Stories of Girls’ Resistance

Defining girls resistance

From learning to read to writing poetry; from standing on the corner with five people and a couple of signs to joining or leading the masses; from surviving her own girlhood to bringing the next generation into the world; from fighting grand injustice to simply living life on her terms; resistance takes many shapes and forms. Resistance is an act of defiance in the home where she starts to find her voice and validate her power – the moment she grabs the microphone on the street corner, to the conversation she sparks on twitter, in the blogosphere, in real life with her family and friends. First acts of resistance lead to second and third acts building over time, to the moments where girls are sparking, leading and sustaining movements. Resistance is all of this and everything in between, defined and redefined over lifetimes. Throughout it all, the intention is always the same: to create change for ourselves and those around us. To imagine, and therefore inhabit, a different kind of world.

How girls move

Resistance is political and connected to power, how it is framed and how it is practised. In challenging power, girls push back against social injustices.

Power to the people!

After an initial act of defiance, many girls begin to question why things are the way they are, and therefore to ask how things might be made different. In the act of questioning, her view of the world begins to shift, and her identity as a girl comes into focus; relationships are reformed and the systems and structures that govern her life are re-evaluated. It is here that her resistance is most likely to transition from isolated act to sustaining action.

On sisterhood and solidarity

To speak of the collective story of girls’ and their resistance is to speak also of the allies, accomplices, teachers, mentors and guides who have walked with and lifted up girls. Indeed, if girls have been resisting since time immemorial, so have sisters and aunties – and sometimes brothers and uncles – been walking with them too. Solidarity is displayed wherever there is resistance, right where girls are: from the bus fare silently slipped into her pocket so that she can run, to the prized copy of liberatory literature passed from father to daughter, to the invitation into feminist space by movement aunty where her activism begins. Solidarity is a precursor to collective action and people powered movements, but also a site of resistance in and of itself. Indeed, even just to name the role of sisterhood or siblinghood and solidarity is a political act, a counter to the dominant narrative of the single girl leader that so proliferates formalised spaces, and a living example of a different kind of way to be together in the world.

The personal is political

As girls ask why, they seek out answers beyond themselves: in the words and wisdom of others; in books and films; in mythology and popular narrative. Other girls, not yet in conscious relationship with oppression, stumble across a word, a phrase, a book, a space, a place that opens up a whole new way of looking at the world. A portal into a politicised existence. No matter where or how she finds them, spaces of consciousness raising and political education are an essential entrypoint for – or next step in – girls’ journeys of resistance.

When a girl asks why

After an initial act of defiance, many girls begin to question why things are the way they are, and therefore to ask how things might be made different. In the act of questioning, her view of the world begins to shift, and her identity as a girl comes into focus; relationships are reformed and the systems and structures that govern her life are re-evaluated. It is here that her resistance is most likely to transition from isolated act to sustaining action.

Little fires everywhere

Across the stories, we see myriad examples of resistance born as an act of defiance and survival. It is in this very first moment of push back that resistance can be understood as a human instinct and a biological imperative. To be a girl is to resist.

From violence to power

Everywhere that girls are living through and surviving violence, so too are there girls who are finding ways to survive, to defy, to push back, to organise.

Surviving collective violence

collective violence

From Syria to Sudan, Afghanistan to Armenia, Sri Lanka to Sierra Leone, from the occupied territories of the United States to Palestine, girls are living through civil war and armed conflict, dictatorship, displacement, occupation, restrictive environments and repressive regimes. While collective violence affects all those who live through it, there are clear examples present in all of the stories of the very distinct impacts on girls. Indeed in many of these contexts, just to be a girl is deemed as a threat.

Structural and cultural violence

Underpinning and reinforcing interpersonal violence are the systems and structures of patriarchy, imperialism and white supremacist violence that shape girls personal experiences, underlying belief systems and the apparatus of their communal lives. From the crushing every day weight of white supremacy and racism to the colonialism and explicit anti-Blackness activists face in organisations globally – the continuum of racism shows up across her life and her resistance trajectory. Homophobia and transphobia are often defined by early experiences of internalised shame and rejection – where girls are forced to deny or hide their true selves – and the very real risk of physical violence, isolation and rejection when they are discovered or dare to speak out.