YAY GRACE! Some of the things related to the zero (a clumsy blog layout) were my fault–we had them there but our theme was ugly so I changed it and didn’t fix the other stuff too. That should be resolved now. We’ve created a facebook to our communication can be more rapid-fire in term of meeting times in such. As other discussions that should be included on the blog come up, we’ll make sure they get pasted over. Easily 90% of the discussions have been about how to use wordpress and where to meet, but, as reflected in the blog assessment section, we were also pretty surprised at the zero we received. We did, in fact, document what has been discussed at our group meetings. Much of what came out of them was a nothing in the sense that nothing had been decided for sure and that all we had decided on was to think more. Well, we’ve thought almost a whole month now and it’s time to get real. Grace took the lead and here I go too.
I really want to expand on the research I did while I was abroad and synthesize it. In the first post we did on Sakai, I said that it had to do with “empowerment/activism/civic engagement of adolescent girls to promote sustainable/responsible/grassroots change in their communities.” Reading that today it’s still completely accurate. I want to look at how “empowerment” of young women has been treated. The golden bullet is always education, which is inherently focused on what they can do and be in the future (in Amnesty, we just heard a presentation on Girl Up, whose catchline is “you see a girl, I see the future). However, that does nothing for their present, and, in addition, prepares them only to be integrated into the system that excluded and discriminated against them in the first place. So yes, let’s talk about empowerment, let’s talk about giving an education that builds the skills a girl needs to choose her life, but let’s make that an education for activism that allows them to take matters into their own hands and to question why they’re in the state they’re in in the first place.
To back all this up, I have research from Perú about how former young child domestic workers learned about the conditions that had put them in that position and were able to start projects in their communities to work with other children at risk of the same. They also attended international conferences on the topic, performed, talked to policy makers, and were to coordinate with local leaders as well to take appropriate measures (this was obviously run by an NGO with very good international connections that helped it win a grant from Anti-Slavery International). These girls were all 15-19 years old, I believe. I wrote a case study on the group and analyzed from the perspective of empowering (there’s that word again) actors who have lived or live the issue that one is trying to address. I even emailed Nick to retrieve a Rao/Walton reading from 101.
In Ecuador I researched the civic participation of young women. Surveys showed that young people in general looked favorably on “democracy” but not “government.” There also was a sort of myth around who the ideal citizen is, in most cases an impossible ideal. I researched a little on the history of women in the public sector and on the feminization of the field of economics (not totally pertinent to this, but it’s part of the journey). I learned that in Ecuador, voting is obligatory over the age of 18, but they will actually allow 16-18 year olds an optional vote. In another class, I wrote a proposal, much like the case study I did in Lima, for an organization in Quito that I felt relied on gringo volunteers too much. It was giving to the community but doing nothing to inspire self-driven change. I gave surveys to girls aged 12-18, asking them how they typically spent their time, what they personally would work on in their community, and if they even felt they could make a change and have it be received well (that was an awful run-on).
I have not forgotten Ghana. There, I observed the Girls’ Empowerment and Exploration Club, a club for adolescent girls to encourage them to continue their education on to high school and teach them skills and confidence to be great in whatever way they choose. It was there I think that the spark was lit to work with young women for me.
I have those experiences and readings to pull from as well as a book I read this summer, Rebel Girls, about girl activists in the Americas. It analyzes how they construct their girl/activist identities, how they make decisions, their relationships with adult activists, and much more. I will be pulling a lot from it, especially using its bibliography for further reading.
concern: It’s hard for me sometimes to separate what led me to a research topic from the topic itself, or, in this case too, I kind of have a conclusion already. I might need help solidifying what I focus in on. (this is a call for a help: when/who/where can this be addressed?)
Goal: Sift through Rebel Girls and past research/experiences to figure out what I have.
Goal: Figure out what the “dominating literature” is on girls’ empowerment (and activism?). Do some major JSTOR and Club Phil searches.