Hope & first lady
gender, girls rights, Human Rights, Women's rights

A Brave Space

At the recent Gender360 Summit I was introduced by my former boss and beloved colleague Feyi Rodway to the concept of creating ‘brave spaces’. This term seems to have surfaced during discussion groups and research she conducted in Ghana and indicated a move away from the notion of ‘safe spaces’ to a space that inspires one to speak out. This being a new term for me, which nonetheless resonated deeply, i decided to do some digging and figure out where this idea came from and what it sets out to accomplish.

As we know all great journeys begin with a google search, and I quickly found what appears to be a seminal 2013 piece titled ‘from safe spaces to brave spaces’ by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens. In this article they explore the notion of safe spaces which arose out of facilitating social justice discussions with students at NY University. they spend some time discussing what a safe space actually is which pretty much does what it says on the can, and through a series of agreed guidelines sets basic ‘rules of engagement’ that ensure people’s views won’t be attacked, belittled, ridiculed or dismissed. they quickly realized that their students were conflating ‘safety’ with ‘comfort’, and the moment a discussion moved from ‘political to provocative’ students invoked the rules of safe space to essentially shut down the conversation.

Democracy rests on the belief that freedom of speech, even when it is painful, difficult, aggravating or hurtful, is necessary for the protection of everyone’s rights.  as the famous saying goes “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Yet this notion of listening to and giving space to views that challenge our established beliefs, seems to have been undermined by the idea that a safe space means avoiding discomfort at all times. Arao and Clemens felt that students were not adequately prepared to deal with controversial or politicized issues since the expectation of being challenged was removed in the notion of creating ‘safety’ which led students to ‘discount, deflect and retreat’  the moment they felt ‘unsafe’, that is, uncomfortable.

Their solution, is to replace the unhelpful idea of safety with that of bravery, which would ‘help students rise to the challenges of genuine dialogue on diversity and social justice issues’. The article doesn’t go far enough to my mind as it stays in the realm of discussion guidelines for facilitators by setting out new common rules for creating a brave space. this assumes too much a level playing field of values and language, and background and geography. Their articulation of ‘brave spaces’ doesn’t travel well.

However, if we think of the basic tenet of the move from safety (comfort) to bravery (meeting challenges) this works very well in the context of effective advocacy. Much of the work that I’ve led to build young people’s capacity to be effective advocates, to speak truth to power, is about building their self efficacy and agency. The basic premise of this work rests on the assumption that the space these youth advocates are entering is not safe, that they will be a minority in an adult arena where their views are most likely to be dismissed due to their age, and where they will most likely meet with hostility by those in power who they are holding to account.

This means that creating a brave space becomes an act of conscious and deliberate actions that go beyond agreed behavior guidelines, to building the capacity of youth advocates to meet challenges, and in turn, work with those in power to become open to being challenged. In other words, creating a brave space requires working with those about to enter this space before they even get there and it requires an active intervention of facilitators that work against power imbalances in any way they can (this could include changing discussion format or even language).

for me the move from safe spaces to brave spaces can best be summed up as the move from ‘hearing’ to ‘listening’. and when we finally listen to those who we don’t usually hear from, a whole world of possibilities opens up.


Keshet BD







Featured Image -- 2853

The Importance of Data: To Make Women Count, Count Women

Melinda Gates pledges $80 million to close gender gaps through data. will Gates do for advancing gender equality what they did for eliminating malaria? one can only hope!

Girls' Globe

“We can’t close the gender gap without closing the data gap.” That was the key message of the speech by Melinda Gates at a session titled “A Girls’ and Women’s lens on the SDGs ” at Women Deliver. With a new plan of action, new goals and a new roadmap for achieving them, it is more crucial than ever to ensure we are able to measure the progress properly. Yet, the data is still incomplete, and the dark numbers are huge. Is it really that difficult to gather data, and how do we change that?

Data is necessary for knowing what’s happening, and how to move further. Without being able to measure the right things, we cannot know where and how to invest money and time. And often, where help is the most needed, the numbers are the most misleading. As Gates pointed out later on during her presentation…

View original post 493 more words

gender, girls rights, human rights, ICT4D, SDGs

First, do no harm

As a gender and development practitioner who works specifically with girls and young women who are under 18 years of age, I get asked a lot about what i take into consideration when developing or advising others on the development of a program to empower girls in living poverty. My response? there are many things to take into account, but first and foremost, consider whether your intervention might put them at risk. if the answer is yes, and ofttimes it will be especially if the program is gender transformative, i.e. challenging existing power structures, then one must honestly consider whether the risk level is acceptable and what if anything can be put in place to mitigate this risk.

