Females United for Action

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
No Private Matter! Ending Abuse in Intimate & Family Relations competition.

Females United for Action (FUFA) is a coalition of young women leaders that is dedicated to educate not only ourselves, but others as well, on issues that affect women and girls. We organize to bring attention to the issues and take action to address them. FUFA is formed by girls and young women from all over the city of Chicago, from all backgrounds & nationalities, ranging from 12 years of age & up.

This is our problem statement, which guides our work: FUFA is concerned about the way that women and girls are portrayed in the media. We feel that there are too many negative images of women and girls, and that these images are tied to sexual exploitation and violence against women. We understand that society creates the structure in which these forms of violence take place, and that the media has a large role in that process. We recognize that too many people accept media power and media images without challenging them, and that the media is not held responsible for its actions. FUFA has identified 3 issues in response: to create more positive images of women in the media; to educate the public about these problems, encouraging people to think & act about the media; and to make media more responsible for the images it puts out.

FUFA's work to take action around this problem statement has included:
-- A successful campaign to change the way a local radio station, La Ley 107.9, conducts its advertising;
-- The creation of a photo exhibit, Alternative Windows, which shows positive images of young men and women that we do not see reflected in mainstream media;
-- A partnership with a group of young men who take action with us to end violence against women;
-- Public events uniting hundreds of young people to learn about the issue and take action;
-- The promotion of press coverage around the issue, including local and national articles and TV coverage.

About You

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Location

Project Street Address

Project City

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Project Postal/Zip Code

Project Country

n/a

Your idea

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Focus of activity

Advocacy

Year the initiative began

2005

Position your initiative on the mosaic of solutions

Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Culture Of Acceptance

Which of the insights is the primary focus of your work?

Galvanize Outrage

If you believe some other barrier or insight should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic

Dismantling systems that promote violence against women -- FUFA's work is aimed at media portrayals of women and girls, both in creating a culture of acceptance of violence, and in systemically promoting violence against women.

Name Your Project

Females United for Action

Describe Your Idea

Females United for Action (FUFA) is a coalition of young women leaders that is dedicated to educate not only ourselves, but others as well, on issues that affect women and girls. We organize to bring attention to the issues and take action to address them. FUFA is formed by girls and young women from all over the city of Chicago, from all backgrounds & nationalities, ranging from 12 years of age & up.
This is our problem statement, which guides our work: FUFA is concerned about the way that women and girls are portrayed in the media. We feel that there are too many negative images of women and girls, and that these images are tied to sexual exploitation and violence against women. We understand that society creates the structure in which these forms of violence take place, and that the media has a large role in that process. We recognize that too many people accept media power and media images without challenging them, and that the media is not held responsible for its actions. FUFA has identified 3 issues in response: to create more positive images of women in the media; to educate the public about these problems, encouraging people to think & act about the media; and to make media more responsible for the images it puts out.
FUFA's work to take action around this problem statement has included:
-- A successful campaign to change the way a local radio station, La Ley 107.9, conducts its advertising;
-- The creation of a photo exhibit, Alternative Windows, which shows positive images of young men and women that we do not see reflected in mainstream media;
-- A partnership with a group of young men who take action with us to end violence against women;
-- Public events uniting hundreds of young people to learn about the issue and take action;
-- The promotion of press coverage around the issue, including local and national articles and TV coverage.

Innovation

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Description of Initiative

Females United for Action (FUFA) is a coalition of young women leaders that is dedicated to educate not only ourselves, but others as well, on issues that affect women and girls. We organize to bring attention to the issues and take action to address them. FUFA is formed by girls and young women from all over the city of Chicago, from all backgrounds & nationalities, ranging from 12 years of age & up.

This is our problem statement, which guides our work: FUFA is concerned about the way that women and girls are portrayed in the media. We feel that there are too many negative images of women and girls, and that these images are tied to sexual exploitation and violence against women. We understand that society creates the structure in which these forms of violence take place, and that the media has a large role in that process. We recognize that too many people accept media power and media images without challenging them, and that the media is not held responsible for its actions. FUFA has identified 3 issues in response: to create more positive images of women in the media; to educate the public about these problems, encouraging people to think & act about the media; and to make media more responsible for the images it puts out.

FUFA's work to take action around this problem statement has included:
-- A successful campaign to change the way a local radio station, La Ley 107.9, conducts its advertising;
-- The creation of a photo exhibit, Alternative Windows, which shows positive images of young men and women that we do not see reflected in mainstream media;
-- A partnership with a group of young men who take action with us to end violence against women;
-- Public events uniting hundreds of young people to learn about the issue and take action;
-- The promotion of press coverage around the issue, including local and national articles and TV coverage.

