Girls Speak Up – Leadership – Gender Equity
Date: January 27, 2023
Girls and young women feel undervalued, undermined and underestimated – this is not new. From an early age, young girls are forced to reckon with harmful stereotypes and harsh gender norms. But today’s girls are redefining what it means to be authentically represented across politics, media, business and all corners of daily life. They are demanding that our institutions recognize their power and build safe, inclusive and sustainable pathways to participation.
And girls know they are best equipped to help identify solutions for achieving gender equity — if we would only listen to what they have to say.
This is Plan International USA’s purpose. For more than 85 years, Plan has been listening to what girls have to say – and elevating girls’ rights by amplifying their voices to create the change they want to see in the world.
The State of the World’s Girls
When it comes to the American political arena, Plan International’s 2022 State of the World’s Girls report, “Equal Power Now: Girls, Young Women and Political Participation”, finds that girls feel unheard, anxious, sad and politically unempowered. Plan’s report is based on a large-scale survey of almost 29,000 girls and young women ages 15-24 from 29 countries spanning all regions, income levels and civic contexts. Additionally, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 94 girls and young women across 18 countries.
The data tells a grim story about the state of girls and politics. A majority – 94% both globally and in the U.S. – identified that girls and young women may face challenges when trying to participate in politics because they believe politicians will not listen to them.
As Ava, a 17-year-old Plan International Youth Advisory Board Member said, “It is not only upsetting that a majority of girls, like myself, feel discouraged to engage in politics due to gender discrimination, but that those in charge continue to turn a blind eye.”
According to Plan’s research, only 5% of U.S. girls and young women said that they were generally happy with the decisions of their political leaders (compared to the global average of 11%), with a majority saying they had felt stressed, worried, anxious, sad, and depressed due to the actions or decisions of political leaders. And half of girls and young women surveyed (52%) disagreed that political leaders know and understand their views and only half feel that political leaders act in their best interest.
“For too long, girls and young women have been denied and discouraged from taking part in the decisions that affect their lives at local, national, and international levels”, said Luna, a 17-year-old Plan International Youth Advisory Board Member. “The results validate a generation of girls grappling with persistent inequalities and the difficult question of how to go about making change under a flawed system.”
Luna’s words should provide a wake-up call for political leaders to prove to girls and young women that they are not only listening but taking action to center girls and young women in the political arena.
What Does Equity Look Like?
Visuals often influence how stereotypes are shaped and dismantled. So, Plan USA found a way to disrupt the search algorithm by partnering with Unsplash, the internet’s top source for freely usable images, to change the way adolescent girls are represented online through their “Girls vs. Stereotypes” campaign.
Plan USA and Unsplash invited photographers from around the world to submit photographs that represent, more authentically and equitably, what it means to be a girl. Plan also engaged a judging panel comprised of girls aged 13-18 from across the U.S. to hand-select the winning images.
Annamika, age 15 and a member of the judging panel said, “I want to feel seen in the images that are supposed to represent me… and empowered to pursue a world where representation of girls is as diverse, vibrant, and authentic as we are.”
In addition to encouraging more diverse submissions, Unsplash made changes to its algorithm by adding diversity tags to the accepted images, which will cause more inclusive photos to be featured to combat the societal biases that Artificial Intelligence perpetuates in search results.
As girls take action together, they can solve the problems that they face and fight for a more equal future. As a community, we can support girls by listening to what they have to say when they tell us who they really are.
WE ARE THE GIRLS REPORT: IR-WATG-2022_FF (planusa-org-staging.s3.amazonaws.com)