“The girl child of today is the woman of tomorrow.”

Conveners: Charleen Maghzi and Tamsen Stevenson
Facilitators: Pasha Bueno Hansen and Anna Maria Guevara
Recorder: Martine Helwig

Following the UN4WCW Platform, the CAWA Task Force on the Girl Child (Girls and Young Women of California) agrees discrimination against women begins at the earliest stages of life, and must therefore be addressed from then onwards. The girl child of today is the woman of tomorrow. Her skills, ideas and energy are vital to full attainment of goals of equality, sustainable development and peace. For girls to develop their full potential, they need to be nurtured in an environment where their needs are met, and their equal rights safeguarded.

The Platform respects and ensures the rights of each child, irrespective of his or her parents’ or legal guardians’ race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or status.”

The realization of the goals of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women (UN4WCW) of equality, sustainable development, and peace requires the full participation of everyone, including women. For this to happen, girl children as well as boy children must be valued by their families and by society. Not only must girls receive nutrition, health care, and education, they must be nurtured in safe and loving environments and given every opportunity to develop their full potential. Girls not only serve as mothers and first educators of the next generation, but as women they will make special contributions to their families, their communities, and to the creation of a just world order. (1)

It was in the 1980’s that UNICEF India recognized the deprivation of girls as a gender concern. The issue was seen as having global relevance, and “The Girl Child” was incorporated into the UNICEF presentation at the Nairobi Conference on Women and Development in 1985. The 1990 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit declared 1990 to be the Year of the Girl Child, and later the 1990’s was declared the Decade of the Girl Child. Support for the issue has continued to acquire momentum.

Our girls are the mothers of the future, yet, in spite of the fact the virtual images of their young bodies seem ubiquitous in popular culture, they are disenfranchised and their voices are inaudible. As in all countries, the Girl Child in California is particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, shortchanged by the culture in educational institutions, in politics, policy, health care, the law, and the media. (2)

When Dr. Tam began researching facts and figures for the CAWA Task Force on the Girl Child (Girls and Young Women of California), on the INTERNET she found 2000 sites of pornography and escort services for every site such as Girls, Inc., or Children Now that had information she was seeking on girls in/and California.

According to Theresa Loar, of the President’s Interagency Council on Women, a girl graduating from high school today can expect to work 25 years full time; and expect to make less than $20,000 a year in today’s wages. Our girls are not being prepared for this economic reality, nor are they being prepared for their roles as wives and mothers, nor for leadership roles in their communities.

At the CAWA Assembly at San Francisco State University on June 29, 1996, the participants in the Task Force on the Girl Child voiced their opposition to the name. It seemed demeaning to them. When the herstory of the concept was explained, including the fact that there is no term for “girl” in many languages; i.e. a child is generically male, and girls and/or girlhood doesn’t count; the Task Force agreed unanimously to retain “The Girl Child” as it is in the Platform, but to parenthetically add “Girls and Young Women of California.”

The UN4WCW Platform for Action

  • Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child.
  • Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
  • Promote and protect the rights of the girl child and increase awareness of her needs and potential.
  • Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.
  • Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.
  • Eliminate the economic exploitation of child labor and protect young girls at work.
  • Eradicate violence against the girl child.
  • Promote the girl child’s awareness of and participation in social, economic, and political life.
  • Strengthen the role of the family in improving the status of the girl child.

The CAWA Task Force on The Girl Child

  • Ratification and enforcement of CEDAW ( The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and/or its endorsement by local entities, e.g. Iowa City.
  • Ratification and enforcement of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Defeat of The California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).
  • Disaggregation of demographic and epidemiological date by sex, age, and disability status.
  • Enactment of the Children’s Accountability Act, and mandatory Children’s Impact Statement (CIS) for all state and federal legislation with an impact on children.

1. Poverty

Demographics reveal a total population for the State of California of 31 million in 1995; with 13% or 4.2 million girls. Breakdown by ethnic identity reveals: Non Hispanic White 48.3%; Hispanic 34.1%; Black 8.4%; Asian and Other 9.2%. (Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.)

A record number of California children (2.7 million) are living in poverty. The percentage of children living in poverty ( less than $15,150 pa for a family of four) is the highest recorded since the state began tracking this measure in 1976. The number of children living at or below the poverty level is expected to increase dramatically as welfare reform is implemented.

More than one in four (28.6%) of California children live in poverty.
In 1992, over 70,000 babies were born to teenage girls in California.

Teen parenthood increases the likelihood that both the mother and child will struggle with long-term poverty.

Effective child support enforcement can end poverty for many children.

Yet, in California, only 37% of the more than 480,000 cases due payment in September 1994 actually received even partial payment.


