Long Live the Girls

Project Representative
Ms Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein
Creation Date: 2012
Headquarters: Ethiopia, Zanzibar, USA
Geographical Reach: Ethiopia, Zanzibar
Nature and number of beneficiaries: Girls & Women, ages 9-55
Contact

Long Live the Girls

About the Project

Long Live the Girls (LLTG) is a girls' empowerment through creative expression initiative that creates safe spaces for girls and women to learn about and 'talk back' to their nations’ gender policies through poetry and creative writing. LLTG is a project under the umbrella of Break Arts: International Arts & Education Collaborative, which was founded in 2005 by a group of graduates from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Arts in Education Program. The Break Arts mission is to “inspire young people to co-author the stories of their lives” (www.breakarts.org). The project began in response to a growing need for girls and women to speak up and out against gender inequality in everyday life.
 
LLTG includes a series of writing workshops, guest speakers from government agencies and activist groups, a final literary publication, a literary reading and discussion tour, and a social media strategy to expand the reach in rural and urban communities. Over the last three years, we’ve worked with over 80 girls and women ranging in age from 9-55 to critically explore Ethiopia’s gender policies such as: Article 35 on the Rights of Women (Ethiopian Constitution), Ethiopian Criminal Codes, Ethiopian Revised Family Codes, United Republic of Tanzania's proposed Article on Women's Rights
 
These laws primarily address social issues such as rape, domestic violence, early marriage, girls' education and working abroad -- issues that deeply affect women in Ethiopia and Zanzibar. Through a cycle of reading, discussing, writing, and sharing, the girls and women shape their own ideas about the issues raised in these policies, and write original stories and poems in response.
 
Writing produced in the workshops are published and performed in the community, followed by community dialogues in a mixed-gender space. As a result, LLTG members feel more confident and prepared to address these issues when they arise, and become social allies to other girls and women who may want to discuss and explore these issues but don’t have the knowledge or resources.

LLTG has produced two literary publications (Girl Manifesto, 2013 and Love Rules, 2015), five literary readings, one literary tour to Addis Ababa, and have also worked to establish a social media presence.

We are planning a year-long project now in Zanzibar in partnership with FAWE-Zanzibar. 

Context and Issue

Many of us doing the work of gender equality recognize a crucial gap between policy and practice. We believe that girls and women are often left out of crucial conversations at the policy-level, and lack basic awareness and understanding regarding the policies shaped to protect and promote their lives. At the same time, girls and women possess the power of their own stories -- shaped by local knowledge and lived realities. We believe there is real learning that happens in the space between policy and practice, in the form of poetry. This is premise we work with as we prepare to work in Tanzania in 2016.

While the United Republic of Tanzania has readily identified Gender Equality and Women Empowerment (GEWE) as a major development issue, as reflected in key national policy frameworks such MKUKUTA II and MKUKUZA II, (National Strategy for Growth & Poverty Reduction), girls and women live in that wide gap between policy and practice. Many are unaware of their rights as girls and women when it comes to decision-making, land ownership, gender-based violence, employment, and education, while others may be aware but hesitant to use their voices to express ideas or activate their rights. The workshops prepare LLTG writers to practice amplifying their voices to articulate a clear point of view or set of questions. In addition to girls and women rarely speaking or appearing in public spaces, they rarely -- if ever -- have the chance to interact with or collaborate with government leaders on a project designed to bridge that gap between citizens and government leaders. This project strives to close that gap through the creative process of book production, dialogues, and radio appearances.

Solution and Impact

LLTG was created to bridge the gap between abstract gender policies and the everyday stories of girls and women who face real challenges when it comes to equality in all facets of their lives. We believe that real change happens through education, and that policies advancing gender equality need to be learned and understood by the public. We encourage young girls and boys as well as men and women to write and talk together in that space where poetry meets policy.

LLTG creates safe spaces for girls and women to write and speak out with freedom on gender equality and priority is given to girls and women as LLTG participants. However, our literary reading and dialogues invite boys and men to hold challenging and educational dialogues after the reading to discuss strategies for change at the personal and local level. We believe everyone benefits from policy information and education on gender equality and we do not discriminate.

Future Developments

Curriculum Development, Leadership Training, Creative Writing Workshop Leader Training, Partnerships with schools and communities, replicating the model in other cities and areas of the countries where we work (Ethiopia and Tanzania) as well as other interested partners who want to replicate this model of creative engagement.

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