PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Giving girls a guide to success, the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance is pushing for policies they say will help the next generation.
Maya Shamash likes to stay busy.
“I participate in many clubs at my school, I’m Miss Suncoast at our school,” she said.
The 17-year-old Wellington student’s favorite activity is karate. One day while practicing in the park, Shamash says her instincts were challenged.
“There was a man who started, almost harassing me and he tried to follow me into the woman’s restroom,” she recalled. “I heard him calling from outside the bathroom, little girl, hey little girl, come out little girl.”
Shamash says a family at the park came to her aid and she was able to call her brother who was nearby.
“One of the biggest issues especially when I was in that situation was sometimes, we don’t know when it’s the right time to call the cops,” Shamash said.
“For women or girls who are a part of communities of color, that is a trickier piece,” Takeata King Pang said.
King Pang is with the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance. Last week, the organization released a report on the status of girls in Florida. Revealing one out of four girls lack access to their parents for help with problems and one of of 10 girls reported a lack of access to a safe adult.
“One of the things in the report that just breaks my heart is that the vast number of girls who feel like they don’t have an adult or someone they can go to when they are in those situations,” King Pang said. “So, figuring out what those community based solutions are.”
The 5-year report and action plan titled ‘Make Girls a Priority in Florida,” highlights the need for more mental health resources in schools. It also, revealed disparities in the juvenile justice system.
“In their own words, girls are saying they are feeling victimized, bullied is another way of talking about that,” King Pang said.
“Young Black girls and young Hispanic girls are being punished, they’re being suspended and even arrested at twice the rate of girls who are not of color,’ she said.
King Pang says the next step is to take their findings to the State Capitol.
“To be almost a tool-kit and a guide for different organizations around the state of what they can do in their communities, as well as how we can come together as a coalition of organizations to advocate for girls at the state level in our legislator,” King Pang said.