“Advocacy includes action taken in support of a cause or an idea. It may include, for example, providing education, distributing information, or holding events to dramatize an issue or the effect of a problem on people or a community.” (Worth, 2009)
Even though we are more than three decades past the women’s rights movement of the 1970’s, it is amazing to realize how much gender inequality still exist in our U.S. society. One of the groups who are perhaps suffering the most from this prejudice are our girls. While some of the stereotypes of girls being bad in subjects like math and science are slowly dissolving, girls instead are now facing expectations being put forth by the media and society to be some sort of “supergirls” – girls who have to meet everyone’s high expectations, be thin, be pretty, be smart, and the list goes on. (“The Supergirl Dilemma,” 2006) These girls are expected to be everything to everyone and are suffering a great deal of stress in response.
In addition to dealing with these expectations, there is another side that many people don’t see. Our girls are also being faced with violence – physical, sexual, and emotional. According to some experts, one in six women will be sexually assaulted within their lifetime, and most of these assaults go unreported. (data from http://www.rainn.org, accessed 11/27/10) One study also showed that many victims end up finding their way into the juvenile justice system, with as many as 92% of female offenders reporting having been abused, either physically, emotionally, or sexually. (“Congress Passes Legislation on Violence Against Girls,” 2006) How can a girl grow into a confident, successful woman when faced with these kinds of challenges?
Fortunately, there is an organization that is working on their behalf. Meet Girls, Inc., a national nonprofit which “responds to the changing needs of girls and their communities through research-based programs and advocacy that empower girls to reach their full potential and to understand, value, and assert their rights.” (Girls, Inc. website, accessed 11/27/10) In his book Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice, Michael Worth tells us that “nonprofits have been in the forefront of every important social change from the beginning of the nation. They have been the principal advocate for people who are disadvantage or disenfranchised . . .” (Worth, 2009) This is exactly what Girls, Inc., is doing – advocating for young women by establishing programs to educate and build self-esteem. Some of their programs include education in economic literacy, leadership, self-defense, enthusiasm for the sciences, and pregnancy prevention, to name a few.
But Girls, Inc., doesn’t stop there. “Lobbying goes beyond advocacy – it is action taken to support or oppose specific legislation at the national, state, or local level.” (Worth, 2009) Girls, Inc., leaders have testified before Congressional hearings on key matters concerning girls and young women. And, in 2006, Girls, Inc., was influential in lobbying Congress to unanimously pass the Violence Against Women Act with provision to promote girls’ safety. (“Congress Passes Legislation on Violence Against Girls,” 2006))
I have a five-year-old daughter and am already beginning to see the effects of the media and society on her at such a young age. She is already concerned with her appearance and is starting to place expectations on herself about her schoolwork in Kindergarten!!! I am trying to find a way to balance her need for healthy self-esteem with an understanding that perfection is not attainable and, therefore, not an expectation that we, her parents, have for her. I’m pleased to have learned about Girls, Inc., and the work they are doing on behalf of girls to help them become self-confident and successful. I think this is an organization I will be getting to know better in the near future!
If you would like to learn more about Girls, Inc., and how you can support the young women in your community (or even in your own home?), check them out!
“Congress Passes Legislation on Violence Against Girls.” (March 5, 2006). Accessed from www.girlsinc.org/takeaction/legislation-girls.html.
http://girlsinc.org/about/index.html, accessed 11/27/10
http://www.rainn.org/statistics. Accessed 11/27/10).
“The Supergirls Dilemma: Girls Feel the Pressure to be Perfect, Accomplished, Thin, andAccommodating.” (October 12, 2006).
Accessed from http://www.girlsinc.org/news/press-release/p2/1/36.htm.
Worth, M. J. (2009). Nonprofit Management: Principles and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.