When we’re working on challenging gender norms and changing social behaviors, we are actively disrupting the status quo. and this can make some people resistant, uncomfortable, fearful or even violent. especially those who are in positions of power, and who might feel like this power is being directly or indirectly challenged. for instance,  a woman finding gainful employment or joining a savings groups which gives her control over her income might experience backlash from her spouse, children or the wider community.

Working with those who are under 18 requires that we consider their evolving capacity to handle such risks and the consequences to their lives. different age groups are at different cognitive and behavioral development stages and that’s a hugely important factor to consider. for instance, sex education curricula will not be the same for early adolescents (10/11-14) and late adolescents (14-18) who are most likely already sexually active.

Children and young people are also still considered legal wards of their families and care-takers, and so any intervention that involves them necessarily involves more than just one individual. this is an important point that often differentiates working with children and youth from working with adults. Any program that involves children and youth, also requires informed consent, which depending on the program can be a huge sticking point.

After establishing the unique parameters of working with under 18’s, we come to the issue of risk. how to define what’s too great a risk, and what can conceivably be seen in the context of our work to transform relations between the sexes, as the  acceptable cost of doing business?

To paraphrase from my favorite show – when it comes to risk in programming with girls, when is a risk too risky?

The first part of this answer is philosophical and ethical. From a child protection perspective you could say that ensuring every part of a program is ‘in the best interest of the child’ is paramount. From a social change perspective you could say that empowering children to speak out and affect change trumps an (ofttimes) paternalistic child protection approach which would deny the child a chance to exercise their agency. both of these need to be taken into consideration in terms of the goals of a program. for instance, if the goal is to change social norms by organizing a group of girl advocates who will speak out against early pregnancy in their communities, then one must weigh the risk of community backlash with the real possibility that this kind of work could save lives.

There’s no easy answer, and ‘doing no harm’ is above all our main objective, though we must weigh the likelihood and severity of risks in light of the potential transformative change our project could achieve. I would also add, again, that any intervention which seeks to challenge patriarchy in all its forms carries inherent risks. For me that is a given, however, there are clear ways in which these risks can be substantially reduced through effective programming, even if not eliminated altogether.

The second part of this answer is technical. Any self respecting organization will conduct risk analyses for programs, initiatives, events or engagements involving young people. this is the best space to evaluate the risk levels and agree on mitigation steps. an example of a risk assessment (for an event) will look something like this:


Even visually, color coding a risk assessment can offer a good ‘at glance’ measure for deciding whether the risk levels are too high – if half the document is red, then you should go back to the drawing board.

Finally, I would also suggest that a good way of evaluating risk to young people or children can be done by including them in program design. working with children and young people is the best way to gain insights into their lived realities and ensure any intervention is tailored to address their experiences as they perceive them. this is especially relevant when working with adolescent girls, since they will experience different social pressures depending on cultural context and are best placed to gauge the reactions of their families, communities and peers to any actions they will take to challenge the patriarchal status quo.

Keshet Bachan





day of the girl, development, girls rights, post 2015, SDGs

The rise and rise of girls

On a rainy November day in 2007, Plan UK launched a new campaign named after a report they had just published called ‘Because I am a Girl’. The launch was held at the offices of Marie Claire Magazine, and it featured Cherie Blaire as a guest speaker. At the time, global attention was firmly fixed elsewhere – it was hurricane season in the Pacific and the Dow Jones had just taken a 360 point dive, heralding an economic crisis the likes of which the world hadn’t known since The Great Depression. But in a small press reception, in the heart of London, change was afoot.

The next day a minor news story made it onto the back pages of a few papers – the UN sent home 108 of the 950 Sri Lankan peacekeepers stationed in Haiti, accusing them of sexual abuse, including with underage girls. This shocking event passed by mostly unnoticed and unremarked upon by those responsible for holding UN agencies to account. As usual, only the feminists cried in outrage, and the world kept spinning on its axis unperturbed. Girls were invisible, and so was their plight.

Around the same time the 2008 ‘Because I am a Girl’ report was published, focusing on girl’s rights in war zones. One of its main recommendations was to enforce the code of conduct for UN personnel serving in conflict and post conflict zones so that they protect, not exploit, girls and young women. Despite the topical nature of the issues discussed, the report’s call to action failed to gain significant traction with donors and policy makers. It would take yet a deeper plunge into the economic abyss in order to firmly place girls at the top of the development agenda.

