Girlguiding launches campaign asking politicians to prove girls’ voices matter at the next election

    • Girls call for real commitments to address overwhelming evidence of inequality for girls in the UK
    • First time voters from Girlguiding make direct policy asks to politicians ahead of a general election
    • Girls’ develop policy-asks to make life fairer for them

Tuesday 9 September 2014: Ahead of party conference season, girls and young women involved in Girlguiding are lobbying politicians to say enough is enough – we matter, we want you to prove it.

Party leaders are being called on to hold special meetings with girls before the election – to hear their policy calls first hand.

The campaign – Girls Matter – is the first time that girls in Girlguiding, the UK’s largest charity for girls and young women, have made direct calls to politicians ahead of a general election. The eight calls for change are a response to overwhelming evidence from Girlguiding research that shows that girls and young women still believe they are too often treated like second-class citizens.

Research showed that:

    • 87% girls aged 11-21 think that women are judged more on their appearance than on their ability
    • 75% girls and young women aged 11-21 think there are too many images of naked or nearly naked women in the media
    • Sexual harassment is endemic: 70 per cent of girls aged 13 and over report experiences starting in school
    • 61% of 11-16s say schools sometimes or always dismiss sexual harassment as “just a bit of banter”/li>
    • 60% of young women aged 16-21 have felt patronised or been made to feel stupid because of their sex
    • 76% girls say girls are judged harshly for sexual behaviour seen as acceptable in boys
    • Three quarters of 11-21s say sexism affects most areas of their lives
    • More than 10,000 young women involved in guiding will be voting for the first time in the next general election, yet they don’t believe politicians consider girls and young women in policy decisions. Over half of girls and young women aged 11-21 feel that politicians do not listen to their views enough.The Girls Matter campaign is being led by Girlguiding’s Advocates – a panel of young women aged 14-25 who drive the charity’s advocacy work. The calls to action are based on consultations with over 2,400 girls in Guiding aged 7-25 – as well as extensive research into girls’ views through the annual Girls Attitudes Survey, which has surveyed more than 1,000 girls annually for the past five years.

      Girls Matter Policy Asks

        1. Listen to girls and young women, take them seriously and make sure their voices count
        2. Demand schools take a zero tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment
        3. Call on all schools to teach body confidence and gender equality
        4. Make girls’ rights a priority in the UK’s approach to international development
        5. Stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in mainstream media
        6. Empower girls and young women to speak out and be heard on the impact of media sexism and stereotyping
        7. Modernise sex and relationships education so all young people can make informed decisions and stay safe
        8. Guarantee that women will be equally represented in parliament

      In the run up to the election, Girlguiding will be supporting girls across the UK to speak out. They will be calling on politicians of all parties to listen, publically support their calls for change and prove girls’ voices matter.

      In a public letter to Party Leaders the young women from Girlguiding point out that girls should note have to grow up afraid to walk down the street or accept harassment as commonplace or feel embarrassed and undermined by the way women are portrayed in the media.

      Ellie Dibben, 17, one of the young women behind the campaign, said: “The government is inclined to forget those who are not present amongst them. Girls and young women are a demographic constantly being told that they have no right to a voice and so Girls Matter provides an important platform to get our views heard. In order for any positive progress to be made we must make it clear that we deserve representation.

      “Take notice of what we want now because we are going to be the voters of tomorrow.”

      Bijal Rama, 24, another young woman behind the campaign, said: “We are half of the vote! It is important that politicians listen to us – they have the power to help us create a society where all girls and women feel safe, valued and empowered.”

      “Girlguiding prepared me for the challenging aspects of life, but not all girls are lucky enough to have the same support while growing up.”

      Girlguiding’s CEO Julie Bentley said: “We have responsibility as the leading charity for girls and young women to ensure their voices are heard on the issues that affect them. Within Guiding we have young women who are passionate and determined to bring about positive societal change to help make lives for their peers here and around the world better –they are calling on politicians to help them. We hope they will listen.”

      Girls and young women involved in guiding will soon be able to learn more about politics and how they can make a difference with Girlguiding’s new democracy resource, which is being launched six months ahead of the next general election.

      ENDS

      Notes to Editors:

        • Statistics taken from Girls’ Attitudes – a survey of more than 1,000 girls and young women aged between seven and 21, both inside and outside guiding. The survey has been conducted by Girlguiding for the past five years and seeks to discover girls’ attitudes to key social, political and economic issues. To read the full reports, visit girlsattitudes.girlguiding.org.uk.
        • Data on girls’ rights international from UNESCO and Plan International, available at plan-international.org/girls/girl-facts-sources.php.
        • During 2014 Girlguiding conducted research to explore these findings in depth. Consultation took place with more than 2,400 young Girlguiding members aged seven to 25. The eight policy calls were developed on the basis of this research.
        • For more information on the report, visit girlguiding.org.uk/girlsmatter or follow #GirlsMatter.