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Claudia Mitchell

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Hopeful, Harmless, and Heroic

Figuring the Girl Activist as Global Savior

Jessica K. Taft

Abstract

There has been a notable increase in the public visibility of girl activists in the past ten years. In this article, I analyze media narratives about several individual girl activists to highlight key components of the newly desirable figure of the girl activist. After tracing the expansion of girl power discourses from an emphasis on individual empowerment to the invocation of girls as global saviors, I argue that girls are particularly desirable figures for public consumption because the encoding of girls as symbols of hope helps to resolve public anxieties about the future, while their more radical political views are managed through girlhood's association with harmlessness. Ultimately, the figure of the hopeful and harmless girl activist hero is simultaneously inspirational and demobilizing.

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The Inheritance of Activism

Does Social Capital Shape Women's Lives?

Supriya Baily, Gloria Wang, and Elisabeth Scotto-Lavino

Abstract

In the call for proposals for this special issue, activist networks were defined as virtual or in person communities devoted to social change. The impact for girls active in these networks has been shown to promote identity development and de-marginalization/empowerment/reclamation of political spaces where girls are marginalized, intergenerational collaboration among women, and community building among feminists. In this study, we seek to explore how women at different generational points reflect on and remember their engagement in social activism. Understanding how these generational shifts affect the impact of social capital on the lives of these women and the changes we might see as they mature into leaders will provide a platform to better understand the influence of belonging to such networks during girlhood.

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Negotiating Girl-led Advocacy

Addressing Early and Forced Marriage in South Africa

Sadiyya Haffejee, Astrid Treffry-Goatley, Lisa Wiebesiek, and Nkonzo Mkhize

Abstract

Increasingly, researchers and policymakers recognize the ability of girls to effect social change in their daily lives. Scholars working across diverse settings also acknowledge the key influence of individual, family, and societal structures on such activism. Drawing on our work with girls in a participatory visual research project in a rural community in South Africa, we consider examples of partnership and collaboration between the adult research team and the young participants. We highlight their agency in mobilizing adults to partner and support community and policy change to address traditional practices of early and forced marriage in this setting. We conclude that collaborative engagement with adults as partners can support activism and advocacy led by girls in contexts of traditional leadership.

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Passing the Talking Stick

Resilience-Making through Storytelling

Tammy Williams

Young Indigenous Women's Utopia. 2019. Treaty 6 Traditional Homeland of the Metis People (Saskatoon, SK): Self-published with support from York University, McGill University, and Networks for Change and Well-being: Girl-led ‘from the ground up’ Policy Making to Address Sexual Violence in Canada and South Africa. To order a copy email yiwutopia@gmail.com

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Personal, Powerful, Political

Activist Networks by, for, and with Girls and Young Women

Catherine Vanner and Anuradha Dugal

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Emily Bent

Abstract

Stories about girl activism circulate as exceptional narratives of individual girl power causing intergenerational partnerships and community collaborations to become invisible and apparently unnecessary to girl activist efforts. At the same time, practitioner-scholars attest that sharing authentic stories about intergenerational feminist praxis is difficult to do since it requires us to write with intentional vulnerability exposing the failures and tensions inherent to girl activism networks. In this article, I provide an autoethnographic exploration of the intergenerational processes involved with organizing Girls Speak Out for the International Day of the Girl at the United Nations. I draw inspiration from Lauren J. Silver's methodological remix of youth-centered activism, and in doing so, reassess the impact and experience of leveraging girls’ political voices in spaces of normative power.

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Sakai Magara

Activist Girl of Early Twentieth Century Japan

Barbara Hartley

Abstract

In this article, I profile the activism of 18-year-old Sakai Magara (1903–1985). I focus in particular on her role in the Sekirankai (Red Wave Society), which was a short-lived women's political organization formed in April 1921 and aligned directly with socialist and anti-capitalist worker issues. My discussion draws on three principal sources: contemporaneous accounts of the Society; writings by women with whom Magara collaborated; and the words of Magara herself. I pay attention to Magara's contribution to Sekirankai, the influences on the development of her activism, and the barriers to political participation by girls and women in Japan.

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Shapeshifters

Black Girls and the Choreography of Citizenship

Jennifer Bethune

Aimee Meredith Cox. 2015. Can Citizenship Care? Black Girls Reimagining Citizenship. Durham, NC, Duke University Press.

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Towards a Fairer Future

An Activist Model of Black Girl Leadership

Courtney Cook

Abstract

In the study on which this article is based, I examine the correlation between the number of Black girls in leadership programs and the number of Black female leaders in nonprofit organizations. I carried out research on Black girl leadership to understand the shortcomings of programs meant to teach Black girls appropriate leadership skills and I conducted interviews with female leaders to determine the hurdles faced by Black women trying to obtain leadership roles in the nonprofit sector. My findings show that there is a disconnect between Black and white women in leadership roles and that impediments for Black women affect leadership prospects for Black girls. This article is a call to create an activist model that supports the professional trajectories of Black girls.