of Greater Santa Barbara

Girls Inc. envisions a world where girls and all youth have what they need to grow and flourish, in school and beyond. Our direct service and advocacy work are linked, and each fuels the other helping girls become healthy, educated, and independent, and inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. Centering the voices of the girls we serve, including our national Teen Advocacy Council, we give girls the platform and tools to push for social change.

Our advocacy at the local affiliate and national levels focuses on policies and practices that support girls health and wellness and foster school climates that are conducive to learning for all students, particularly those from underserved communities and those who face discrimination and other obstacles because of their race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and / or religion.

Girls Inc. welcomes cisgender girls, transgender girls, non-binary individuals who experience gender-based oppression, and those who are exploring their gender identity or express during their time at Girls Inc. Girls Inc. does not discriminate or exclude girls from our programming based on their gender identity or gender expression.

Girls Inc. Network-Wide Policy and Advocacy Platform

Advocacy Priorities Summary

Comprehensive Sex Education Fact Sheet

Girls’ Mental Health Fact Sheet

School Discipline Reform Fact Sheet

Bullying and Sexual Harassment Fact Sheet

The Girls Inc. Network, with input from our girls, adopts the following advocacy priorities and recommendations:

Sexual Health, Safety, and Autonomy

7 in 10 girls experience sexual harassment at some point in high school.

Sexual Health, Safety, and Autonomy

At Girls Inc. we work to ensure girls have the skills, knowledge, and support to take ownership of their sexual health and make decisions to help them lead fulfilling, safe, and healthy lives. Their bodily autonomy is critical to their dignity as human beings and their right to be safe in the world.

Promote access to comprehensive sex education & sexual health services

Research shows that age-appropriate comprehensive sex education in grades K-12:

  • delays sexual initiation
  • encourages safer choices
  • fosters social and emotional learning
  • helps prevent homophobia
  • supports healthy relationships, and
  • reduces intimate partner violence

Yet only 18 states require sex education to be medically accurate, and abstinence-only programs are misleading, ineffective, and harmful. As a result, students encounter a patchwork system, where the quantity and quality of sex education they receive vary widely by state, school district, and classroom.

  • Girls Inc. advocates for schools to provide youth with age-appropriate, medically accurate and complete, non-shaming, and LGBTQ+ inclusive sexuality education that gives them comprehensive information about how to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and includes education on consent and healthy relationships.
  • Girls Inc. supports improved access for young people to quality and culturally-responsive sexual health care services.
Advance menstrual equity

In the U.S., 1 in 4  teens has missed school due to a lack of access to safe and affordable menstrual products, and Medicaid does not cover the cost of these basic health necessities because they are considered a “luxury”.

It is long past time for society to recognize that menstrual hygiene is vital to the health and wellbeing of a huge segment of our population. Read more here: Advancing Menstrual Equity Fact Sheet

  • Girls Inc. advocates for resources to be provided to schools to make menstrual products accessible in bathrooms.
  • Girls Inc. urges Medicaid to cover the cost of menstrual products and we push for the elimination of the “tampon tax” on menstrual products.
Combat sexual harassment & violence

One in 4 girls will experience sexual violence before she turns 18.

Sexual harassment and violence affect students’ physical and mental health, as well as their ability to do well in school. Schools should be places where all students can grow and learn with the help of supportive adults, yet many students who come forward to report incidents of harassment and violence are ignored, disbelieved, and even punished.

  • Girls Inc works to protect and help schools comply with legal and policy prohibitions against sex discrimination and harassment, including explicit protections for LGBTQ+ youth to effectively address harassment and violence and ensure student survivors get the support they need to continue their education.
  • Girls Inc. works to prevent sexual harassment and violence including teen dating violence and child sex trafficking by expanding access to age-appropriate comprehensive sex education and training for school staff to identify signs of trauma and victimization.

Equitable Access to Education

Black girls are 5.5 times more likely than their White peers to be suspended from school.

Equitable Access to Education

Every girl should have equal opportunity to succeed, and the discrimination that girls face due to the intersection of their race and gender can negatively impact their academic achievement, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing. Unfair school discipline policies and practices disproportionately harm girls of color, girls with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ youth and push them out of school. Additionally, girls of color are more likely to attend under-resourced school with less experienced teachers, less sophisticated equipment, textbook shortages, and a lack of higher-level math and science classes.

The digital-divide exacerbates inequities in access to education, especially when schools have to rely on remote learning to educate students during a pandemic or other school interruption.