In December 2009, the participants of the World Economic Forum in Davos – largely heads of billion dollar corporations – were invited to a session called ‘The Girl Effect on Development’. The Davos meetings that year were focusing exclusively on the global economic crisis that had hit these corporations hard. The idea of a session that sought to encourage large scale investments in adolescent girls living in some of the poorest communities in the world seemed at odds with the economic climate. Yet, the session had sold out almost immediately.

The Girl Effect told a simple story: if you invest in adolescent girls, then fertility rates drop, children have better health outcomes, the workforce grows and becomes more productive ultimately leading to a stimulated economy. The crux of the argument was this – girls will one day be mothers, transferring their gains to their children, ensuring a multiplier and intergenerational effect will inevitably take place. This easy formula for stimulating the economy caught the attention of every business person and politician in the room and the Girl Effect video quickly went viral.

At the same time Plan’s third ‘Because I am a Girl’ report which analyzed the roles of girls and young women within the global economy, had finally hit a home run. Coming as it did on the heels of the economic crisis it offered duty bearers a clear route towards equitable distribution of wealth and assets – through an investment in girl’s education. History shows, the report argued, that when a girls are as educated as boys, economies prosper and governments remain stable.

The clarion call for girls had been made and it was echoing around the globe. Other organizations launched similar campaigns, and suddenly it seemed like everyone was talking at once. Investments increased, another Girl Effect video was released, the ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign went global and the UN passed a resolution to make October 11th the International Day of the Girl.

Girls had become central to the development agenda. Yet, it became apparent as world nations geared up to begin the Post 2015 negotiations that the real challenge was still ahead. How can the success of the ‘girl movement’ be translated into hard-hitting policy wins? For a time it seemed like the girl-focused agencies would continue to work at cross purposes, clamoring all at once about different topics, and losing ground to other, less controversial global issues. In the fight to get girls on the development agenda, the hard nut of member-state support had yet to be fully cracked.

Over the past few months, a cross section of leading girl-focused agencies agreed that this historic moment was a time when we are bigger than the sum of our parts, and combining agendas was the only way to truly make a lasting historic impact on the UN negotiations.

Have we succeeded? I believe we have. At the Summit of the Sustainable Development Goals, Malala Yousafzai gave a key-note address, and standing by her side were adolescent girls from across the globe, including girls that were part of an innovative Plan International project to empower them to be part of this historic process. By working together we have for the first time created a space where girl’s voices are welcomed and listened to, and where the issues faced by adolescent girls the world over are accepted as central to the future prosperity of human kind.

but now the real test begins. will girls be invited to take part in SDG implementation? will their voices be heard as the commitments made at the UN are translated into policy plans and agendas? We’ve come so far from that rainy afternoon, and now the world is finally listening…it’s up to all of us to ensure global attention stays firmly fixed on the next generation of leaders and change makers – adolescent girls.


Girls Want

The epic USA victory over Japan yesterday at the Women’s FIFA World Cup, and the entire tournament really, showed the world that women in sports can be competitive and fight for victory with a passion and fierceness that defies social expectations at every turn. the girls on the field weren’t thinking about their makeup or the way they will look if they make a face or shout with joy. the wanted to win, and when they scored, they roared. It was beautiful.

Title 9 in the USA, which stipulated that colleges couldn’t discriminate on the basis of sex in funding sports, is largely responsible for last night’s epic win. see? policies and legislation work. the right investment makes all the difference. gender roles aren’t written in stone – they change with the times, and they change when society makes a decision to stand up for what’s right. I can only imagine the kind of impact the Equal Rights Amendment would have on women’s rights if Congress finally ratified the ERA into the constitution.





equal rights amendment, gender, gender gaps, women in politics, Women's rights

equal means equal – right?

It’s been a good month for equality in the United States. The country celebrated transgender rights and threw Caitlyn Jenner the nicest coming out party ever. SCOTUS handed down a landmark decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. And there’s a woman running for president.

Granted, transgender rights still have a long way to go – check out John Oliver’s segment on the issue. He really exposes the ways in which we currently view transgender people – most of us seem confused, and the rest want to ask them about their privates. Legally, they still have an uphill battle with many States viewing transgender identity as a lifestyle choice. and they still face higher rates of poverty, suicide and violence than the general public.