Innovation

FUFA aims to end violence against women and girls, and to do so, we are targeting the root causes of violence. The model that we have developed combines analysis, leadership development and action at every level.

Every FUFA meeting, and every event, includes a discussion or popular education training in which young people can develop their ideas and analysis on the root causes of violence against women and girls. For example, the group has looked at media ownership and how it affects images in the media; we had an in-depth discussion about the alleged rape at Duke University; and we have analyzed street harassment as it impacts different identity groups. At a recent public event, which we held in partnership with 2 other organizations (the Young Women's Action Team & Public Square), young people led discussions about hip hop's portrayal of gender, and where the responsibility lies for negative portrayals.

At the same time, FUFA is all about action. Last year, the group took on a local radio station, La Ley, and successfully campaigned to have negative portrayals of women removed from billboards and advertisements across Chicago (see effectiveness, below). FUFA is now gearing up to take on the hypocritical indecency standards, which penalize even positive portrayals of sexuality while remaining silent about violence against women.

Another innovative aspect of our work is our partnership with young men. FUFA believes that violence against women will not end without involving young men as partners in this work. We hold dialogues with young men around media and violence, and these are facilitated by a team of young women and young men. We have also worked together with the young men to develop a travelling photo exhibit, Alternative Windows, which shows young people's ideas of positive images of men and women that are not portrayed in mainstream media. This new exhibit has already been seen by over 300 people in Chicago.

Delivery Model

We work in partnership with six girl-serving organizations, and communicate regularly through these organizations. We have monthly full membership meetings, in which most decisions are made, and communicate by listserv throughout the month.

When we hold our bigger events, we do outreach in several ways: through online communications, such as listservs; through presentations at local institutions; and through contacts with organizations across the city. These events themselves are intended to be communications mechanisms. By showing the Alternative Windows exhibit, by screening films such as Beyond Beats & Rhymes, by hosting spoken word events and discussions, and by creating discussion guides for every event, we are able to communicate our message with a broad group of young people.

Finally, because FUFA is focused on media images of women and girls, an important part of our strategy is to gain positive media coverage of our work. In the past year, we have been featured in articles in the Chicago Tribune, In These Times, and several Spanish language newspapers. Our work has appeared on 3 TV channels, and in blogs. We provided these materials to youth groups across the city, who have used them to spark discussions about violence against women and the role of media.

Key Operational Partnerships

FUFA is itself a coalition, and our work is inherently collaborative. Individual young women from across Chicago join the coalition, along with members of 6 partner organizations: Access Living Empowered Fe Fes; Alternatives Girlworld; the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council; Centro Comunitario Juan Diego; the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health; & Mikva Challenge. The young women come from all over Chicago, including the southwest side, the northwest side, the far southeast side, Uptown and Little Village.

Impact

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Financial Model

We are not service providers, but instead are all about helping young women to develop the skills and analysis they need to take action together to end violence against women and girls. Our workshops are free, and in order to provide support for girls, we also offer internships so that individual young women can learn concrete skills that they wish to develop.

FUFA has earned some money by providing trainings for groups and universities about media and violence against women, and by taking public speaking engagements on the issues.

What percentage, if any, of the total operating costs does earned income (from products, services, or other fees) represent?

1%

How is the initiative financed? Is it financially self-sustainable or profitable? How much do beneficiaries contribute?

Our initiative is primarily supported by foundations; until now, a small percent comes from earned income and individual donations. We are now working to develop these areas of funding.

Effectiveness

In 2006, FUFA led a successful campaign to change the way the radio station La Ley conducts its advertising. The youth focused on an ad for a radio contest called “25 pegaditas” (slang for 25 hits or slaps), which featured an image of Latinas, photographed from behind in short shorts. Through press work, an action, an email blitz, a 350-person public meeting held by BPNC, and several negotiations, FUFA was able to meet with both the General Manager at La Ley, and a representative of Spanish Broadcasting System (the Miami company that owns La Ley) to make sure that they would hear firsthand from young women about their concerns. Through this work, FUFA won removal of the billboards, and a commitment in writing that the young women’s concerns would be taken into account in “all future advertising campaigns.” Indeed, La Ley has kept its commitment and changed its advertising focus.
This campaign also promoted public dialogue around how media portrays women and girls. The campaign received a great deal of media attention, including two 2 articles in the Tribune, articles in 4 Spanish newspapers, stories on 2 TV channels and a recent article in In These Times magazine (please see attached press). It was featured in blogs across the country, and was used by youth groups throughout Chicago as a learning tool.

