Embodying what they imagine:
The principles and tactics underpinning girls’ resistance
Girls’ organising is
organic, informal, formal
and everything in between
There is not a singular way girls organise and girls are constantly reimagining new ways of being and working collectively – from the informal to formal and everything in between. Some collective resistance is sparked in response to a particular social or geographic context or catalytic event, lending toward an informal structure. Many choose to remain informal for both practical and political reasons, and very often as a way to remain safe in this work. Many will remain unregistered and opt for a more flat or decentralised rotating leadership structure. Some sparks of resistance become ongoing campaigns or formations such as collectives, groups, or organisations.
Self-led organising is critical in shaping and supporting the emergence of girls’ resistance, and girl-led spaces provide brave and safe spaces for girls’ autonomy to emerge. While they can start to take on more organised or formalised elements, often, girl-led collectives aim to disrupt more traditional models of organisations and hierarchical leadership models, redefining parameters of collective work and horizontal decision making. Girls’ resistance can not easily be boxed and is not necessarily linear, but it is deeply embedded in personal experience and local context.
I started to look around. Who is up to organise something. I know my friends will not do this and I will never ask them because they love this regime and I know that. So I was like – oh my god, I need to find people to work with, I need to find groups. I started to look around and I found actually – I found a lot of groups, I met a lot of people who all of them right now are my best friends. We started to organise demonstrations in the street and other peaceful activities like distribute flowers with a small letter – what the demonstrations are for, what is our demand, what is our request, why we are doing this? We aren’t people who want to destroy the country, we’re people who want to build this country.
My resistance started as spontaneous, but observing all the social issues, especially stereotypes against girls and early marriage made me realise that my resistance needs to be organised. I started joining groups of activists and participating in activism events. I want to join organisations and be part of organised groups, but I also need to study as well. If I had the opportunity to be part of an organisation that supports volunteers I would join it right away.
We coordinated Free to Run in Iraq. In September 2018, the first group I worked with were girls from Mosul who were displaced due to the war with Daesh/ISIS and Syrian girls who were refugees, both lived in the refugee camps. They came from very traditional families, almost backwards, who thought it was ok to marry their daughters off, that girls shouldn’t leave the camp, that girls don’t need to study. So the refugee camp organisers gave us suggestions for girls we could recruit. We visited the camp maybe 10 times to meet with their parents just to raise their awareness. Their families finally agreed and the first group of girls was made up of 7 Iraqi girls and 13 Syrian girls. In terms of the Syrian girls, it was easier to recruit, their families were more open minded. We brought the two groups together and introduced them to one another. The sessions were led by an American trainer and included teaching them life skills and we had a full curriculum that focused on games and activities that taught them leadership, critical thinking, communication skills, and the value of contributing to the community. Over time, the girls started to form bonds and friendships. They started to build trusting relationships and also began to build confidence in themselves. They created Facebook groups and whats app groups to stay in touch. The program would include 4 sessions a week, two of them were running classes and every Friday we’d take them hiking in the mountains. The hiking was one of the most important activities, it gave them the physical space to open up and liberate themselves. They saw such wide open spaces, it was as though they got to feel liberated from the camp.
I think when Mamyglos was a couple of months old, and the girls founded it as an informal initiative, and they started getting some media coverage and doing workshops, and they did their first workshop in my city, and afterwards it just ended up feeling like a place that I wanted to be a part of. I wasn’t that much engrossed in feminist topics back then; I had some opinions, I knew something, but I wasn’t really doing anything about it yet – and that workshop changed it. And afterwards I joined them.
I currently live in Jocotenango, Sacatepéquez. The platform is here in Antigua Guatemala in a Municipality near Jocotenango. I also participate in another organisational space called the Council of Indigenous Youth of Guatemala; we are an organisation of indigenous youth, where we have worked on the topic of political training. We are not NGOs in either space, nor do we have financing, but there have been spaces that have served us for self-training, also to generate spaces for other young people, also to support other young people to participate in other training spaces, you know that sometimes there are young people who are not organised, but sometimes to have access to certain training spaces they need support from an organisation and we have also helped in supporting young people in other spaces like that in the case of the same organisation that I was telling you about the indigenous youth.
Yes leadership. I am not working alone in my community. I have a group. When we work in group, various ideas stem up. The work proceeds properly. And those who listen, then what I spoke remains effective. Like if one is speaking, six others are also speaking. There are 10 girls in my group.o we all together discuss any problems, etc.