There is no denial that the youth of today is more politically aware and active than ever. It used to be that children were expected to sit back and enjoy life, but that is not a luxury even our kids can afford anymore. We are facing a paradigm shift, and once these kids are in power, they’re going to turn it all inside out.
The voices of Gen Zers around the world continue to be heard in the fight for equal rights, in the form of the Global Girls’ Bill of Rights. This bill is a beacon of hope for the feminist movement. It’s a response to oppression that girls, of all races and genders, around the world are facing. Like the Founding Fathers did in 1776, this is a declaration of our unalienable rights that shall not be infringed.
“The term girls is inclusive of all individuals who identify with the experiences of girls, including gender-nonconforming, genderfluid, transfeminine experiences, up to the age of 22.”-the Girl’s Bill of Rights site
On October 10th 2019, created for International Day of the Girl, 1,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 22 created the Global Girls’ Bill of Rights and six of the young women who contributed to its creation, unveiled it to the U.N. This document called out the lack of protection over girls’ rights. This is because of how fervently our society defends the rights of boys and men. And while some of the issues addressed can certainly apply to men, this is first and foremost a women’s bill, which has never been even considered before. This document takes into consideration the numerous cultural and ethnic backgrounds of girls around the world. It also considers how those cultures impact their rights to basic freedoms and safety.
Girls’ Bill of Rights
The Girls’ Bill of Rights is the first bill of its kind, made entirely by girls, for girls. The group behind the groundbreaking document is the She’s the First organization. This is a grassroots non-profit that has contributed to creating life changes for girls around the world. Their main goals support education, female respect, and giving girls a voice, advocating “for a world where every girl chooses her own future.”
It was a team of girls across the globe that contributed to the Girls’ Bill of Rights. She’s the First paired up with Akili Dada and MAIA, two organizations based in Kenya and Guatemala. They came together to rally an army of advocates to create the bill and over a thousand girls from 34 countries submitted rights they would like to see incorporated into the document. Girls submitted online, or submitted via local organizations. Once these responses were accounted for, a team comprised of 15 girls from all around the world called the Global Girl Panel communicated via WhatsApp to draft their final declaration.
Girls worldwide addressed ten issues where their rights are threatened all around the world. None of these are the issues the Founding Fathers thought to raise, yet they are all equal to or greater than in importance. The bill appears as follows:
All Girls Have The Right To…
A Free, Quality Education Which Prepares Them for the Modern World
Involvement In Decision-Making & Pursuit to Leadership Positions Without Fear of Discrimination, Harassment, or Persecution
Comprehensive Sexual Education & Access to Free, Quality Reproductive Healthcare
Protection From Harmful Traditions & Enjoyment of Positive Cultural Practices
Safety From All Forms of Violence
Decision-Making About Their Body & Sexuality
Protection Under the Law Without Fear or Unequal Treatment
Freedom From Exploitation
Protection from Harmful Traditions
These ideas align with She’s the First’s mission of providing girls with educational and leadership opportunities. They demand essential rights that aren’t given to girls, such as sexual education and access to affordable reproductive healthcare. This includes learning about consent, contraception, and having the ability to seek out services like abortions without facing harsh criticism. Because the Girls’ Bill of Rights also addresses the issue of violence against girls and women.
“At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone FGM (female genital mutilation) in 30 countries where representative data is available.“Girls’ Bill of Rights
Protection from harmful traditions and enjoyment of positive cultural practices allows girls to remain connected to their cultures. This is accomplished without being put through the negative traditions that exist within those cultures. That’s why this bill matters to girls globally, and especially girls who live in deeply misogynistic nations. The Girls’ Bill of Rights gives these marginalized people a voice and it provides a sense of solidarity among girls and women that is deeply necessary in this day and age.
But like Schoolhouse Rock said, this is only a bill. The idea of human rights, as well as legislation to protect them, only exist with a central government to enforce them. And it’s clear that these rights are not protected anywhere in American law. Not while college and healthcare are behind obscene paywalls. Not while documentation and immigration are exclusionary by design. Not while glass ceilings keep us from professional environments and leadership positions. Not while sex education is intentionally as unhelpful as possible. The list goes on and on.
So what good is the bill? Like all others, it’s a symbol, and a central tenet to live around. This should be seen and accepted by everyone, so that it could be used in practice. The site encourages individual “ratification” of the bill, especially if you represent a school or organization. The more this bill is adopted, the more these rights can be seen as an accepted fact. Once they enter the public consciousness, then we can finally create an acceptable, safe, equitable world for ourselves and our youth.
To stand with the girls fighting for their fundamental rights, co-sign the Global Girls’ Bill of Rights using the hashtag #GirlsBillofRights on social media. Come tell your friends, family, teachers, representatives, and everyone else to jump on board to change the world. The times have changed, and it’s well past time for our standards to reflect them.
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