The gay movement is celebrating marriage equality and everyone is changing their Facebook profile photo. however, a moving piece by Darnell Moore exposes the ways in which the LGBTQ+ movement has failed to include him ‘under the rainbow’. he writes: ‘the “movement” might care about my queerness, but it certainly does not value my blackness’. this sentiment is one that the gay movement will have to address very soon if it wishes to stay true to its cause.

Historically, the feminist and gay movement have not always gotten on well. Feminists see the inclusion of gay women’s issues as a distraction from issues faced by all women regardless of their sexual orientation, and gay women see the feminist majority as trying to erase their experiences and unique challenges. The PBS documentary ‘Makers: Women Who Made America‘ takes a good look at the cost of this struggle. The schism has been so great that to this day you’ll find countries like Ireland, where gays can get married but women can’t get a legal abortion.

But here’s the thing –

Equality is for everybody. discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation is unjust and it should be illegal. How those two have managed to be separated in the eyes of the public and of legislators is a question for another day. But for now I think the time is right for the feminist movement to reclaim this space and leverage the current public support for equal rights to fight for what we deserve.

rosie era

and thankfully – I’m not alone in my convictions.

On June 23rd, Meryl Streep sent five hundred and thirty-five letters to each and every Member of Congress urging them to support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights for women. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment stalled in 1982 as it was ratified by only 35 states, three states short of the 38 required to put it into the Constitution. The ERA has been introduced in Congress every year since, with little result. the ERA, together with much of the feminist movement, seemed stuck.

But the tide is turning. a new generation of feminists have taken up the call. a slew of girl’s empowerment campaigns have emerged, some led by civil society and some by large brands (#likeagirl, this girl can, Dove real beauty to name a few). they have both capitalized on the renewed feminist energy and also been instrumental in creating an added momentum. and with the wind of civil rights victories at our back, and a female presidential candidate with an outstanding record on advancing women’s rights at our lead, we might just make the ERA happen before I’m gray and old.


Jessica Neuwirth is the Founder and President of the ERA Coalition which is working to create a broad base of support for the ERA across America. ‘Equal Means Equal’ is a documentary produced by Patricia Arquette which takes a long hard look at the reality of women’s lives without the ERA and the personal cost to their freedom and civil liberties. Issues that have been getting more attention lately, from the pay gap and paid family leave, to domestic violence and trafficking, are all linked to the unequal treatment of women under the law and the continued discrimination they face in the United States in 2015.

I can only hope we have the courage to come together with the support of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ+ community, and demand an end to discrimination against women with a constitutional guarantee.


Bad Ads (2)

Despite the title, these aren’t exactly advertisements, so much as photo spreads in magazines. however, I’m pretty sure they are selling something too.

There have been a spate of glossy photos published in magazines lately that (on the face of it) seem to be challenging existing norms, or at least shocking us all into a conversation. But, delving deeper we might find that they are still cogs in a well oiled market driven machine that’s predicated on the objectification of women’s bodies.

the most obvious place to begin would be with Kim Kardashian’s notorious ‘breaking the internet‘ photo, but i refuse to give her space on my blog so won’t be posting this photo here. However, feel free to follow the link and then come back as I would like to draw some parallels with her father’s recent cover on Vanity Fair.

Caitlyn Jenner

Both photos seem like brave departures from established norms. The shock factor of Kim’s nudity is compounded by the sleek oiled look and emphasis the photo places on her generous backside. some hailed the photo as a feminist statement flouting conventional ideals of beauty and celebrating female power. however, as Naomi Wolf wrote many moons ago in ‘The Beauty Myth’ – power which derives from the gaze of another, is no power at all. I agree with Feminist Current who claim that women are sick of their bodies being used as ‘a disposable object for enterprise’. Much like paid commercials, Kim’s body is used (with her consent) to bolster a consumerist market, selling an unattainable, photo-shopped and cosmetically enhanced spectacle of female sexuality that almost boarders on the absurd.

Caitlyn Jenner seems to have made a similar choice in sharing her semi-nude body on the front pages of an important publication, creating a global collective intake of breath. so far reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and this photo is being haled as a breakthrough for transgender rights. however, as Laverne Cox wrote on her Tumblr, no one person can ever represent all trans people. I would also add, that so far both Laverne’s public identity and that of Caitlyn Jenner, have made a conscious effort to conform to standard beauty ideals, offering an unoffensive image of femininity.