Strategic Objectives and Actions:

1.1 Create programs for teenage mothers to promote their economic security.
1.2 Educate everyone for economic self sufficiency.
1.3 Encourage male participation and accountability in the family.

2. Education

California’s investment in public education remains well below the national average and satisfactory achievement levels are not being met.

  • California has the most crowded classrooms in the nation and spends about $1,000 less per student than the national average.
  • California, home to the Silicon Valley, has fewer computers in its classrooms than schools in any other state.
  • California ranks below the U.S. average in national achievement tests.
  • Girls are disproportionately at a disadvantage in the system.

Strategic Objectives and Actions:

2.1 Improve education in California generally.
2.2 Eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training.
2.3 Recognize the value of non-traditional forms of education and knowledge.
2.4 Educate for parenting, specifically educate girls as agents of transformation through the role of motherhood.
2.5 Educate for self-esteem.
2.6 Provide forums for mentorship for the recycling of knowledge through the generations.
2.7 Promote gender-friendly educational environments.
2.8 Enforce Title IX.
2.9 Promote curricula that reflect the CAWA platform.
2.10 Increase the number of girls preparing for higher education.
2.11 Educate for leadership.
2.12 Reform must be inclusive of all people, including boys.

3. Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as : ” A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The CAWA Task force on Health amended this definition to include spiritual well-being. Health is assessed by indices such as life expectancy and infant mortality, and by standards of quality, affordability , and accessibility of care. The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have a program of universal primary health care for its citizens. This is a cause of immediate concern for our children , and through them for generations hence.

  • California ranks 7th among the states in infant mortality, and reduced the rate of infant deaths by 14% from 1990 to 1993.
  • Nearly 2 million children in California lack health insurance. Children without insurance are less likely to receive adequate health care and are at higher risk of medical complications due to lack of treatment.
  • More than 8 in 10 uninsured are working people and their families.


Strategic Objectives and Actions:

3.1 Assure quality, affordable, and accessible health care services for all girls and young women of California.
3.2 Eliminate discrimination against girls and women in health care, including nutrition, medical research, and mental health.
3.3 Recognize and address the epidemic of STD’s , including HIV in young women.

4. Violence

Reports of child abuse and neglect continue to rise as do foster care placements.

  • The number of California children reported abused and neglected has doubled since 1985, reaching over 660,000 in 1993.
  • The rise in reports of child abuse and neglect has led to increasing numbers of children in foster care. Between 1992 and 1995 foster care placements rose over 14%; In 1995, 94,000 children in California were in foster care.
  • Comprehensive research by the National Institute of Justice found that childhood abuse increased the odds of future delinquency and adult criminality by 40%.

Increasing numbers of children are victims of homicide.

  • Increasing numbers of children are victims of homicide.
    • In 1993, 857 children and youth, the equivalent of more than 25 classrooms, were victims of homicide.
    • The rate of homicides perpetrated against children in California is 59% higher than in the rest of the nation.
  • Over 75% of young homicide victims are killed with firearms.
    • The number of California children murdered every year by firearms more than doubled between 1988 and 1993.

Strategic Objectives and Actions:

4.1 Eradicate violence against the girl child.
4.2 Provide safety for children at risk, with special attention to the needs of girls with disabilities.
4.3 Educate for non-violent conflict resolution.
4.4 Empower girls and young women to assure their safety.
4.5 Recognize and address the relationship between systemic violence in the world, and violence against girls and young women our communities and homes.

5. Institutional Mechanisms

Strategic Objectives and Actions:

5.1 Promote the girl child’s awareness of and participation in social, economic, and political life.
5.2 Ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ( CEDAW)
5.3 Ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
5.4 Defeat of the California Civil Rights (Wrongs?) Initiative ( a.k.a. CCRI) , i.e. Prop 209.
5.5 Protect and enforce Title IX.

6. Human Rights

Strategic Objectives and Actions:

6.1 Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl child.
6.2 Promote and protect the rights of the girl child and increase awareness of her needs and potential.

7. Human Rights

Strategic Objectives and Actions:

7.1 Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls.
7.2 Empower girls in technology .
7.3 Promote the open communication between youth through technology.
7.4 Support girls to pursue careers in communications technologies and the arts.

Among the many exemplary organizations and projects identified by members of the Task Force on the Girl Child ( Girls and Young Women) at the California Women’s Agenda (CAWA) Assembly in June in San Francisco are the following:

1111 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-4873
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is an NGO with more than 1600 branches nationwide, that lobbies and advocates for education and equity. The AAUW Educational Foundation funds research on girls and education, supports community action projects, e.g. Choices, a program addressing self esteem issues for adolescent girls. AAUW also offers grants and fellowships.
Bosch Baha’i School
500 Comstock Lane
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(408) 423-3387
Baha’i Youth Workshops use spiritually oriented discussions and dramatizations of principles of the equality of men and women, and the oneness of humankind, and the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, and share these in public performances.
Children Now
925 J Street, Suite 1400
Sacramento, CA 95814
727 Third Street, S.W.
Washington D.C. 20024
Children Now offers and supports a wide range of research and advocacy projects , as well as programs addressing children and health, education, welfare, violence, and public policy . Their proposal for a Children’s Accountability Act and Children’s Impact Statement was unanimously endorsed by the CAWA Task Force on the Girl Child.


