We Know We Deserve Better.

Girls for Gender Equity
5 min readMar 7, 2024

by Arna Asad (she/her), Sisters in Strength participant

This month as we all know is Women’s History Month, and as a woman myself, I obviously encourage us to spend each and every day, reflecting on all of the crucial and beautiful roles women have played throughout history. I mean, look at Miss Rihanna herself, the CEO of Savage X Fenty, a game-changing, inclusive lingerie brand. Who hasn’t heard of her gorgeous beauty line, Fenty Beauty, where she launched a whopping 50 different shades for all skin tones, or her glossbomb lippies which I simply can’t get enough of? Let’s look at the all-time superstar, Bridgit Mendler, who starred in Lemonade Mouth, Good Luck Charlie, and so many other iconic shows and movies. Not only did she attain a PhD from MIT and attend Harvard University, but she also recently claimed the title of CEO of Northwood Space!

We love to see women winning, and each time they do, we have the responsibility of celebrating their incredible achievements; however, Women’s History Month also gives us a chance to uplift women who need a spotlight. There are a billion industries where women need some light on them to be shown; I am a foster kid, so I will do my part this month to improve the quality of care for women and girls in care by sharing information about particular challenges we go through.

When we look at the statistics of children in general, we find a pattern that girls compared to boys have significantly lower rates of self-esteem. One study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that while about 20% of boys face low self-esteem, a staggering 50% of girls face continuous struggles with even something as natural as body image. If you look at the society we have today, these statistics absolutely make sense. Women for centuries have dealt with unrealistic body images and beauty concepts. Little girls are often told the traditional views of “what a woman is supposed to do”, whether that’s sit still, look pretty, or stay home and raise kids. So yes, of course these statistics make reasonable sense, however, there’s an even more pressing concern when you look at the statistics on girls in care. Not only do they face the societal pressures that all women around the world face, but they have to face them without a stable home, school, and most importantly family. When a girl looks at herself in the mirror, physically or metaphorically, and doesn’t see a “perfect girl” reflected back to her, you can only imagine she will do everything in her power to blend in. This is whether we’re talking about code-switching, body dysmorphia, or even trying to be older than they are in reality. In an ideal world, a girl’s parents or caregivers would be the first to notice such signs and reassure their child that they don’t have to change a single thing, it’s their world that needs changing. Foster girls don’t have that support they can fall back on. We can only try to do what we think we should be doing, without having that highly needed concept of an adult to catch us when we fall. Being a girl in today’s society is tough — being a foster girl is nearly impossible.

Foster care has an unfortunate reputation of children in care not being able to stay in one home for too long and this reputation does indeed hold up. A direct statistic quotes, “A child in foster care, will more than likely be moved about four times during their first year being in care.”

The risk (and reality) of constantly moving from home to home and school to school makes children develop trust issues, and when looking at girls in particular, they are often left with no other choice but to internalize their insecurities. For example, it’s no surprise that women and girls face all sorts of pressures from society to have sex. I know growing up, I’ve definitely wanted to fit the description of “what it means to be a woman”. This was luckily before I was in foster care. I had my friends to talk to, my teachers who knew and understood me, and I also had adult figures to tell me I was perfect the way I am. Most girls in care never even have the opportunity to experience these types of trusting and nurturing relationships because trust takes time. This in turn leaves them no chance to have a trusting adult figure in their life from whom they can learn about safe sex, where they can realize they are enough without feeling the need to engage in sexual activities. I believe all women face these struggles, whether they are in care or not, but foster girls, we don’t have anyone to trust, hence we don’t have anyone who can teach us and nurture us. Children naturally crave attention to justify their worth, and in an ideal world, a parent would provide that, or maybe a trusted teacher, or best friend. How can girls in care have trusted adults in their lives to trust and talk to, if they are bound to have trust issues after being moved from home to home all their life? They can’t really, so they will seek the answer in other, sometimes detrimental ways. This can include being taken advantage of sexually and teen pregnancy. If we look back, we can see how all of these intense issues could have been avoided, had these young girls had an outlet to deal with their insecurities that kids are just bound to have growing up.

That is only one way of how a girl’s life can be swayed dramatically, but it is also easy to make the connection to reproductive justice. Girls in care may lack access to comprehensive reproductive health education, and this can be yet another way of putting them at risk for unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and other reproductive health issues.

There are a plethora of issues girls and women alike face in the foster care industry, and I chose to highlight the one I find most important to me. Girls from all walks of life deal with insecurities and the need to feel attention from those around them. However, foster girls are left vulnerable to these very common adolescent issues, as they have no one to turn to for what they need. We don’t have parents who will often tell us we are perfect the way we are, we don’t always have teachers who educate us about the importance of safe sex. We simply don’t have a lot of necessary healthy adult influences in our lives and in turn, we often face abuse, face an immense mental toll, or even create another life we weren’t ready for. With these huge barriers surrounding us, it’s easy to get demotivated, and it’s easy to feel like the system let us down. These issues are a pattern, they are prominent, and they are a never-ending cycle — except it isn’t never-ending, after all. I refuse to believe these statistics won’t change. Women have been tried to be put down by society and all of its systems time and time again, but women like Rihanna, Bridgit Mendler, and, most close-to-home, foster girls prove the world wrong. This month, I encourage my foster brothers and sisters to shine a spotlight on themselves in what they feel is most substantial to them because we know we deserve better.



Girls for Gender Equity

Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an intergenerational organization centering the leadership of cis and trans Black girls and gender-expansive youth of color.