February 13, 2009 posted by Linda Basch Last week we reached out to advocates and scholars working on issues affecting girls’ lives to submit their Girls Agenda 2009: More funding for teen dating violence prevention? More attention paid to the international trafficking of girls? New programs to promote the health, safety, and well-being of future women?  Effective, comprehensive sex education in our schools? The responses we received were dynamic, fresh, and exciting.  Deborah Tolman, Professor of Social Welfare, Hunter College School of Social Work, suggested that in order to enhance girls’ resiliency, we must do more than reduce risk—we must provide encouragement so that they may live their lives in the positive.  Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Girlfighting, offered an insightful critique of the “mean girl” phenomenon and recommended a strength-based approach: “We affirm girls’ relational and political strengths by giving them reason to believe they can count on one another and work together to solve social problems.”  Allison Kimmich, Executive Director of the National Women’s Study Association, drew on Obama’s role as both father and policymaker, nudging him to make policy decisions in the same manner he parents.

Courtney Macavinta, founder of Respect RX, emphasized the importance of instilling girls with respect so that they can overcome their myriad challenges in society.  Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts, pointed out that “we have a leadership problem in this country.” We at the Council, however, remain optimistic.  Five members of New Moon’s Girl Editorial Board submitted letters to President Obama and Arne Duncan, laying out what they expect from their government to help them lead full, safe, and healthy lives.  Nneoma, age 12, told the President that “incidents of injustice must stop in the United States, and fairness should be strived for everywhere.” Another twelve-year old, Hannah  called for better after-school programs.  Sylvie, age 5, explained to Arne Duncan that not everyone learns the same way. Ashley (14) wrote Obama, “I am hoping that your administration will support girls in our country by assuring that we have adequate health insurance, good education, and equal opportunities so that we can pursue our dreams.” And Nkem, age 10, laid out three basic asks for her Girls Agenda 2009: no discrimination, equal opportunity, and the end of racism.   Finally, Nancy Gruver, Founder and CEO of New Moon Magazine, made the case for helping girls navigate into womanhood because “when we meet girls’ needs, life is made better for everyone.”  And author Joe Kelley reminded us about the importance of strong relationships between fathers and daughtes. Clearly, the moment is ripe for discussing such issues.  With Sasha and Malia in the White House, new research on girls released by the Girls Scouts Research Institute , and a recent Supreme Court case involving a five-year-old sexually harassed on the school bus, it will be interesting to watch how the national conversation on girls’ rights, challenges, and needs unfolds. This post is part of a forum.

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