I don’t expect trans people to carry the torch for the entire feminist movement and battle all gender stereotypes in addition to the discrimination they face already because of their trans identity. however, this photo just isn’t as subversive as it seems. Jenner has made a choice to look (through surgery) and dress in a way that glamorizes a very narrow kind of feminine beauty, and is also decked out in designer clothes – so we can all go out and buy her look. And this image also creates an apparent dichotomy between masculine and feminine representations that seem to be on complete opposite sides – an issue which should bother trans people as much as it bothers us, as it’s holding them to the same narrow normative beauty standards.

at the end of the day, there is nothing truly revolutionary about the image of femininity offered here or of the role of the female body in any of these images.

the final photo I would like to share is one that has cropped up quite a bit on my feed lately supposedly celebrating motherhood and challenging norms which call on women to cover up while breastfeeding.

ell mag

however, a closer look at this photo will reveal that the model is holding her 4 month old naked child like a casual handbag, and that this entire photo aesthetic calls to mind the use of a baby as a glamorous accessory. the designer clothing on the model and the nudity of the child, juxtaposed with her face which seems to be experiencing pleasure or release, which could be interpreted as sexual, is all incredibly disturbing. Once again, an image of supposedly female power is co-opted into the market driven consumerist world of glossy magazines, and the good intentions (maybe) of the storyteller are lost.

gender, media, stereotyping, violence against women, Women's rights

Bad Ads

It seems like lately there are more and more incidences of advertisements ‘going wrong’ in objectifying ways. Take a look at these two recent examples —

Bud Light thought this was a good advertising catchphrase:

bud light

‘the perfect beer for removing “no” from your vocabulary for the night’ #upforwhatever

And recently a public transport authority in Wales came out with this winner:

ride me

‘Ride me all day long for 3 pounds’

You have to wonder at the approval process for these ads, and why didn’t anyone say at some point ‘hold on, this might be a horrible thing to say’.

Although these adverts are awful, the negative reaction it drew from audiences who were quick to mobilize against these brands are a reason to celebrate. From the flood of emails and tweets aimed at NAT, which prompted them to remove this ad from all their buses, to the John Oliver segment on Last Week Tonight literally ‘taking the piss’ out of Bud Light.

This leaves me optimistic. The general public knows objectification and sexual violence innuendo when it sees it, and we’re not afraid to call people out on this. Advertising executives are being a held to a higher standard, and brands are now acutely aware of the cost of these sorts of faux pas.

Let’s hope they learn from each other’s mistakes.

Commission on the Status of Women, gender, girls rights, human rights, United Nations, Women's rights

How social media changed the women’s movement

Read my speech from last week’s panel discussion at the Commission on the Status of Women:

Dear colleagues, and feminist sisters and brothers – good morning!

We are here today to undertake an important task – bridging the gap between online and offline activism.

The Commission on the Status of Women has always been a place where these two tracks meet to galvanize action and translate policy into practice. It’s the two weeks of the year when the twittersphere is as full of gender discussions as the UN is full of feminists.

As someone who has been an activist for over 10 years, essentially ‘coming of age’ during the reign of the MDG framework, and in the shadow of the Beijing platform – which has taken on an almost mystic legendary quality for many of my generation – I would like to take a moment to reflect on the ways in which I believe social media has changed the face of the women’s movement.

When I first attended the CSW in 2009, my biggest concern was finding an electric socket. The conference rooms, including the General Assembly hall, were relics from a bygone era, and the most exciting event took place when I was forced to unplug a lamp in the hallway to charge my laptop – instantly plunging the entire area into complete darkness.

For me this experience really sums up the distance we have come in the way the UN views the importance of using technology to increase transparency, accountability and participation.

The MDG’s were decided in a small room filled UN technocrats. The Sustainable Development Goals on the other hand are the product of probably the widest consultation the United Nations has ever led. This could not have happened without social media platforms and forums for online discussion.

The Beijing platform Section J calls for the use of new forms of media to bridge gaps and ensure women’s voices are included in decisions that affect their lives.

We all know the challenges we face in making this a reality: the digital divide which prevents women and girls from accessing, using, controlling and designing tech tools; discrimination in all its forms which means women’s engagement with technology is often fraught with violence and abuse; girls shying away from studying computers or science, leaving this sector to be driven by a male-centred user experience.

But we must also consider the ways in which social media has allowed young feminists and gender equality activists to make their voices heard, where once only the ‘specialist’ was allowed to speak.

I am part of a millennial generation that uses blogs to share our innermost thoughts; that relies on Facebook for breaking news; a generation that can say a lot in 120 characters; who views distances and borders as an insignificant detail.

