Alliance for Girls (AFG), a California-based network of girls-serving organizations, wants state and local leaders to pay more attention to the needs of girls—particularly Black girls and girls of color—in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To investigate this issue further, Alliance for Girls has launched “When Girls Thrive,” an initiative researching and advocating for an expanded understanding of how girls are being impacted by COVID. It includes an online survey, and addresses the lack of data on the needs and experiences of girls and gender-expansive youth up to 24 years of age. This group is particularly vulnerable during this time of increased health risks, extended isolation, and significant disruption and barriers to education and work. Such challenges are even more extreme for Black youth and youth of color.
AFG’s initial survey of girls was conducted by its paid youth research team and began in March 2020. It includes responses from nearly 1,000 girls across Northern California, and showed that eight percent of girls across California don’t have a safe place to live (for Black girls the figure is 12 percent). Additionally, 14 percent of respondents don’t have access to food or groceries, with Black, Indigenous, and girls of color reporting not meeting basic needs like food, money, toiletries, period products and contraception at a higher rate than white respondents (Latinx respondents indicated the highest overall need).
Mental and emotional health has also been affected by COVID. Ten percent of all respondents, and 13 percent of Black respondents, lack a single caring adult in their lives. Finally, 12 percent of all respondents, 15 percent of Black or African American, and 16 percent of multiracial respondents reported not having access to a private space to communicate with a caring adult or friend.
“In times of crisis, the needs of girls are too often ignored, to the detriment of us all,” said Emma Mayerson, Alliance for Girls founding executive director. “Even during this challenging time, girls are showing incredible resilience and leadership. To make our communities stronger, we must invest in girls by listening to their needs, including them in decision-making that directly impacts their lives, and investing in the ecosystem of champions – individuals, organizations and schools – they depend on.”
AFG notes that the pandemic has led to a major reduction in mental, emotional and physical supports for girls. Of the approximately 50 girls organizations AFG surveyed, 72 percent are “open” online, seven percent have an open physical location and 26 percent are closed altogether.
In response, the Alliance for Girls statewide When Girls Thrive coalition will work proactively with California policymakers and other important stakeholders to address girls’ needs during COVID-19 and in the recovery, with the long-term vision of creating equitable communities in which every girl thrives. The initiative also hosts regular online events for girls’ champions, elected and community leaders, members of the media, and adult allies.
Alliance for Girls is a membership-based San Francisco Bay Area-based association. It is the largest regional alliance of girl-serving organizations, which now includes 200 organizations and individuals that employ 2,400 people with more than 5,100 volunteers serving more than 300,000 girls across six Bay Area counties.
“In this moment, our girls and gender expansive young people are struggling like never before, and so are the organizations upon which they depend,” said Elmy Bermejo, Northern California Director – External Affairs, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, and When Girls Thrive coalition member. “If girls’ needs and leadership are not centered in the response to this ongoing public health and economic crisis, they will be forgotten and the organizations they rely on will disappear. We refuse to let this happen and I’m honored to join this incredible group of leaders to advance a girls policy agenda in California.”
Finally, the AFG initiative is also providing directed financial support to young women, girls and gender expansive youth by hiring young women to be youth researchers and providing up to $50 to a select number of respondents (up to $30,000), thanks to funding by the Blue Shield Foundation of California and the Firehouse Fund: Cultivating Sparks. Alliance for Girls is actively seeking additional funding to expand the survey to reach more girls statewide.
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