Art is a powerful storytelling tool. Whether it is through the use of photography, short stories, poems or paintings, art as a medium can tell diverse stories, serve as a catalyst to discuss issues that affect our world, and evoke an array of emotions to audiences both near and far.
In exploring solutions to stopping violence against girls and women, the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Together for Girls asked girls to use their artistic talents to solve the many challenges that adolescent girls face that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
Using their incredible creativity, girls all over the world — from Tanzania and Nigeria to Syria and the Republic of Georgia — submitted their art to illustrate ways in which barriers such as poor health, violence, lack of education, gender inequality and discrimination, and violations of girls’ human rights can be addressed to foster more equitable societies where girls can thrive.
While all of the art submitted to the contest was excellent, the top five entries painted powerful and thought-provoking imageries of the inequalities that girls face daily. Their art illustrates their tenacious and resilient spirit and the imperative need to include girls in the global conversation — as they are powerful agents of change.
Take a look at the beautiful art below by The World in Your Hands art contest winner, Alexandra, and the runner-ups Nutsa, Racha, Sanah and Kjerstyn. Their entries will be featured at the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and Together for Girls events at the 2016 Commission on the Status of Women in New York City in March.
About the Art: I decided to draw a girl’s face made up of words and phrases that girls encounter and even think, posing the issue as well as the solution in my piece. My work of art uses several different mediums: pencil, marker and pen. The pencil underneath the colorful marker and pen portray what society projects to young girls, the warped expectations society has about girls and what girls think due to these expectations. Phrases such as “be perfect,” “am I enough,” “my self-worth is based on others” and “why don’t I look like her” cover the girls’ face, hair and clothes.
All these views are broadcasted to adolescent girls through magazines, social media and television, which contributes to one of the five barriers: poor health. Poor health can be not only physical, but also mental. The “perfect girl” many grow up seeing leads to poor self-esteem and body image. Due to the pressures from society, many girls develop illnesses, such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, and sadly, many other illnesses. Young girls feel the pressure to be perfect mentally and physically, struggling to live up to societal expectations and unaware of the fact that these views of young women are warped. This is not what should be projected to young women; however, people grow up with and believe in these standards.
About Alexandra: "I am 15-years-old and currently a sophomore living in the United States. In addition to taking art at school, I run cross country and track. I love art and I also love to learn. Many people in my life have helped me become the person I am today, in other words, a person who is very passionate about the equal rights of women. Through my teachers, parents and peers, I have become educated about the many problems women face on a day-to-day basis. As a teenage girl, I have faced some of the issues that my piece addresses, and I have an emotional connection to the piece. The problem presented affects each and every adolescent girl and I believe that through combatting society’s warped message, we can help better the mental and physical health of girls."
About the art: "In my opinion, the human rights violation of girls is one of the biggest problems in the world. I live in the Republic of Georgia and last year in my country, 11 girls died because of violence. In my country, some people think that a girl’s “work” is to stay in the kitchen and have kids. Because of these incorrect opinions and stereotypes that some people have, sometimes girls marry as young as 14 or 15.
When people see a violation of a girl’s rights, some close their eyes and think that it isn’t their business. In my opinion, if we close our eyes again, and if we won’t do anything to protest violence against girls, this problem could happen to us directly, too.
I think that if we let go of these stereotypes, and accept that girls are brave, strong and deserve education, we will solve this problem and will show the world that girls can do any and everything we put our minds too. The world will know that we are courageous, brave and educated girls."
About Nutsa: "My name is Nutsa and I live in the Republic of Georgia. I am a ninth grader, and I am interested in painting and history. A year ago, I joined a non-governmental organization called “Biliki,” which is helping children from occupied regions. I am an activist in this organization, which means that I am often writing projects with my group. We often have discussions and trainings about human rights, violence against women, children’s health and other topics."
About the art: "My drawing represents the suffering of an adolescent girl whose access to education is denied due to her poor living conditions. The girl seen in my drawing is exhausted, sad, and is doing all the household chores. It is very noticeable that she lives in hard living conditions where her rights like her education, clothing, right to play and right to live her age are denied. Although she is surrounded by bad living conditions, the girl is constantly dreaming of resuming her education."
About Racha: "I am Racha, and I am a girl with disability. I moved from Syria when the war first started. I have reached grade five at school, but I still can’t read nor write because our schools were never prepared to teach people with disabilities. I have a lot of dreams, and one of them is continuing my education and to reach high levels in my studies. I also dream of becoming a famous artist since I love to draw and I am really talented."
About the poem: "I believe that my piece truly addresses four of the five barriers that girls face daily. It addresses gender-based violence because it tells the story of a 15-year-old bride who was abused by her husband. It also touches on gender inequality and discrimination because the young woman has no voice to speak up. She’s forced into marriage and that is a violation of a girl’s human rights. Her early marriage also causes her to have a lack of access to education.
The solution to these barriers: Speak up. Use the voice that we have. Stand up for women and girls everywhere."
About Sanah: "My name is Sanah, and I’m 18 years old from Texas. I am double majoring in sociology and communications at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and I am an active public speaker and writer. I am the founder of a non-profit organization called The Love Your Natural Self Foundation, which focuses on empowering individuals all around the world through events, movements, and hands-on sessions. I started this organization after losing all of my hair to alopecia in the seventh grade. I struggled with wigs, self-harm, and self-hate for years. Now, my non-profit organization hosts projects in 28 countries worldwide. Every chance I get, I speak at conferences, host empowerment sessions for local/international youth, hold fundraisers, and exhibit at events to spread the word. My dream and mission is to empower women and change the world."
About the poem: "My work is very metaphorical. The idea of dark represents lack of education and gender-based violence. My solution to gender-based violence is to enforce laws regarding violence and to spread hope to survivors. I believe that if we all stand together on this issue, a brighter world is around the corner."
About Kjerstyn: "I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and because of this, I serve others. The Coalition for Adolescent Girls is an organization that I trust and choose to support."