“Now what?” The Girl Child Action Maps

Posted by on Apr 6, 2021

As our team surveyed and interviewed participants in the 2018–2019 Girl Child & Her Long Walk to Freedom reading journey pilot, we heard loud and clear that they wanted to know, “now what?” With heads and hearts full of new data and stories, participants were eager to do something: to share, to continue to learn, and to make an impact, as we all seek to break down the oppressive mountain of patriarchy and build a society of gender equality.

Over the past months we’ve spoken with a number of people to understand what actions they’ve taken since being part of the reading journey. We offer you their examples as inspiration.

We also considered different ways of presenting these actions, which range from “simple” things, like having a personal conversation, to more structural shifts, influencing customs and norms. Our talented colleague Elissa produced what we’re sharing here. With the Girl Child at the center of growing ripples of water, reflecting the unique and far-reaching impact of each individual action in the slow and steady work of taking on patriarchy, an “action map” emerges to help clear the path towards putting your learning into practice.

We have structured the map in different sections: 

  • In the center, with the Girl Child, is the inner, personal work — at the “I” level of change. 
  • Next is the interpersonal work — at the “We” level of change — that includes our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and others in our faith communities. 
  • The outermost ring is the systemic work — at the “It” level of change — that includes efforts to shift the norms and structures that enshrine patriarchy in so many aspects of our cultures. 

You brought your full curiosity to the reading journey, as you’ve increased awareness of the ways that patriarchy oppresses and diminishes our human potential. Now we offer you the opportunity to chart your own path towards collective liberation from the tyranny of patriarchy.

As you move through the layers of the action map you’ll see a range of examples from past participants, to spark curiosity about how your path might unfold. Just to highlight a few: 

  1. [at the I level] “The reading journey had more impact on the inner work; I would always call out patriarchy but now I can still stay in it—face the fear of the unknown.”
  2. [at the I level] “Since the pilot I’ve kept trying to get more informed. Learning about what’s happening is helpful. Being able to see things better, in order to be able to attend. When evil is happening in front of you you have to be able to see it in order to create action steps.”
  3. [at the We level – Family] “I’ve had conversations with my 18yo daughter about things going on in the world, also sharing with her the Agents of Change stories, to remind her there’s so much hope. People can get paralyzed by despair, offering hope is so important.”
  4. [at the We level – Family] “I call things out more now—being part of this Journey gave me more backup. I was able to articulate better with family who are clergy—a long line of Baptist pastors.”
  5. [at the We level – Work] “I’ve been talking with men about their vision for leadership. My brother and I led a small group mostly of boys. He kept acting goofy and I was more of the teacher, but the boys would listen to him not me. How do you gently break norms that dismiss female leadership roles early on, including with boys? Now my brother invites more female voices in his work and behaves differently, shows respect, listens.”
  6. [at the It level – Systemic/Structural] “We have a formal and an alternative justice system at the community level in Kenya. If there is a rape or assault, the alternative justice system decides whether the issue gets referred to the formal justice system. The leaders of the alt justice system are religious. We used information from the book to educate them, we are training them now and will reach 1000 men. We talk about security and reporting systems for others, what is their role as men. People know it’s wrong but they ‘don’t know’ — ‘that’s the way it’s always been’. If this were your daughter, your son, we break it down: this is a girl, this happened, this is what they say. We are beginning to see a lot more cases not only reported at the police station but also prosecuted — we say, it’s not a cultural issue, it’s a responsibility of men in my community to report and accept justice.”

These beautiful examples celebrate the incredible impact of fellow journeyers and help others imagine a path forward. None of these actions are more or less important in our long-term work, to challenge and evolve our own heart, spirit, mind, relationships, and the systems that govern so much of our lives. 

We know that each journey will look different: our maps include space to write down actions that you take. As you sit with all that you’ve learned and felt in your exploration of the ancient roots of patriarchy, what is yours to do? 

We invite you to download and share these action maps to support your efforts to put faith to work through love, on behalf of the Girl Child, and each one of us.