Issues facing girls across the world have increasing been the topic of global projects, and indeed adverts, from the United Nations to Nike, suggesting that girls can (and should) be able to achieve much in life. While making the realities of life as a girl forefront in the mass media and social policy is something that should be celebrated, the message of these projects are not always as supportive as they first seem.
Ofra Kaufman, a researcher with the Essex HealthWatch, presented a thought-provoking account of some of these initiatives, particularly the Girl Up campaign which is currently receiving much press coverage, at a recent Global Girls research gathering in Manchester, England. Ofra highlighted the campaign’s suggestion that American girls, unlike their sisters in the developing countries, are free and equal within their society, and able to use this freedom and power to help and ultimately liberate their repressed sisters of the Southern Hemisphere.
What do you think about this Girl Up advert? Are the lives of girls really like this?
By placing American girls in opposition to girls in developing countries, this campaign denies the continuing issues of gender inequality that exist within America and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Women in America continue to experience gender discrimination in the workplace and in education. They continue to battle a gender pay gap and a commonly sexist media, which belittles women, in particular those in positions of political or economic power.
As Ofra concluded at the end of her talk, the way forward lies in a movement away from stereotyping and assumptions, and towards campaigns that create understanding about different ways of lives. Gender equality is an issue in all countries, whether it reveals itself in sexual violence or misogynistic media representations. We all need to recognise that we have some way to go, and that we need to support each other, honestly and openly, in order to achieve change.
For more information on female representation in the American media, watch Miss Representation, available for free on Netflix.
– Sarah Raine
Girl Museum Inc.
Girl Up is a campaign dedicated to supporting United Nations programs which seek to provide adolescent girls worldwide with greater educational, economic and social opportunities. Partnering up with like-minded organisations such as UNICEF (United Nations Children‚Äôs Fund), UN Women, WHO (World Health Organisation) and many more, Girl Up is concerned with enacting social change in those countries where it is hardest to be a girl. This is achieved through providing basic health and educational skills for girls so they may lead a life full of opportunity and free of violence and inequality.
Helping to fund and support those agencies allows the some 600 million adolescent girls across the globe to take control of their own lives. Girl Up sees the wider picture in that when you invest in a girl, you invest in the future of her family, her community and our world.