At a time when we face so many serious problems around the world—including violence, war, injustice, climate crisis and a rolling back of women’s rights and social justice issues—one untapped force for change that is often misrepresented and made almost invisible is the incredible potential and power of girls’ resistance and activism. It is in that spirit that sparked a new body of work, a website and book called Stories of Girls’ Resistance, the largest global collection of oral and narrative history of adolescent girls’ activism, which brings together over 150 individual stories from girls, women, and non-binary people ages 11 to 70 from over 90 countries across the world.
Initially created by Dr. Ramatu Bangura, executive director of the Children’s Rights Innovation Fund, Rosa Bransky, cofounder and co-CEO of Purposeful, and Jody Myrum, cofounder of Our Collective Practice, senior strategist at Purposeful and fellow at Shake the Table, the 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.”
“Girls are positioned as passive victims in need of saving or as heroines standing up against all odds in a single act of defiance,” Myrum explains. “These narratives are radically different from girls’ lived experiences and disconnect them from their power and the resistance strategies they use daily to navigate the world around them. They also don’t reflect the incredible work girls are doing around the world to spark, lead and sustain social transformation, leaving this work starved for resources and exacerbating the violence and oppression girls face.”
Seeing that the existing inaccurate narratives were driving resources and support structures that were failing girls, Bangura, Bransky and Myrum wanted to provide a counter narrative, “one deeply grounded in the stories of girls across time, place, identity and social justice struggles,” says Bransky. “Stories of Girls’ Resistance unpacks why girls resist, how they resist and the profound impacts their resistance has had on the world, really since time began.”
As Bangura put it, “We wanted to capture a wide range of stories and experiences that would celebrate girls and their power. We wanted to capture the complexity, beauty, resilience, resourcefulness and mundanity of girls’ lives and resistance as a starting point for shaping the work we seek to do with and for them.