In honor of the National Bill of Rights Day, I want to honor the Girls’ Bill of Rights. The Girls’ Bill of Rights represents a list of rights, that should be a given, but are still not extended to all girls. Therefore, Girls Inc. continues to work toward ensuring all girls enjoy these rights. As a Girls Inc. staff member, I wanted to reflect on how I have enjoyed these rights over my lifetime, and vow to spend my time helping Greater Indianapolis girls do the same.
1. I have the right to be myself and resist gender stereotypes. As a young girl, I decided to quit softball to play co-ed soccer. As I got older, I wanted to play against the boys, because I wanted to prove that I could keep up on the field with anyone. In high school, I opted for the Advanced Placement courses in Chemistry and Physics, as well as completing a college-level course in Anatomy and Physiology. Although I did not believe I would ever pursue a science-related career, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of succeeding in those courses.
2. I have the right to express myself with originality and enthusiasm. From my mismatched clothes as an elementary schooler to my anti-fashion years in high school and college, I have always found it important to express myself on my own terms. I would venture to guess my family and friends would say I do a pretty good job of expressing myself enthusiastically. Since my final year in college I have used my voice to speak out about injustices in our world.
3. I have the right to take risks, to strive freely, and to take pride in success. I am not much of a risk-taker, but I will say I took a risk in postponing graduate school to stay in my undergraduate program and take courses that interested me but did not benefit my career options. In doing so, I found a passion that ended up propelling me toward graduate school and nonprofit work, rather than my initial interest in political science and public opinion. I have always been humble, and do not call attention to my successes, however, I am proud to have two bachelor’s and two master’s degrees completed before age 30.
4. I have the right to accept and appreciate my body. I am still working on my expression of this right. I have struggled, like many women, to accept my body the way it is. This struggle has been going on since I was 14, and I hope to one day think more positively about myself. While I encourage girls to be proud of who they are on the inside, I sometimes still need to remind myself to do the same.
5. I have the right to have confidence in myself and to be safe in the world. I believe it is critical that women and girls feel safe and be safe everywhere they go. Women and girls should not feel unsafe walking down the street, attending a social gathering, or in their own homes. The fight continues to preserve this right for girls and women alike.
6. I have the right to prepare for interesting work and economic independence. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been afforded to explore the kind of work I wanted to pursue as a career. While I initially thought I wanted to be a political science professor and shape the minds of young college students, I changed my own mind. After learning about the suffering of women and girls around the world, as well as in my own backyard, I decided that I needed to do something more. I recognized that while I enjoy this right myself, I cannot say the same for my sisters.
And so the work continues to celebrate these rights for myself, and to fight to extend these rights to all women and girls.