U.S. Senate, it is still being pushed by conservatives while a compromise is negotiated by White House, Senate, and House leaders. In addition, a Republican-sponsored bill tied to an amendment to specifically cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood—the Pence Amendment—has passed the House and may be taken up by the Senate.  Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has not yet indicated how he will vote.

In response, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) hosted a “Defend, Don’t Defund!” rally last Saturday, March 19th, to gain support for continued funding from Title X.  The rally was held in conjunction with other affiliates all over the country to generate a national day of action.  In Boston, more than 600 people turned out in support of PPLM and continued Title X funding.  They were able to sign postcards and petitions to send to members of their Congressional delegation requesting that they vote against the Senate bill.  Among the speakers at the rally were Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Congressman Mike Capuano, and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, PPLM CEO Dianne Luby, and other leaders in the women’s health community.  PPLM made a conscious effort to make sure that supporters were aware of all of the comprehensive services offered by Planned Parenthood, not just the controversial ones.

Even some four legged friends turned out to support Planned Parenthood!

Teen Voices’ staff member Sarah Binning was in attendance and had some very positive things to say about what she saw!  One thing she found very powerful was “the diverse audience.  There weren’t just women rallying for women, but men, girls and women of all ages, and even whole families.  She felt that people all over Boston seemed to be receptive to the idea of the rally. For hours afterwards, as she was walking in different areas of the city, people came up to her and asked about her Planned Parenthood shirt and how the rally went.  Sarah also told me about how united the rally seemed to be; bright pink posters and t-shirts enabled everyone in attendance to show support and present a united front.

What do you think about the proposed budget cuts to Planned Parenthood?  Let us know in the comments section!  To see what other young people have to say, check out this video on Youtube.

Special thanks to Tricia Wajda, from PPLM!

Congress Votes Down Paycheck Fairness Act

By Ashley Morris

On Wednesday, the Paycheck Fairness Act was voted down. What exactly does this mean for the future of women’s wages? American women continue to earn less than men, and the Paycheck Fairness Act would have addressed the loopholes employers have used to keep women from earning less.

Hillary Clinton, then a senator representing New York, introduced the 2009 Pay Check Fairness Act to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. In our April blog post, April 20 Is Equal Pay Day, we discussed the importance of a bill like this becoming law.

Fifty-eight voters approved the bill and 41 were against it.  It would have taken just two additional senators’ votes to pass the bill. But despite the bill’s failure by such a small margin, the fight for equal pay is far from over. The bill can be reinstated, but will have to go through both chambers of the new Congress next year.

On Wednesday, President Obama expressed his disappointment with Congress’s failure to pass the act, and said, “My administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.”

News like this is a great incentive to get more involved in finding out what your state elected officials are supporting when it comes to women’s rights and equal pay. Spread the word! The American Association of University Women suggests adding a pay equity web sticker to your website or blog to promote equal pay action. If you‘re looking for more ways on how to get involved, you can download a Pay Equity Resource kit at aauw.org. And write to your senators! Your voice can inspire those around you to become supporters for change in the fight for equal pay rights.

For more information on pay equity, visit aauw.org and opencongress.org.

Real Men Don’t Buy Girls: Demi and Ashton Campaign to End Sex Trafficking

A lot of interesting news came out of the Clinton Global Initiative conference held on September 23 in New York. Among the developments, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher announced the Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign (to watch the announcement click here), which aims to raise concern about child sex slavery and to stop the demand for child sexual exploitation and child pornography.

The video discusses the disturbing news that there are more people enslaved in the world today than ever before, and that many of these people are forced to sell their bodies.  Of the roughly 12 million slaves in the world, about 2 million of them are children in the sex trade.

The Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign aims to end the buying and selling of children for sex purposes by eliminating the troubling misconception that it is in any way OK to purchase a child for sex.  Moore and Kutcher founded the DNA Foundation to carry out the mission of the campaign.  They are teaming with law enforcement and technology companies to identify and eliminate the trafficking that occurs online.

The DNA Foundation’s tagline is “Freedom – it’s in our DNA.”  To help bring freedom to those enslaved in the sex trade the foundation has the support of Twitter, Microsoft, and other influential tech companies committed to bringing sex trafficking to center stage so that we can eliminate it.

The foundation’s website makes it easy for anyone to get involved.  You can donate, send information to your family and friends, or call your senator to ask him or her to support a bill in Congress right now that will increase law enforcement’s funding in several states so that they are better able to go after the people responsible for the sex trade.

To find out more about sex trafficking, check out our Spring/Summer 2010 print issue!  To subscribe to Teen Voices click here.  If you want to learn more about this CGI commitment, head over to the DNA Foundation’s website here.

Civil Rights and the Young People’s Project: One Girl’s Trip to the SNNC 50th Anniversary Conference

By Deamonte Tibbs-Petty,
The Young People’s Project

The Young People’s Project is a non-profit group dedicated to raising math literacy and working for social change. Their mission is to change the quality of mathematics education for children. As part of that group, I traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, in April for the SNNC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) 50th Anniversary Conference. More than 1,100 people attended the conference, which was both a celebration and a documentation of those who fought for social change in 1960.

