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GIF in Seneca Falls
Girls’ Declaration of Sentiments
On July 19, 1998 fifteen girls from GIF presented the Girls' Declaration of sentiments at Seneca Falls on the annivesary of the Womens' Declaration of Sentiments.

Fifteen girls, ages 8-18, created a Girls' Declaration of Sentiments in Seneca Falls, New York on July 16-19, 1998. The girls, hailing from thirteen different states, were brought to Seneca Falls by Girls International Forum, a non-profit organization affiliated with New Moon Magazine for Girls.

Modeled after the original Declaration of Sentiments developed in Seneca Falls 150 years ago by suffragists, the Girls' Declaration defines an agenda for the Girls Movement, just as the Declaration of 1848 defined an agenda for the first wave of the Women's Movement. The Girls' Declaration focuses on 8 areas of concern and proposed solutions.

The Girls' Declaration was unveiled at the Closing Ceremony of Celebrate '98, the sesquicentennial celebration of the First Women's Rights Convention, and received a standing ovation. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Nancy Rubin, accepted the Girls' Declaration on behalf of the U.S. government and pledged to share the document with both the Clinton administration and the United Nations.

Preamble
When, in the course of human events, girls are denied the rights and respect they are entitled to, it becomes necessary for girls everywhere to take action to improve their everyday lives.

We believe that all people--women, men, girls and boys--are created equal. We all have certain rights as people, and it is up to all of us to make sure that these rights are respected and protected. When our society doesn’t recognize these rights, changes must occur. Change should not be made without good reason, but the state of our society compels us to work for change. The rights of girls have not been respected. To gain this respect, we must speak out to declare our independence and explain our reasons for doing so.


SPORTS

Facts: Girls have been denied equal access to some sports, positions, and resources. The little attention and encouragement girls receive is frustrating. Girls have been excluded from leadership roles, decreasing their capacity to participate fully as athletes.

Solutions: Girls need to speak out. Girls can create coalitions, push to be included in all sports, or create their own teams. The adults in girls’ lives should encourage them with persistent support. Title IX should be more widely recognized, enforced, and expanded in all communities.

MEDIA/SELF-ESTEEM

Facts: Girls feel they must fit into an image the media has created. When they don’t, they often lose their self-esteem. This loss causes many girls to be more vulnerable to peer pressure which can lead to substance abuse, eating disorders, teenage sex, pregnancy, and other problems.

Solutions: The media should promote the beauty of all girls regardless of size, shape, or ethnicity. Girls should take the initiative to be healthier, think positively about themselves, and look for the good things in life. Girls can find support from people in similar situations, mentors, and youth organizations. Girls must take action by forming groups, writing letters, and protesting against the media’s distorted images of girls.

EMPLOYMENT

Facts: Girls and women have the right to physically demanding or mentally challenging jobs if they choose. They have the right to earn 100 percent of what boys and men earn. Girls and women have the right to a combination of family and career. They have the right to be hired based on capabilities, not on appearance. Girls have the right to work comfortably without fearing sexual harassment.

Solutions: To accomplish these goals, girls must stand up for themselves. They should help each other understand the problems they face. Girls should stay positive and strong while fighting this peaceful battle for equality.

VIOLENCE

Facts: Violence and abuse occur everywhere in this nation, limiting girls’ independence to fully explore the world around them. Sexual harassment and other kinds of abuse happen in schools and in some families, lowering the self-esteem of the abused or the threatened

Solutions: Girls and their communities should make sure that social services and police are accessible and available, and that all people know how to reach them. The federal government should create a national toll-free hotline that includes teenagers who have experienced these issues.

EDUCATION

Facts: The educational system focuses on men. Not seeing women in leadership positions in history books and in schools gives girls the impression that women are not able to lead as well as men. In school, many teachers and counselors fail to encourage girls to take non-traditional classes such as high-level math and science classes, weightlifting, auto mechanics, and others. When they do take those classes, girls are often ridiculed for enrolling. Boys are allowed to be outspoken in class, while girls are expected to be quiet and self-controlled, leading girls to believe that what they think or say does not matter.

Solutions: Girls should communicate with teachers, counselors, parents, and others about their educational rights. If this approach fails, girls must write out their concerns and present them to higher authorities such as principals, school boards, superintendents, or state departments of education.

RELIGION

Facts: Many religions teach girls during childhood that only men are meant to be ministers, priests, rabbis, and leaders of congregations. Boys and men are able to participate more fully and are celebrated more often in many religions.

Solutions: Girls must challenge their religions and question the limits on their participation. Girls must examine their own beliefs to make sure that what they believe in is what they stand up for. Society should not assume that God has a specific gender.

PARENTS

Facts: Most parents are overprotective of their daughters because of problems like rape and kidnapping, but parents don’t object to their sons staying out late. Parents often limit girls’ freedom, subconsciously using bribery as a blindfold. They often give their daughters more clothes and money, disguising the truth that they are limiting their daughters’ freedom.

Solutions: Parents should consider setting curfews, allowance, and chores by responsibility and age, instead of by gender. Girls should challenge their parents and society to make their surroundings a safe place to live.

STEREOTYPING

Facts: Society generates stereotypes about girls that categorize, suppress, pressure and make assumptions based on girls’ past traditions. Examples of stereotypes that narrow how girls define themselves include the assumptions that girls should dress a certain way, look pretty, and be quiet, feminine, and pure. Girls have the right to be considered physically equal to boys. They have the right to be strong individuals and still be considered feminine.

Solutions: Girls must define their behavior and appearance according to their personal beliefs and preferences. Society must support and encourage girls’ definitions of themselves.

Conclusion
In essence, girls look forward to respect, equality, good–paying jobs, and full participation in sports. Our hopes and dreams for the future are for girls and woman to succeed in society and to accomplish the goals they set for themselves and for future generations. We hold the hope that girls are fully accepted by society in the near future.

On behalf of Girls International Forum, we would like to give thanks to our first foremothers: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Lucretia Mott. If today’s society would encourage leadership in young girls and woman we will have a strong tomorrow.

Melissa Bagwell, 16; Andrea Baldwin, 9; Katie Baldwin, 11; Jamie Bernabo, 13; Martha Fernandez, 16; Gaylene Fred, 14; Mariya Ho, 11; Morgan Kremers, 14; Melanie Mousseaux, 16; Alexia Paleologos, 8; Reshma Pattni, 14; Paloma Reyes, 16; Gradolyn Talley, 13; Meredith Turner-Woolley, 13

Girls International Forum
Seneca Falls, New York
July 19, 1998

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