Children’s Advocacy Forum
2635 Stanford Street
Union City, CA 94587-4329
(510) 489-6952 (T&F)
CAF is a grassroots organization affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. CAF is concerned with community education, public policy, and advocacy on behalf of children, and is a member of the Promise the Children Network.
Feminist Majority Foundation
8105 W. 3rd Street, Suite 1
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(213) 651-0495 (voice)
(213) 653-2689 (fax)
The Feminist Majority Foundation is sponsoring Freedom Summer ’96, where students are organizing, conducting voter registration drives, and participating in voter education projects about the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI).
Girls Incorporated
National Resource Center
441 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 634-7546

Girls Incorporated
National Headquarters
30 Ears 33rd Street
NYC, NY 10016
(212) 689-3700

Girls Incorporated offers an organized program of supervised activity in various educational and recreational fields. Programs promote and foster girls’ health, as well as their social, cultural, vocational and character development. Activities help build girls’ capacity for responsible, confident adulthood, economic independence and personal fulfillment, while also aiming to help girls overcome the effects of discrimination.
Girls Incorporated of Alameda County
( Pat Loomis, Director)
13666 East 14 Street
San Leandro, CA 94578
(510) 357-5515
Girls Incorporated of Alameda County sponsors and supports a wide range of projects for girls and young women in many areas of the country. In the Bay Area, Girls Incorporated of Alameda County director, Pat Loomis explains, ” Girls Inc. is the only organization in the area meeting the specific needs* of girls and young women here. More than 5000 youth and their families are served.” Services provided include:

  • Counseling for child victims of sexual abuse/child abuse
  • Special accredited high school with on-site day care for pregnant/parenting teens
  • Science, Math, And Relevant Technology exploration program (SMART)
  • The EUREKA Teen Achievement Program in conjunction with Mills College, offering 55 financially disadvantaged girls a chance to participate and excel in math, science and sports , with on-going follow-up.
  • Health awareness programs
  • Teen leadership development projects, e.g. Meet the FUTURE ( Females Unifying Teens Undertaking Responsible Education) and including programs directed at empowering minority youth, e.g. Latinas y Que.


Hermanas Intimas
Sponsored by the Riverside County Drug Abuse Program
Riverside, CA
(909) 275-2100
Indio, CA
(619) 347-0754
Hilary Bendon, coordinator
(619) 347-0754/ 770-7897
Hermanas Intimas provides adult mentors for pregnant teens in an effort to:

  • increase the number of teens delivering healthy infants
  • decrease the incidence of future ( second and third) unintended pregnancies
  • help the teen develop her own potential
Ms. Foundation
120 Wall Street, 33rd floor
NYC, NY 10005
(212) 742-2300 (voice)
(212) 742-1653 (fax)
Founded in 1972, the Ms. Foundation for Women is the country’s only national, public, multi-use women’s fund, and directs resources to support women and girls in their efforts to govern their own lives and influence the world around them. The Ms Foundation sponsors Take Your Daughter to Work Day (1-800-676-7780).
New Moon Publishing
P.O. Box 3587
Duluth, MN 55803-3587
(218) 728-0314
New Moon publishes a magazine for and about girls, and a guide for parents and others.


San Diego Youth and Community Service and Playwrights’ Project
Playwrights’ Project Director: Deborah Salzer
Debra Dorn/ Susan Bower (619) 221-2600
“Home is Where the Art Is ” teaches play writing to children and youth
Simba, Inc.
Alyce Ford-Gilbert, Director
P.O.Box 27548
Oakland, CA 94602
(510) 839-4303 (T)
(510) 839-6567 (F)
Simba is a not-for-profit organization created to break destructive multigenerational issues destroying generations of African-American children. Under the Life Choices Workshops and Seminars, Simba offers programs for personal growth and development to African and non-African Americans alike.
Soroptimist International
Del Laine, Programme Liaison
P.O.Box 18628
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151
(916) 544-6249
Soroptimist International is an NGO committed to ensuring the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women through implementation of the PFA, including enabling the girl child to reach her full potential.


Women of Color Resource Center
Linda Burnham, Director
2288 Fulton, Suite #103
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 524-4239

Adopted by the Girl-ChildTask Force of the California Women’s Agenda Assembly on June 29, 1996.