Girls and women across the world are met with barriers that would not be placed in front of them were they not women.
Plan International is an independent charitable organization which moves to advance and advocate for children’s rights and equality for girls. One of their most well-known and major projects is the Because I Am A Girl initiative. This initiative provides support to girls and women, allowing them opportunities to grow as leaders and challenge the limits wrongfully imposed on them; the initiative helps to send girls to school and fights to put an end to child marriage and gender-based violence.
Girls rights are human rights, and, in a perfect world, would be of interest to all sexes. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Last year, (2018-19) TFS’ own Because I Am A Girl society only had fifteen members, all of whom were female. This was taken note of, and this year, the society’s name, despite the protests of its student leaders, was changed to Champions of Change. This change was made with the wellbeing of boys at school in mind. It was a concern that the society’s former name, Because I Am A Girl, would make some of the boys feel villainized and, further, discourage them from joining the society.
I am a feminist: an advocate for equal rights. I do not disparage or dismiss struggles that boys and men may face and would not want anybody to feel uncomfortable because of the society which seeks to obtain those equal rights. However, I am disturbed by the idea of changing the name of a society which is meant to empower girls to make boys feel more comfortable. Disappointing as it may be, I doubt that the name of the society advocating for girls’ rights is what’s deterring boys from joining. And, even if this were the case, I would argue that it should not be enough to alter the name of the society. If a young boy – aged 11 to 18 – were deeply interested in women’s rights but did not join the society because its name made him feel unwelcome, then the best course of action would be to educate him and assure him that the society is named what it is to advocate for girl’s rights, not to disparage his own. Although Because I Am A Girl encourages boys to join, it is not for boys. The initiative’s purpose is to empower young women, and changing its name to make boys feel more welcome is entirely counter-intuitive and promotes the archaic image of women as passive and placating.
Unsurprisingly, changing the name of the society failed not only to inspire boys to the cause, it failed to involve even as many female members as it had the year preceding. During the school year 2018-19, when the society was known as Because I Am A Girl, it had 15 members – all of whom were female. This year, Champions of Change has 6 members – none of whom are male.
Girls’ rights are in the best interest of everybody, regardless of sex or gender, socioeconomic class, race, or any other personal circumstances. Such is the mindset that must be promoted before we can ever hope to obtain equal rights.