Recently, I have been trying to spend as much time as possible at our summer camp, observing programs and talking to girls about what they’re learning. I especially enjoyed sitting in on the Female Authors program that the girls participated in during the first two weeks of camp.
One day during Female Authors, the 12-14 year-old girls were discussing Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The girls were especially interested in the fact that she wrote about slavery. One of the girls, Rae, said she thought Stowe was important not only because she was a female writer, but because “she wrote about an important topic.”
From there, the conversation quickly shifted to human rights, and the human rights issues that the girls believe exist today. Each girl picked a topic she was passionate about, and then wrote a brief essay about it. They explained why human rights issue concerned them, and what they thought they could do to change it—and then they had the opportunity to share their essays out loud.
Girls wrote about racism, sexual discrimination in the workplace, educational inequality, female infanticide, the over-sexualization of women in the media, human trafficking, child brides, and more. I don’t think I even knew that most of those things existed when I was 12, but these girls were well-informed about injustice—and unhappy about it. “We’re all people,” said one girl. Another girl said, “I just don’t understand how people could do some of these things.”
As the girls read, I was impressed not only by their knowledge of human rights issues that people face throughout the world, but also by the compassion and ingenuity they showed when they discussed how they could help create positive change. Some girls wanted to start their own nonprofits in the future, and others talked about doing research and writing something that would inform more people about human rights issues. Ceymone, who wrote about human trafficking, said “I think that right now, I could make bracelets, and then sell them to raise money to give to a group that helps fight against that kind of thing.”
Too often, you hear that young people don’t care about anyone but themselves, but conversations like this showed me that our Girls Inc. girls are certainly proving those people wrong. In fact, considering how passionate these girls were about creating positive social change, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them receive a Touchstone Award someday!