Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tonight's NOW-NYC Event

If you are in the NYC area and want to hear more about GEMS and our work on the Safe Harbor Act, come on out to tonight's event:

EVENT: Mean Streets: NY Teens Caught in the Sex Trade
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 6:30 PM -8:45 PM
LOCATION: LGBT Community Center, 208 W. 13th Street

6:45-7:45 PM Showing of the Oxygen Network's episode on commercial sexual exploitation Who Cares About Girls?

7:45 PM-8:45 PM Panel Discussion including:
Patti Binder, Deputy Director of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS),
Lori B. Iskowitz, Senior Trial Counsel, Assistant Deputy Borough Chief in the Family Court Division of the NYC Law Department,
Katherine Mullen, Attorney, Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Division,
Jo Rees, Deputy Executive Director of Friends of Island Academy,
Lise Zumwalt, Producer of the film.

The discussion will by moderated by NOW-NYC President, Sonia Ossorio.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Girls and Sexism

Bloggers across the intertubes covered the release of the study "Perceived Experiences with Sexism Among Adolescent Girls" now in the May/June issue of Child Development, (Vol. 79, Issue 3) Of course Feministing, Our Bodies Our Blog , a blog in LA on sexual harassment attorneys covered the news, but so did WebMD and in their news section, no less, not in their blog.

So to girls and former girls everywhere, the news that girls experience sexism is not really news, but the stats about the way girls experience it across race and age are definately worth checking out (all links above go to the relevant stats).

Further, the study finds that
Girls who had been exposed to feminist ideas, either through the media or an adult such as a mother or teacher, were more likely to identify and report sexist behavior than were girls who had no information about feminism.

Many girls' programs provide girls with an opportunity to experience feminist ideas, although I'd say that the ideas are not always explicitly labeled as feminist, but certainly the notion that harassment is wrong, or that girls should be confident, should be a staple of good girls' programming. And my favorite programs address harassment and sexism head on.

Make your travel plans now for these upcoming A$$kicking events:

Third Annual Gender Equality Festival on July 19th in Brooklyn

The 5th Anniversary GiRL FeST Hawaii
Nov. 7th - 15th 2008!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Opinions on the Texas Polygamy Ruling

Yesterday I posted about the Appeals Court in Texas overturning the custody decision. In response, I received some great comments from WGFG reader and friend, Ben. I only have a quick minute to post this morning so please check out what Ben has to say below:

I am conflicted about this whole case. I absolutely condemn the sexual abuse that is occurring in this community, as well as the mental, emotional, and (in all likelihood) physical abuse. As the survivor of a cult, I know firsthand how damaging such an experience can be. Thankfully in my case the worst things that were physically done to me in the name of religion were not getting immunized until I was a teenager, and a couple of hard spankings.

However, I do think that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services responded poorly to the situation. They have a history of mismanagement; and I'm not surprised, though I am disappointed, that they screwed this up too. Essentially, TX DFPS ran afoul of some of the core beliefs of this nation.

In this country we have decided that religious freedom permits almost any behavior. We also have decided as a nation that parents may raise their kids in whatever way they deem appropriate, short of actual physical or sexual abuse. It seems to me that trying to argue that, while child X has not yet been abused, their environment is conducive to abuse is likely very difficult to prove under current law. Yet that seems to be exactly what TX DFPS has argued, in most cases. The impression I get from the news is that the sexual abuse of FLDS girls does not really start until they are married too young. Of course one should recognize that the mental and emotional abuse of both girls and boys starts much, much earlier. Yet for the most part this early abuse does not concern the state, under our current system of law (as I understand it).

Remember also that Texas allows children as young as 16 to be married with their parents consent (easily given in this situation), and even younger with a court order. If the FLDS controls an entire town including the courts and law enforcement, as they did in Hildale Utah, how difficult would it be to legitimize these marriages (leaving aside the polygamy for the moment)?

I think this case is a very good argument for changing the way we think through these sorts of cases. But I won't pretend to know how best to formulate our response. Religious freedom is one of the ideas that have made this nation great, and consenting adults should be free to do whatever the heck they want. But when vulnerable populations are affected, who cannot consent to what is done to them, then I believe some restrictions on religious freedom are necessary. That belief is the first step. I'm not sure what the second is.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh No! Bad News for Girls in Texas!

