For Arkansas Girls

By: Adrianne Owings

Human Rights , Activist

Over the last decade, Arkansas (my home state) has frequently been ranked as one of the 10 worst states in the nation when it comes to issues like: (i) VIOLENCE -- Arkansas has one of the highest rates of aggravated assault and forcible rape in the country; (ii) EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT -- Arkansas residents are among the least educated in the country; (iii) TEEN PREGNANCY -- Arkansas had the 4th highest teen birth rate in the United States; (iv) SINGLE PARENT FAMILIES -- 1-in-5 Arkansas families are lead by single parents; and (iv) POVERTY -- nearly 20% of people live below the poverty line with median household income is the second lowest in the country, barely above $40,000. Our state's minimum wage is below that of the federal level and will not be raised to $8.50 until 2017 -- this is especially daunting to girls given that women represent nearly three-fifths of all minimum-wage workers.

Collectively, these types of issues are the driving forces behind gender inequality, which is why Arkansas was listed as one of the worst states for gender equality and why it is one of 9-states where women face the largest gender pay-gap.

Arkansas women are not alone facing these challenges. There are an estimated 1.75 billion women in the global workforce, yet currently,  there's no country in the entire world where a woman earns as much as a man for doing the same job. 

Even with a highly educated cohort of women in the United States, this country doesn't even make the top 10 list when it comes to gender equality, according to the 2015 World Economic Global Gender Gap Report. In fact, our ranking is the lowest the U.S. has held since the report was first issued in 2007.

While all states have high gender inequality, girls in California, Texas, and New York can find a surplus of resources to empower them to make a change, (not just for other girls but also for themselves), girls in Arkansas have been out of luck for the most part.

Every girl, no matter where she is born, deserves to make her dreams her reality. We launched For Arkansas Girls on August 15, 2015 as a community-based Girl Up club that encourages girls across Arkansas to advocate for other girls to reach their own full potential. Since then, we have also partnered with The Representation Project, a nonprofit which inspires individuals and communities to overcome limiting stereotypes so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance, can fulfill their human potential. 

Led by a community of nearly half a million passionate advocates, my club started with just about 20 people in attendance. Since then, our numbers have grown, and our impact has increased. We have 100 people who we consider members, over 600 likes on Facebook, and the cumulative amount of attendees over all of our events is well over 500. More importantly, we have collectively raised over $10,000 for programs that Girl Up supports overseas. It’s been an incredible journey!

Both Girl Up and The Representation Project are dismally underrepresented in the South and especially Arkansas. We have 3 Girl Up clubs in Arkansas and no chapters of The Representation Project.

Grown women have places to support them, but were do adolescent girls go to learn about the issues that are most concerning to them? We want to provide a place for girls to feel safe discussing the issues that influence them, such as discrimination in education, media misrepresentation, and ways to prevent teen pregnancy (Arkansas had the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation in 2012), and get them involved with larger causes outside of the state’s borders. These girls deserve a safe space and a way to get involved—that is the deficiency that For Arkansas Girls corrects.

  • Hi, my name is Adrianne! I am a senior in high school in Little Rock, Arkansas USA, and I am extremely passionate about supporting young women just like me and their rights to equality in the world, especially in the areas of education and equal representation of the media.


Advice for my peers

DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU "NO" -- I began a Girl Up club at my school, and it was a flop. I cannot tell you how many times my mom has been the only one in attendance at an event I’ve held for this cause or someone has told me that I’m not going anywhere with this project. I choose to keep on going because I see benefits for girls around the state and long-term effects of the work we are doing. My advice would be to stay true to what you believe in, and never let anyone tell you “no”—even if you’re the one saying “no.” 

FIND A MENTOR -- I did not have much of a mentor, but I definitely think it would’ve been helpful. Essentially, adults need to take a distinct interest in empowering youth social innovation. If you find yourself in a similar circumstance, and don't have a mentor, work with influencers (like we did with Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen) who can lend credibility to the work you are doing.

FIND GREAT PARTNERS -- our partnerships make it possible for a grassroots organization to have the resources we need to make a viable impact and always have fresh new content.

GET TESTIMONIALS FROM THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YOUR WORK -- Nothing is more powerful than learning how you impacted others through your work, for example, Cynthia Perez, a member of our club wrote: “It has opened my eyes to a lot of problems women face that I did not fully understand before. For Arkansas Girls has given me the opportunity to help other people understand the problems girls face and be able to interact with others better while also extending my community service away from just my hometown. I love the reason behind the organization and the amount of help they give other women/girls.”

WAKE UP YOUR LOCAL POLITICIANS -- getting Senator John Boozman to support our work has been importantly, particularly because Arkansas women make 26 percent less than men for the same work.

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