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OpenForum Blog:

How Do We Empower Our Girls?

Posted on April 9, 2017 in #NastyWomenRep

After the Sunday, April 9th Talk Tank, moderator Michael Feldman reflected on the conversation.

Providing accurate reproductive health information is critical, but supportive adult mentors and positive peer networks really make the difference in helping our girls grow into successful women. That was one of the main takeaways from our #NastyWomenRep Talk Tank on Sunday, April 9. The session, held after What Every Girl Should Know, featured Pamela Jones, President and CEO of Crittenton Services, Emily Crofoot, Board Treasurer of DC Abortion Fund, and Devan Shea, ‎Senior Policy and Partnerships Associate at The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).  

Forum’s Talk Tank is designed to explore the policy issues underpinning our plays through conversations between policy experts and audiences. This Talk Tank started with the question posed by both Dry Land and What Every Girl Should Know: “how and why are we failing our girls in equipping them to celebrate their own sexuality and control their own bodies so they can shape their own futures and grow into thriving adults?”  

When asked about reactions to the play, all of our panelists felt that the poignant and tragic situations faced by the characters in What Every Girl Should Know are similar to challenges faced by girls in the Washington area today. Panelists and audience members discussed the fact that girls do not feel safe in their schools and in their communities in the D.C. area; this feeling is especially prominent among undocumented young people and those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods both in D.C. and the suburbs.  Communities with high poverty rates also have higher incidents of violence of all kinds.  In fact, the panel noted that Montgomery County has the country’s highest number of unaccompanied minors.  

The discussion also underlined that society does know what to do to help vulnerable girls – and shared evidence of successes achieved by young women.  Ms. Jones, Ms. Crofoot, and Ms. Shea all stressed that girls need to be safe, physically and emotionally.  They described what their organizations are doing to provide girls (and all young people) with information and access to reproductive health services, and to offer emotional and community support. But everyone agreed that much more needed to be done in order to meet the growing need, especially given the threats to these services posed by changing Federal and state government policies.   One key intervention is giving teens access to consistent, caring, and dependable adult mentors – the critical support that the characters in Dry Land and What Every Girl Should Know lack.  

Throughout the conversation, we returned to the compelling need to achieve equal rights for women and girls.  Our speakers also pointed to the role of men and boys as allies, and stressed that rapid progress toward gender equality ultimately holds the key to reducing the threat of gender-based violence and fostering strong, confident identities in girls and women.  

In many ways, this Tank Talk conversation tracked the long arc and many barriers to achieving gender equity - as framed by the #NastyWomenRep from Margaret Sanger in 1914 in Every Girl to any high school in today’s America in Dry Land.   

Want to learn more? We encourage you to check out the organizations represented by our speakers:

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington empowers teen girls to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals.

DC Abortion Fund makes grants to pregnant people in the DC area who cannot afford the cost of an abortion.

The Center for Health and Gender Equity advances gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.

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