I learned about so many inspiring people in the civil rights movement, and saw what they have achieved by fighting against racism and fighting for equality. One powerful woman I learned about was Ella Baker, an activist and civil rights organizer who was a strong leader and speaker for her community. To me, she is the definition of a role model because she stood up to oppression and fought for equal rights for the black community. Baker once said, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” This quote stuck with me because it reminds me that we all have enough willpower to lead ourselves.

At first I didn’t understand what SNCC had to do with YPP, until our College Math Literacy Workers explained to us that Bob Moses was in the civil rights movement and the actions he took to get his daughter to learn math are the reason we now have the Algebra Project and YPP. We were very lucky to be able to hear the SNCC stories. I appreciate what Bob Moses and SNCC have done because if it wasn’t for them taking brutal beatings and disrespect to come together and march for what’s right, my high school wouldn’t have the diversity and love it has today. No one is being judged or discriminated against because of the color of their skin. We are all treated like human beings, and to me that is love.

Besides going to workshops at Shaw University to listen to the activists, we also met other YPP coordinators and staff from places like Jackson, Mississippi and Chicago. Meeting students from all the YPP sites was a good experience for me because I got to see that we all want to make a change in our communities.

At one workshop, we did an activity called “Neighbor Circle.” We formed groups and got to know each other like neighbors. We had to pick a major problem that happens in our community and talk about how our group would work together to fix it. Many of us found we share the same ideas when it comes to wanting school to provide extra help, clubs, and money for those who need it. We felt that the way math is being taught makes it difficult for kids to learn, whether because of bad supplies or the scarce amount of teachers.

I feel like I have grown from this trip. I now understand that if you want to make changes for the better, you have to stand up for your beliefs. My ancestors’ fight against struggles and abuse make the world a better place today. I learned that you can make a change without using violence. The civil rights leaders were the role models and leaders of that time and now they are passing down knowledge so we can be role models for kids in the generations to come. Everyone in YPP has high hopes and dreams that students will become powerful adults who will make a difference.

View photos from the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference.

GirlUp Connects Teens Around the World

By editorial intern Laura Paquette

As part of a typical day this summer, you might start working on your summer reading, get your yearly check-up, or help out at a summer camp. These activities may not sound particularly special, (in fact, some of them are major chores) but millions of girls in developing countries don’t have the opportunity to experience them. That’s why the United Nations Foundation created GirlUp, a program that supports teen and adolescent girls in developing countries in the areas of education, health care, safety, leadership — and simply being counted! (In Ethiopia, for example, only 7 percent of girls are registered at birth. GirlUp tries to get them identification cards so they can be counted as part of the population.) One girl featured on the GirlUp website ran away from home at the age of 14 to avoid an arranged marriage. Now, with the help of a GirlUp-sponsored school, she’s receiving health care and education to help her achieve her dream of becoming an engineer.

What’s unique about GirlUp, though, is that it encourages teenage American girls to work for change. According to a June article in The Huffington Post, “Girl Up rallies American girls to step up and become the next generation of impact philanthropist and empowerment activists.” Not only can girls learn more about problems girls their age face in other parts of the world, they can get involved by making a donation, using Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness, or by reading the Girlafesto, an empowerment poem which ends, “You see a girl. We see the future.” By giving American teens a voice and a way to make a difference, GirlUp allows them to connect with girls across the globe for a better life. To learn more, check out GirlUp.org.

Girl Scouts Is Ensuring Healthier Media for Girls!

By Teen Voices guest blogger Stephanie Harig

Stephanie Harig is an intern at Girl Scouts of the USA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.

Every day we are bombarded by unhealthy media images of girls and women.  Even though we know that these depictions are not based in reality, many of us still define our self-worth by how we measure up to them.

A 2010 survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 60 percent of girls compare their bodies to fashion models and 47 percent say fashion models give them a body to strive for. And only 46 percent of girls believe that the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

The problem is not only what girls think – it’s also what they do. The same survey found that more than half of girls admit to going on a diet to try to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat. Moreover, 42 percent of girls say they know someone their age who has forced themselves to throw up after eating, while 37 percent know someone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder.

We are smart and powerful, but there is no doubt that unhealthy images negatively influence our body image and self-esteem. So is there anything we can do about it?

The answer is YES!

Girl Scouts is taking steps to ensure that healthier media images of girls and women become a reality. First, our newest program, It’s Your Story, Tell It!, will be released this winter.  It will empower girls to use the media as an agent of change and vehicle for self-expression, effectively helping them build their self-esteem.

Girl Scouts also supports The Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  The bill addresses unhealthy media images of girls and women through three avenues:

  • grants to support media literacy programs;
  • research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect the health of youth;
  • and, the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media.

Current media images of girls and women set unrealistic standards that distract us from what is important and make it harder to believe in ourselves. This is not the reality in which we should have to live!  The Healthy Media for Youth Act is a step toward a new, girl-positive reality!

Imagine a world full of healthy media images of women and girls. Positive images of girls and women in the media would foster self-esteem, positive body image, and healthy relationships.  Girl Scouts further encourages the media to highlight strong female role models, more women in leadership roles, and body type, racial, and ethnic diversity.

If this is the world you want to see, then TAKE ACTION!  Join Girl Scouts as we advocate for healthier media images.  Visit www.girlscouts4girls.org and send a letter of support for the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925) to your Member of Congress. By using our GIRL POWER we can change our reality!