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Volume 1, Number One          Autumn 1999

How Mainely Girls Came To Be

Several years ago a group of Camden-Rockport middle and high school teachers examined the culture that existed for girls in their schools and in their community. At the same time, some very dismaying research on the status of girls in America was being released nationally. Determined to address girls' choices around healthy relationships, body image, and educational and career aspirations, the women started a community grassroots project: an annual conference for Camden area girls and young women.

Building on that early work, in 1996 Mainely Girls was formed to focus on girls' needs state-wide, and to promote women's leadership on behalf of girls throughout rural Maine.

Individuals, schools, legislative committees, government agencies, and other organizations turn to Mainely Girls for information, to explore ideas, or to promote opportunities for girls. We have spearheaded the following state-wide efforts:

  • Staying connected: Mainely Girls publishes a newsletter three times a year to advertise opportunities for girls, to forward pertinent information for and about girls, and to share efforts and achievements on girls' behalf - keeping everyone who wants to stay in touch with what's happening for girls in Maine connected and informed.

  • Conferences: Mainely Girls offers conferences for parents, students, teachers and administrators to educate people about girls' development. One will be offered on October 29th for adults who work with girls.

  • Statistics: Mainely Girls has written and distributed a survey for seventh- and eleventh-grade Maine girls and will publish a statistical report and analysis of our findings this autumn.

  • Take Our Daughters To Work Day: Mainely Girls organized this significant day state-wide for middle school girls in 1999 and will continue to do so.

  • Conference consulting: Mainely Girls has acted as a consultant for five other girls' conferences in Deer Isle, Millinocket, Old Town, Portland, and Waterville, sharing what we know and offering advice.

  • Girls' economic empowerment: The number of Maine women who live in poverty is high, and the influence of this poverty on Maine children is great. Of all families living in poverty, 48% are headed by women and of all female headed households with children under six, 63% live in poverty" (Voices of Maine Women - Recommendation for Economic Security , August 1996). Mainely Girls believes that the time to begin addressing the subject of women and poverty is during girlhood, when girls begin developing their aspirations. Assisting girls in establishing high aspirations and preparing for an economically viable career or profession is a crucial area of focus. As a first step in this effort, Mainely Girls has supported the expansion of Camp Aspirations to make this excellent opportunity available for more Maine girls.

  • Shaping public policy: Because of the number of girls whose lives and educations are negatively impacted by harassment at school, making schools safe places for all students, especially girls, is a priority for Mainely Girls. We support increased education for students, parents, teachers, and administrators so that everyone is aware of the law and how students can protect themselves from hallway harassment and school violence.

We believe that girls will not grow to maturity as smart, strong, competent, and independent women without more attention and nurturing than society, and most of our communities and schools, have traditionally provided. Mainely Girls addresses issues of girls in rural areas by:

  • helping communities identify the specific needs of girls and young women in their areas and, in response to those needs,

  • organizing programs to improve the environment in which their girls grow to maturity.

Through the efforts of Mainely Girls, in conjunction with women volunteers in local communities, girls in Knox, Penobscot, and Waldo counties are now putting on girls' conferences, acting in improvisational theatre, designing and writing 'zines, climbing mountains and exploring cities through Outward Bound, and initiating other programs for girls in their schools and communities.

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