The emergence of the project
This project emerged through a collective recognition that girls’ stories are often told about and without girls, often erasing the complexity and fierceness of their stories, and sometimes contributing to narratives that can be harmful to their very existence. It emerged through a collective intention and knowing that girls have the right to author and tell their own stories.
The project was sparked through countless gatherings and conversations with girls, their allies and partners across the girls’ funding ecosystem, including a convening of the Girls Funds, a cohort of organisations working across movements to deepen their support to girls; a gathering of movement leaders who work with and for girls in East Africa; and conversations with girls, and their allies, across the United States.
This project is the fruit of more than ten years of groundbreaking work of the former Adolescent Girls portfolio. Initially birthed by Jody Myrum and Dr.Ramatu Bangura during their time at the NoVo Foundation, and in close collaboration with Rosa Bransky.
Quickly after the idea emerged, Ruby Johnson was invited to join the global project team, she had just transitioned from FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, and had collaborated closely with Jody and Ramatu in their roles at NoVo.
Feminist researchers, storytellers and friends across different regions were invited to be regional Story Curators to root the project in each region.
Activists, artists, story weavers, documenters and translators supported its emergence over the last four years. Since its seeding, the process has been collectively held with shared intention, attention and feminist friendship.
Key moments in the process
Launched in 2019, the project has adapted, transformed and shifted over time.
The process of collectively weaving the Stories of Girls’ Resistance is non-linear and toiled with love, care and rage. It spans through a pandemic, uprisings, grief and isolation, losing people, giving birth, shedding political homes to find new ones, letting go, and building and rebuilding communities.
Seeded in 2019, this project brought together regional curators, who collected over 150 stories from different corners of the world within a few months. And, culminated in a deep dive analysis convening in New York City with an exhibit of the stories in November 2019 at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The first phase was fast-paced and intense.
As the world submerged into a global pandemic, the following years were spent in community with the Story Curators and the project team, sense-making, immersing ourselves in the stories and working with artists to bring them to life. New curators were invited to weave in stories from the Pacific and Disability Justice movements, and the phase of deep analysis unfolded.
In 2022, as the world started to open up, we began to share the stories with our communities in local events, global online spaces, publications, campaigns, and podcasts. In November 2022, we held a launch in Oaxaca, Mexico. And, in 2023, we launched the book and continue to hold community spaces across the world to share how girls are changing the world. This is only the beginning.
Methodology: a site of political action and feminist praxis
This project is a site of political action – of feminist praxis – in the best traditions of activist scholarship in and of itself. Grounded in global South-rooted feminist epistemologies, in particular, that of narrative knowing, oral herstory and counter-storytelling. Narrative knowledge is created and constructed through the stories of lived experience and the (collective) sense-making of those stories.
Oral history as a methodology offers an opportunity to make available data and history from those who have been most often marginalised or whose voices are silenced or ignored in traditional knowledge production. Such shared processes of meaning-making offer valuable insight into the complexity of human lives, cultures, and behaviours – in this case, into the hidden social history of girls’ resistance across place and time.
In these methodologies, who is doing the research is important. The deliberate decision to collaborate with regionally rooted story curators and collectors is directly linked to feminist knowledge production, where the idea of a ‘neutral’ interviewer is rejected in favour of a narrative that is produced through the dialogical relationship between curator and storyteller, storyteller and story-collector. This aligns with Indigenous storytelling practices, which affirm that the subjectivity of peoples’ experiences is both politically and intellectually valid.
Storytelling is a powerful tool of resistance. Stories remind us that we’re dealing with people’s lives, not data and concepts – so we have to embrace their complexity and messiness, rather than avoid it. Storytelling is also a wonderful way to understand what can actually bring about change. If you ask people who are directly affected by patriarchal oppressions to tell you about their agency rather than their suffering, you get a much better understanding of what the issues are, and you can come up with more impactful solutions.