Because I’m a Girl

If you live in Vancouver, you’ve already experienced it. They were in Waterloo and Toronto, too, so I imagine if you live in Canada you’ve experienced it.

For those of you outside of Canada or who have someone not been stopped yet, let me explain. On many street corners nearly every day, there are young people- twenties, mostly- who wear dark blue Plan vests with the words “Because I’m a Girl” emblazoned on them. They ask you to stop and chat, sometimes using catchy conversation starters like “Have you ONE MINUTE to talk about getting ALL girls into school?” or “Got a sec to talk about girls in the world?

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See, the thing is, I have all day to talk about girls. Especially about the girls Plan serves- there’s a number of them who I really, really love and care about.

It’s just that there seems to be a lot of performing and delineating what girls should be in this campaign, and a lot of re-emphasizing of the role of North American girls to advocate on behalf of their Latin American counterparts to be more like them.

Of course, I want girls to have access to resources and education. I also want, desperately, for girl programming to be about more than condoms and sexual health. I’m well aware that the Plan fundraisers say its about more, but most of the girl programming I’ve seen in Latin America run by this campaign is about sexual health, preventing sexual assault and rape, and safe sex.

To me, making girl programming sex, and sex girl programming just completely misses the point. Girls are much more than sex, so much, much, more- and its just not the responsibility of girls alone to prevent assault and rape, to not get pregnant unless its “time,” to determine when its “time.”

Girl programming should be vibrant: about media and work and transportation and economic prowess and schooling and sex and relationships and gardening and endless other topics. It should be girl driven.

I’m also aware that on the local level, lots of incredible, amazing people are re-directing funds, slightly shape-shifting programming, calling one thing something else- to make sure girls get the right kind of programming. I just wish those re-directions, shape-shiftings, re-naming processes would be recognized.

I don’t think North American girls only have the option of advocating on behalf of Latin American girls. I think there’s hundreds, thousands, millions of other options. But, to get to those other options, requires letting go of the close-held belief that girls in the West- North American girls, have not exactly reached the “ideal” or “equality” in gender so that gender no longer matters. Gender matters, in the North/West, today.

And so, girls in Latin America and girls in North America have a lot to collaborate about- but we need to re-think the relations of advocacy that lock us into a service mode where one side give, models, advises, advocates, and the other learns, sees, tries, copies, and receives.

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