Push for reforms to school discipline policies and practices
  • Girls Inc. encourages schools to adopt positive approaches to discipline that address the underlying causes of student behavior instead of punishing the behavior.
  • Girls Inc. advocates for changes to punitive dress codes that criminalize girls’ bodies and hairstyles commonly associated with a particular culture, race or national origin.
  • Girls Inc. supports shifting the focus from school-based law enforcement to increasing the presence of mental health providers, training staff on trauma-informed practices, and implementing evidence-based programs like Restorative Justice practices or positive Behavioral interventions & Supports.
  • Girls Inc. supports banning the use of corporal punishment in schools and stop the overuse of seclusion and restraint, which disproportionately harms students with disabilities.
Increase access to postsecondary education
  • Girls Inc. works to advance access to postsecondary education opportunities for young women regardless of their identities and status such as race, sex, (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnant or parenting status), disability, immigration status and / or socioeconomic status.
  • Girls Inc. pushes for the elimination of financial and systemic barriers to an affordable, quality postsecondary education that includes essential student supports, so postsecondary opportunities will be as universal, accessible, and affordable as high school and all students will have what they need to complete their education.
Improve access for girls and other underrepresented groups to meaningful opportunities to pursue career paths that lead to economic independence
  • Improve access to STEM learning and other workforce development opportunities and internships, as well as leadership development.
  • Girls Inc. advocates to increase funding to bridge the digital divide, for social and emotional learning (SEL), and for out-of-school time programs and mentoring opportunities that provide youth in underserved communities with academic enrichment social and emotional learning, knowledge about healthy living, opportunities for physical activity, and interpersonal skills.

Mental Health and Wellness

More than 1 in 5 high school girls seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

Mental Health and Wellness

Girls Inc. affiliates report that natural disasters, COVID-19, economic instability, racial injustice, social unrest, immigration raids, and increases in hate crimes and discrimination have contributed to trauma and mental health concerns for girls. High school students who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were over three times more likely than straight-identified students to contemplate suicide. Youth of color are more likely to experience adversity in childhood, and face disparities in access to diagnosis and treatment.

Increase access to mental health and wellness support for youth in underserved communities
  • Girls Inc is pushing for funding for more school-based mental health professionals and services, including screening, treatment, an outreach programs.
  • Girls Inc. promotes greater access for school staff and students to suicide awareness and prevention programs as well as eating disorder awareness and prevention programs.
  • Girls Inc. advocates for improved identification of children and families who have experienced trauma, including in schools, in the juvenile justice system, and in communities.
  • Girls Inc. works to strengthen laws, policies, and funding for programs that promote trauma-informed practices, training, and healing-centered engagement.
  • Girls Inc. promotes continued access to telehealth services.
Combat the persistent stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment
  • Girls Inc. believes mental health  is as important as physical health and there should be no shame associated with having a problem and needing help, yet girls report that there is still a stigmas associated with seeking support.

Civic Engagement and Voting Rights

A democracy is stronger when more voices are heard and everyone is engaged.

Civic Engagement and Voting Rights

Girls Inc. prepares girls to be civically engaged members of society and we encourage all eligible voters to participate in our democracy. Every issue Girls Inc. works on depends on electing leaders who care about and are ready to tackle the wide-ranging problems affecting girls and their communities.

  • Promote high quality, sustained civic education in schools, for grades K-12.
  • Support free and fair elections in which all voters are able to fully participate in the democratic process.
  • Promote policies that make it easier for people to register to vote and case their ballots.
  • Protect the rights of communities that have historically been excluded from freely voting, and resist voter suppression.

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Girls Inc. National Advocacy Efforts

While we are alarmed by the Department of Education’s decision to roll back Title IX protections, Girls Inc. will continue to work to ensure that student survivors of sexual assault get the support they need to continue their education. Help us keep up the drumbeat on social media using the hashtag #HandsOffIX and urge your school systems and colleges to make a public commitment to continue implementing the 2011 Title IX guidance. ​

Girls Inc., its affiliates, and over 320 national, state, and local youth advocacy organizations sent a letter to Congress in support of the bipartisan Dream Act of 2017. The bill would provide lawful status and a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who came to the United States as children. We are proud to support immigrant girls in reaching their full potential and achieving their dreams.

Opportunities to Support the Girls Inc. Network’s National Advocacy Efforts

Stand up for Title IX