Empowering Girls

banner-one3-e1392334376566This Saturday, October 11, is the International Day of the Girl—a day in which girls worldwide take action to address gender inequality. The day was declared via a UN resolution in 2011, and has since become a movement that takes on the issues girls face globally, from damaging representation in the media to sex trafficking, from work inequality to a lack of educational opportunities. I love this day—and I especially love that girls themselves are at the center of the movement. I am very pleased that this year, I’ll be celebrating the International Day of the Girl by participating in a panel entitled Empowering Books for Young Girls at the Virginia Children’s Book Festival.

The Virginia Children’s Book Festival will take place on Friday, October 10 and Saturday, October 11 on the campus of Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. It will include awesome workshops and panels for people of all ages: the American Shakespeare Center will be teaching stage skills, the Edgar Allan Poe museum is putting on a mock trial about the Telltale Heart, lots of wonderful authors, including Todd Parr, Kat Spears, and Teri Kanefield, are speaking and interacting with kids and adults alike, and Judy Blume will be skyping in to talk with her son, Lawrence Blume, about his film adaptation of her novel, Tiger Eyes.  There are panel discussions on civil rights, diversity in reading, boys and reading, and much more.

The Empowering Books for Young Girls panel includes authors Gigi Amateau and Meg Medina, who review 18 books together every summer and compile them on their Girls of Summer blog—a wonderful resource for any parent of a daughter. Deb Stone, a representative of WBRA (Blue Ridge Public Television) and PBS, will be joining us to discuss topics such as what we mean when we say that a book is empowering to a girl, and how we can work with other forms of media to create positive role models for girls. We’ll also look at how parents can empower boys and girls equally, and why diversity matters so much in the books kids read.

As I’ve been considering what I might say on this panel—and thinking about the International Day of the Girl—I’ve compiled a list of organizations and companies that empower girls. This Saturday, as we celebrate the International Day of the Girl and look for concrete ways to improve girls’ lives worldwide, check out some of the links below:

  • Black Girls Rock: A non-profit organization founded in 2006 to promote the arts for young women of color, and to encourage discussion about the ways women of color are portrayed in the media. Through their youth enrichment programs, the organization mentors young girls of color in the arts, working to build self-esteem and broaden horizons.
  • The Brave Girls Alliance: A team of people who work to help others develop products and brands that empower girls. The alliance takes its name from a quote by the Disney Princess Merida: “Our fate lies within us. You only need to be Brave enough to see it.” The alliance supports the Truth in Advertising Act, asking the Federal Trade Commission to establish rules governing the digital alteration of bodies in advertising.
  • Latinitas: A non-profit organization founded in 2002 to empower Latina girls and teens through media and technology. They publish a digital magazine written by and for Latina girls and offer workshops, camps, and after-school programs to help Latina girls and teens find and develop their voices.
  • Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies: A clothing store and media literacy organization founded by Melissa Wardy that pushes back against gender stereotypes, educating and inspiring people to think about the consequences of a sexualized childhood.
  • Princess Free Zone: A website by Michele Yulo, the author of Super Tool Lula, a book about a 10-year-old girl who wears a tool belt, helps her dad with carpentry projects, and loves science and her skateboard. The PFZ website includes articles and links about ways to combat the sexualization of childhood and to empower girls to be active in their own lives.
  • Reel Girl: A blog by writer and commentator Margot Macgowan that analyzes the role of girls in films, books, and other media, “imagining gender equality in the fantasy world.” I often use this blog to help me decide if a film or show is appropriate for my kids, or what I’d like to discuss with them about it.
  • The Representation Project: A film and education company founded by actress Jennifer Siebel Newsome. The Representation Project has made the films Miss Representation, about the connection between the sexualization of girls and women in the media and the lack of women in positions of power and influence, and The Mask You Live In, about the harmful effects of traditional masculinity for boys and men.

And be sure to check out the website for the International Day of the Girl movement, to hear from girls themselves about what they are doing to create change–and what you can do to help.


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