While poking through data about girls in the child welfare system, Clarice Bailey and her sister discovered a lack of resources for young women in Philadelphia.
“We didn’t find much of anything except when we talked to girls, they could tell us what they needed,” said Bailey, co-founder and acting board member of the Girls Justice League.
The Girls Justice League, was created with the goal of educating anyone who identifies as a woman on issues like education, politics and leadership.
The organization, which was founded nearly four years ago, focuses on empowering girls between the ages of 12 and 24 to better understand the world around them, so they can make a difference. GJL is currently working on transitioning the structure of the organization so it will be run by the girls who are involved, Bailey said.
GJL also runs The Status Project, a research project that explores the influence of gender norms and gender expectations in society, Bailey said.
The Status Project is made up of four smaller components: socioeconomic status, reproductive health, justice and education.
Bailey said each of the four projects has two academic partners and in some cases, a community partner. Temple is an academic partner in GJL’s research, providing graduate students to gather data for the research.
There is no application process for GJL, Bailey said. The group meets twice a month on Saturdays and if a girl is dedicated to learning, she is welcome in the organization.
“Oppression can affect any girl, anybody that identifies as female, is struggling, suffering, fighting against, railing against oppression,” Bailey said.
Many of the girls already involved in GJL bring family members and friends to the meetings, Bailey said.
“According to the girls, they have found sisterhood, they have found community, they have found a place where they don’t have to conform to traditional white Western standards of beauty or intellect,” Bailey said. “The girls at GJL are all sizes, shapes, colors, socioeconomic backgrounds and academic privilege. They run the gamut.”
Saranjeet Kaur, a sophomore biology major, serves as vice chair of the organization. She first got involved when she was a senior in high school after hearing about the program from a guidance counselor.
“The mission of the organization is to basically empower young females, and the organization’s main goal is to make them more politically, socially and economically more informed about the world around them,” Kaur said.
GJL holds several events, including a summer workshop series and a Saturday workshop series that takes place throughout the school year. They also host the Turning Point Conference, a one-day event that features various presentations and speakers. After the workshop series and conference, the girls create presentations on what they learned during the events.
“The main goal of the organization is to be taken over by the young girls, because many people believe that young girls aren’t capable of taking on as much, that they are still sheltered,” Kaur said. “But in reality, everything is possible.”
Kaur said the organization is always accepting new people and anyone can find a role.
“Sometimes it’s kind of astonishing how people don’t know about the world around them,” she said. “And then when they know, they are more empowered to do things, go out themselves, and just do it.”
Alexis Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.