Engaging Girls in Leadership

When encouraging youth engagement and participation in their communities, adult leaders recognize that girls have specific issues such as safety, permission from their families to leave home for meetings, peer relationships, and loss of confidence in self-expression in adolescence. The latter is explored in “Girls Speak: A New Voice in Global Development” (2010). The researchers found girls know what they want but often lack the power to make their own decisions.  Adults who work with youth need training on how to empower them because engaged youth have better outcomes and self-confidence.  The most researched areas are how to involve girls in Participatory Action Research and media campaigns, by youth-serving organizations such as Youth on Board for high school students, founded in 1994 by student organizer Karen Young. Its publications include “15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making.”  Other leadership programs for girls are the YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Alliance, Girls Incorporated, Girls Action Foundation in Canada, Advocates for Youth’s Girls Engagement Advisory Board, Youth United for Global Action and Awareness , The Girl Effect, and the UN’s Working Group on Girls. The Free Child Project gives many examples of youth activist programs and resources around the US, a useful site to learn about how to encourage youth activism  Cascading leadership trains older adolescent girls or young women to lead programs for younger girls. Another organizing tool is Hart’s ladder that diagrams the levels of youth participation from adult manipulation and tokenism to youth-led activities.

Click to access Girls-Speak-A-New-Voice-In-Global-Development.pdf


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