Unfortunately, girls from the ages of 14 to 18 experience gender-based violence at a rate four times higher than any other group in the USA. A Long Walk Home (ALWH) works with and for girls who are most vulnerable to gender-based violence - African American and Latina girls, queer and gender non-conforming girls, and girls from a lower income, who also live in communities with disproportionately low access to social services. These girls are at high risk of dropping out of school and being repeat victims of violence.
ALWH runs two main programmes that use art to educate, inspire and organise young people to end violence against women and girls. The Story of A Rape Survivor (SOARS) College Campaign educates college students and administrators on ending rape in the college setting and healing from sexual violence through performances, presentations, workshops and publications.
To date, the SOARS campaign has presented at over 1,000 colleges across 40 states of the United States. ALWH’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute educates teen girls and communities in North Lawndale, one of the most under-resourced neighbourhoods in Chicago.
Despite having the third highest number of reported criminal sexual assaults in the city, the community has no mental health facility to serve survivors. Working with the North Lawndale College Preparatory High School, the programme trains over 100 girl victims of violence girls every year through peer-to-peer workshops and community organising.
It provides them with free counselling, extensive education in feminism, racial justice, and political activism, artists mentors, and professional internships to help them heal from their trauma, stay in high school, and emerge as leaders and advocates for others.
In 2014, Girl/Friends youth leaders advocated for the successful passage of the Ensuring Success in School Act in Illinois; they presented at numerous national conferences and campaigns such as on the Experiences of African-American Girls in Schools on Capital Hill and the Chicago Transportation Authority campaign on street harassment of girls.
Moreover, ALWH provides training for administrators and organisations that work with girls in order to help them effectively provide safe spaces, resources, and opportunities for girls in their programs who are victims of or vulnerable to violence.
Through its national and local programmes, multimedia performances, summer and after-school youth institutes, campus training and workshops, ALWH has educated over 100,000 people to build safe communities and end gender-based violence.
Photos: Hussein Fatemi/Stars Foundation.