I just got this news from the New York Times:

Appeals Court Overturns Sect Custody Decision

Child welfare officials had no right to seize hundreds of
children from the polygamist sect, a Texas appellate court

Read More

I am in complete disagreement with the Appeals Court. I think that going into the sect was one of the boldest moves for children, especially girls, that have been made in a long time. This is not about polygamy or freedom of religion, this is about child sexual abuse that is institutional and criminal if done under any other circumstance.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Contribute New York!

Check out in the January/February issue of Contribute New York Magazine: the people and the ideas of giving. Not only does What Good for Girls get a shout out (wahoo!)under the column Benefit Blogs but the issue is packed with articles on women, girls and philanthropy-- swoon worthy stuff!

Find articles on the whether the Dove campaign is cashing in on self esteem, human trafficking in Cambodia and the Harlem based girls organization Groove With Me .

Crawl through their website for nuggets like a forum on youth and philanthropy and an interview with Abigail Disney and the Women Moving Millions campaign.

New York Womens Foundation breakfast Strikes Again

Today I had the privilege to attend the New York Womens Foundation breakfast as a grantee partner representative for the second year. Given how I felt about last year's event, I wondered what they could possibly to do to top it. And I wondered-- how much will they raise? As a result of Abigail Disney's pitch, they raised over 2.65 million dollars through the event and her challenge grant.

But they did top it. Sitting proudly between my fellow grantee representatives from Fierce and Girls for Gender Equity, when I wasn't downing the coffee (7AM start!!!) I was I wiping the tears from eyes. A sucker for all things that demonstrate the connectedness among women, I was amazed at the way this event makes a room full of 2500 women, most of them who outearn me by multiples, made me feel like I was in the companion of people who care about the things I care about.

From the all girl marching band to grantee speeches to awards to Marie Wilson and Christine Amanpour, the program was incredibly moving. But the most touching was the award to the Acholi women from Meeting Point International in Uganda. In Uganda, they make their living by breaking stone into gravel. When they heard about Hurricane Katrina, they raised $1,000 and sent to displaced victims in Houston. When a few of the women received the award this moring, they said that we are all of one heart, that we belong to them because they belong to somebody. As someone loved them, they love us.

I travelled to Tanzania the July before Hurricane Katrina to work with women from Ukewere on the Girls Talk! Tanzania conference. Making a living wage through manual labor is a hard life anywhere but in rural Africa, the women I met come home to build a fire, cook a meal, feed their children with no electricity and a baby on the hip. I met an elementary school principal during my visit who told me about the hard time they have attracting and retaining teachers. When I told him, "Oh us too!" He waited a moment and chose his words, saying "I never thought that you and I would share the same problems."

Living in Manhattan, it's easy to forget that we are all connected, not by the internet or text messages, or the ability to teleconference, but by our ability to give. This morning's breakfast reminded me not why I go to work every day (that's easy for me) but why I give money and time to the organizations I love and why it's so vitally important that I do, especially when its hard and I feel stretched thin.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Romona Moore's Mother Fights for Herself

It's a profoundly sad Mother's Day for Elle Carmichael, whose daughter, Romona Moore, is dead. She left for Burger King 5 years ago and instead was kidnapped, brutally tortured, killed and left under a van. The Village Voice covered her story about what it means to be young, black, and missing, and how her mother, Elle Carmichael, fought to find her.

I wish I could say that I am surprised that a young black woman can get kidnapped and that no one will notice, or that she could be seen by a visitor, and not reported, or that her mother could go to the cops, and they would not take her seriously. I am not.

Although Romona Moore was 21 when she was killed-- her story is a cautionary tale for teen girls of color, and for those who care about them. When white girls go missing, there are Amber Alerts and media frenzies. What happens when girls of color go missing? The Village Voice story is one of very few I've seen providing in depth coverage. The realities of life for girls of color, particular those in low income neighborhoods, is often drastically different from their white counterparts. When and how does girls programming take this into account? I'm interested in feedback from folks working with girls about how you handle the real differences between girls.

For more about girls and women who are black and missing
and for commentary, check out what about our daughters

And props to my own Mom, who instilled in me a sense of a social justice at a very early age. I know she'll be outraged about Romona.

Additional coverage: Elle Carmichael won the right to sue the NYPD

Check out the New York City Council briefing from 2004 on the NYPD's handling of missing person's cases which centers on Romona's case.

NY Times 2006 coverage notes Romona's case didn't draw the same media interest as Svetlana Aronov or Imette St. Guillen. It's worth noting that neither Svetala or Imette were under 21 (one of the criteria for missing persons cases as noted in the above Council briefing) but that the media covered their stories, leading to increased pressure to pursue their cases.