In summer 2006, FUFA and a group of young male allies launched a documentation project called “Alternative Windows.” We distributed disposable cameras to young men and women and asked them to take photographs to answer this question: “What positive images of men and women are not represented in mainstream media?” The answers, reflecting positive family relationships, different identities, and people connecting across difference, is now a traveling photo exhibit, accompanied by readings and a discussion guide. It has already been viewed by over 300 people, and is now on the road across Chicago.

How many people have benefited from your program over the last year? Which element of the program proved itself most effective?

We believe that women and girls across Chicago benefitted by having La Ley's offensive images removed, and by seeing the example of a group of girls and young women that were willing and ready to take action. This element of our program, our concrete campaign against La Ley and Spanish Broadcasting System, was perhaps our most effective element. The fact that Spanish Broadcasting System flew a representative to Chicago to meet with a group of young women shows the power that the group was able to build, and the outcome -- removal of the ads; a change in advertising focus; and a commitment for the young women to speak on air, to continue our public education work -- was significant.

Scaling up Strategy

Some of the goals that we have moving forward are:

-- To continue to build our partnership with young men. While FUFA will remain a young women's space, the young men that we have worked with are committed to continuing to take action. We have found few examples of groups that have built co-ed partnerships around this issue, and we know that this work will be challenging but exciting as we move forward.

-- To target systemic issues impacting media portrayals of women, and violence against women: FUFA is now looking at the indecency laws and the role of the FCC in determining what can and cannot be played on air. We have educated ourselves about media ownership because we feel that it is important to understand the corporate control of media, and how this impacts the images we see every day. Our work will continue to move in this direction, so that we can have a broader systemic impact.

-- To build partnerships both locally and nationally: Our work will continue to be collaborative, and as we move into policy and systemic issues, we are working hard to build local and national partnerships in this work.

Stage of the Initiative

1

Origin of the Initiative

FUFA grew out of Breaking Down Barriers, a day-long young women’s convening that Women & Girls CAN held in February 2005. This event, which united 85 women & girls from 17 organizations, was entirely planned and run by a group of young women from across Chicago. Working together, the young women engaged in exercises, discussions and youth-run trainings on issues including rape, domestic violence, teen dating violence, media images of women, teen pregnancy & street harassment. Asked what they learned, some comments were: "You can gather other people that the same thing happened to them and organize"; “How to start rallies and stand up for what I believe in”; “What we could do to fight for what we believe in”; “The reasons behind domestic violence & teen dating violence”; “How images of women in media perpetuate street harassment”. From this event, the young women formed FUFA.

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

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How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate?

We heard about the contest from several partners in the work, from listservs, and from the Cricket Island Foundation.

Main Obstacles to Scaling Up

Financial needs: This is always a challenge in doing this work. We need funds to travel nationally to network with organizations, and to hold conferences and events for a broad number of young people.

Training needs: Related to our financial need is a need for training. In fact, we have found very few organizations that have expertise in media justice as it relates to violence against women. We have been able to build partnerships with groups in the Bay Area that are experts on media justice for youth, and with groups across Chicago that are engaging in community accountability work to end violence against women. We are developing our own analysis around the intersection of these areas.

Main Financial Challenges

One challenge is our desire to develop individual donors and earned income strategies to make our organization more sustainable. We have attended trainings offered by a local foundation (Girls Best Friend) around these issues, but as a young organization with limited staffing, we do not yet have the capacity to build up these areas as we would like.

It is also financially challenging to run a citywide coalition, in particular one that is looking to take on national policy issues. Financial needs include transportation expenses for youth; the need for a centrally located office space; accessibility costs because we are committed to include youth with disabilities; and the need to travel nationally to network with groups.

We are interested in foundation support, and in individual donors and earned income strategies.

Main Partnership Challenges

We have had few challenges within our central partnership of 6 organizations. We believe that this is because the organizations themselves set the groundrules for participation -- how many meetings per year; how many members would attend; what the responsibilities would be; and what the perceived benefits would be. We check in regularly with our partners to make sure that the coalition is seving everyone's needs. Because the Women & Girls Collective Action Network coordinates FUFA, we also have partner representatives on our board of directors to guide the organization.