Let’s Celebrate International Day of the Girl

Last week, our Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss said the UK shouldn’t be ‘worried like some teenage girl at a party’ about its relationship with the US. A good example of casual, everyday sexism (and yes, women can be sexist – although just in case Dominic Raab is reading, misogyny cannot be directed by women towards men). It shouldn’t be fair game to use negative stereotypes of teenage girls to score a political point.

Today is International Day of the Girl and we’re rejecting negative stereotypes. We are going to celebrate the positive reality of teenage girls in the UK.  For us, as regular readers will know, it’s all about the data. Thanks to stats on safety, mental health, physical health, body image, peer pressure, etc the picture of teenage girls’ lives can often feel depressing. But with huge thanks to Girl Guiding and their annual Girls’ Attitudes survey, there are amazing thing to celebrate.

Let’s celebrate their cleverness. Over 80% of teenage girls achieved a 4/C grade or higher in their GCSE.  This is despite spending their secondary school years in a school environment where sexual harassment is endemic. And despite the fact that 44% having been patronised or made to feel stupid because they are a girl. Teenage girls are resilient, motivated and hard working.

Let’s celebrate their being engaged:  70% of girls say they’ve felt more informed about global issues during the pandemic, including Black Lives Matter, and are now more interested in learning about issues they care about. 65% of girls have been inspired by the example set by teachers and other key workers during the pandemic and 77% of girls have used their time over the last year to take action and help those around them.

Let’s celebrate their wanting to be involved in the big decisions that will shape the future. 85% of girls think that the concerns of young people should be central to Government decisions about the future. 73% say more needs to be done to make politics equal for women and men, with the same proportion saying there should be more opportunities for young people to be involved in politics. Perhaps if there were, we’d have fewer of the snide remarks about teenage girls.

And let’s celebrate their desire to be more active: 82% of girls told Women in Sport that they will put more effort into being fit and active after the pandemic. And in the same survey over half of the girls agreed that being active makes them happier and feel less stressed. They want to be more active: but far too often we offer them nothing for them to be active on.  Which is what Make Space for Girls is all about.

We have some brilliantly positive reactions from councils we’ve engaged with. But we’ve also had some which show a stunning level of stereotyping. One outstanding comment from a woman councillor in the west country was “But what if we ask the girls and they say they want to do their make-up?” 

Which takes us back to the Foreign Secretary comments about teenage girls at parties:  girls are fed up with the stereotypes. As observed by the Girl Guiding Attitudinal Survey:

Girls want an end to the damaging stereotypes that limit their opportunities. They want to be valued for themselves, and not judged or told they have to do certain things because they’re girls.

Let’s be clear, girls in the west country do not want to go to the park to do their make up. But girls do want to be listened to when it comes to the design of the public realm. 82% of girls think that young people should be involved in the design of parks and similar public spaces.  Some people are doing this, for example the fabulous work recently done by The Friends of Rowntree Park (and, spoiler alert, so far they haven’t found any requests for make-up tables). We say that everyone should be doing this.

To quote The Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, who has been doing a lot of listening, today’s teenage girls are heroic. They are part of:

A generation of children who are veterans of a global crisis. They have seen how colossally frightening life can be, far too young, and have made a lot of sacrifices. But they have endured, and are emerging stronger and prematurely wise. Bruised, yes, and in many cases seriously vulnerable, but for the most part, happy, optimistic, and determined.

 As her report shows, they are also part of a generation that wants to be outside, that wants to play. So, let’s celebrate by giving teenage girls  the spaces to do just that.

One Response to “Let’s Celebrate International Day of the Girl

  • Alison Bell
    2 weeks ago

    Fantastic article! Teenage girls are brilliant and it’s lovely to see them celebrated!

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