Thursday, February 5, 2009

Girls Agenda for President Obama

Dear President Obama:

As Malia and Sasha’s proud father I don’t need to tell you how having daughters can give you new eyes on the world. My daughters, Mavis and Nia, are adults now. But it feels like just last week that they were ten years old and I was worrying about how to help them navigate the treacherous journey from girlhood to womanhood. We started New Moon Girls magazine together to give girls a place to express themselves and make the world better.

I believe you agree that growing up should mean increasing opportunities as well as responsibilities for our daughters. It should mean increasing respect and rewards for their intelligence, creativity, and skills. It should mean they have access to equal education and healthcare, including effective pregnancy prevention. It should mean they have the freedom to walk down the street or go on a date without worrying they might be attacked just because they are female.

Even privileged girls in the U.S. like our daughters face many threats to their health and well-being. And girls who don’t have their advantages are much more vulnerable. Every day the world exploits girls’ bodies as sex objects in marketing and pornography, sending every girl and boy the unmistakable message that a girl’s greatest value lies in her sex appeal. Every day, girls are enslaved and sold as child prostitutes and child laborers. Every day, companies are legally allowed to sell beauty products with cancer-causing ingredients like phthalates in them.

The good news is, girls worldwide are breaking the barriers of stereotypes and repression with their honesty, courage, high expectations for themselves, and compassion for others. Every day, girls go to school and study hard. Every day, girls learn new skills and try new things. Every day, girls help their friends and support others who are less fortunate. Every day, girls volunteer to end child labor, reverse climate change, restore peace and feed the hungry.

Our nation and our world face huge challenges that demand dramatic responses. It wouldn’t be surprising if the needs of girls seem small in comparison. But I ask you to remember that girls are 50% of our future and their needs deserve serious attention and resources. When we meet girls’ needs, life is made better for everyone.

For more ideas on what's important for girls in 2009, visit the National Council for Research on Women blog Feb 4-9.

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