The exchange of views, the proliferation of opinions, and what I believe to be the consciousness raising process that takes place any time there is a feminist debate online – is invaluable to the women’s movement.

Forums like the OECD’s Wikigender have opened up a new space where vital gender and development issues can be widely discussed, and more importantly, where these discussions can impact influencers including donors, the media and multilateral institutions.

In bridging online and offline activism, I have had the privilege of working directly with girls from all over the world.  As an expert with Plan International, my work involves training girls to be advocates and use social media tools to engage with decision makers both locally and globally.

Our focus on including girls in the post 2015 agenda has translated into real accomplishments in terms of policy outcomes, and it has, I believe, also fostered a new generation of girl-advocates and empowered citizens.

The goals on eliminating child marriage and FGM, on increasing educational achievements for girls with a focus on quality and safety, have all been hard fought for by many, including girls.

We have used social media as a tool for extending the reach of girl-led campaigns through youtube where they uploaded videos and vlogs; through Facebook, where girls shared inforgraphics, stories and links; through twitter, where their voices were heard by those in charge; through SMS messaging campaigns, online forums and digital news magazines.

Through offline advocacy, ensuring girls meet and talk directly with their own governments at capitol and mission level. And most importantly, capturing these meetings through video, photos and blogs, and using them to hold decision makers to account for the promises they make to girls behind closed doors.

In 2014, one girl advocate who stood up for her right to an education was awarded the Nobel peace prize. Malala Yousafzai remains an inspiration to every girl in the world who has been denied her rights, for her bravery in overcoming extreme violence to make her voice heard.

I believe that social media is and will continue to be an instrument and a platform for women and girls who will not be silent in face of discrimination and exclusion. My experience, and those of my fellow panellists, shows there is still a gap between online and offline activism, but it is narrowing rapidly.

It is now up to us to keep the decision making doors wide open so women and girls from all across the globe can use social media platforms to enter into these spaces, influence the powers that be, and in so doing become the next generation of feminists and activists.

Thank you.


watch this speech online here: http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/Side_event:_Making_women%27s_voices_heard_from_Beijing_to_Post-2015_in_social_media

development, gender, girls rights, human rights, ICT4D

Where dreams are made of…

There are only three female pilots in all of Kenya. Sharon’s mother is the one of them. She tells me about her life, and her family, in a very direct manner as we sit down for a short interview in Nairobi. I spent four days with Sharon, and a dozen other girls, as part of a workshop to build advocacy and campaigning skills. For the most part the girls came from low-income backgrounds, yet they were all part of national children’s assembly’s and had significant experience in speaking out on issues that are important for adolescent girls and boys. As is the case sometimes, the girls had the knowledge of the issues, and the passion to put them on the agenda, but lacked the tools to do so effectively.

the whole group

Sharon addresses the group

Sharon says she feels she has more opportunities than her mother had, despite her mother’s educational achievements and nontraditional job. Sharon insists things are getting better for girls, and there are more chances for her to ‘make it’ through education, especially higher education. I have heard these kinds of aspirations before from many girls all over the world; however, what took me by surprise is Sharon’s ambition (which was shared by a few other girls) to become a journalist. Her understanding of the role of the press in holding decision makers to account was a new (and very welcome) development from the usual ‘I want to be a teacher’ trope. I have no hard evidence of this, but I suspect new forms of media have brought the press closer to the people, and this has obviously been an inspiration to many. What more could a robust democracy hope for? still, girls expressed their concern in not knowing the best avenues to use for getting their voices heard by the right people.

The girls in the workshop knew that the main issue affecting girls in their community are concerned with personal safety and protection from violence. The sense was that girls were left unprotected by the authorities who are meant to ensure their safety, and despite legislation, weak implementation mechanisms, gender stereotypes and traditional norms, are conspiring against them. many felt that they know what the problem is – but not how to fix it.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing the existing protective structures and laws, and then broke down the main influencers who could address this issue and raise it on a national agenda. We spent time developing good campaigning skills, including public speaking, media training, and thinking about how we deliver a message so it’s effective, and speaks to both hearts and minds.

everyone loves the flipcams

everyone loves the flipcams

All these skills will be put to the test later in the project for most girls. however, two girls were selected (through democratic elections) to represent the group in the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women in NY. As we head to the city where dreams are made of I wonder what impact the girls will have on the people they meet, and whether the strength of their influence will come from these newly acquired skills, or will it be the authenticity of being an adolescent girl growing up in poverty and facing discrimination firsthand which gives them greater clout?

To be continued….