Girls Justice League, a Future Fund grantee, was founded in 2012 by sisters Clarice and Maxine Bailey — but from the beginning, they planned to hand over control of the organization to girls and young women. They’ve stuck to that vision, and already several girls who have participated in GJL programs have joined the board of directors. This commitment to girls’ leadership reflects GJL’s mission: to work with girls to make meaningful change in their communities.
“The most important thing to know is that we’re doing this with girls, not for girls,” says board chair Charlotte Jacobs. In GJL’s Girls Justice Institutes, girls and young women develop skills in leadership, activism, and organizing. After the Institutes, the participants continue meeting to identify issues they care about and launch campaigns to make change in their schools and neighborhoods.
In addition to establishing the Girls Justice Institute program, Maxine and Clarice noticed a lack of information about girls’ lives in Philadelphia. GJL now collects data on girls’ experiences regarding reproductive health, involvement with the justice system, economic security, and education. GJL also recently began researching the experiences of incarcerated girls’ transitions from juvenile to adult justice centers.
GJL members are planning a “Breaking the Silence” town hall to be held at University of the Arts on December 12. Town halls like this have been convened across the country, with girls and young women of color sharing their testimonies on school climate, the cycle of poverty, police brutality, and gender-based violence, and a panel of key leaders in the community witnessing their testimonies and responding to them. GJL and partners are bringing the conversation to Philadelphia, where they hope it can be a catalyst for real change for girls. The goal of the town hall, according to Charlotte, echoes GJL’s mission: “to hear the stories of girls of color, because they’re often invisible, and to hear directly what they want changed in their communities.”