Have you ever wondered what girls talk about when they get together? Bring together girls aged nine to nineteen and they’ll talk about sex, drugs, violence, peer pressure, history, self-image, pain and power. Girls Speak Out is not just a book but also an international program developed in 1994 by Andrea Johnson and Gloria Steinem, with continuous support by such feminists as Amy Richards and Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Backed by the Ms. Foundation, the YWCA and others, workshops that empower girls are held throughout the world from private schools to low-income housing developments. Strong feminist women are teaching girls about empowerment and encouraging the next generation of strong women.


Girls Speak Out workshops are widespread but obviously not every girl has the opportunity to attend one. The book is designed for individual or group work. By reading the book (just like the one used by workshop participants) and doing the activities girls can learn about ancient female role models as power sources, women in contemporary cultures, and what the girls in the next county or across the globe are encountering in their lives today.


Each chapter has several “Check In” pages that offer suggestions for thought provoking activities such as creating your own written history, making a collage of girls with various body types, and designing a poster about Girl’s Rights. Page after page is full of contributions by girls who have been through the program whether by attending a workshop or reading the book; girls who have written stories about ancient artifacts or about their true selves. In fact, I found the contributions by the girls themselves to speak strongest.


This book is one of those fine tools that could be used with girls of all cultural and religious backgrounds. It would be ideally suited for women on a pagan/witchcraft path who have daughters or granddaughters in the teen or preteen years to be used for retreats, festivals, weekends, or girl‘s circles. Be ready though, this book opens the doors to almost every topic that women, young and old, can and do encounter: sex, discrimination, civil rights, menstruation, trust, stereotypes, body image and leadership just to name a few. What better way though could be we prepare the women of tomorrow than to allow them a forum to speak with a respectful audience of women who care?


Contact information:

Girls Speak Out Action Network

c/o Ten Speed Press

PO Box 7123

Berkeley, CA 94707


~ review by Denise A. Bell

Author: Andrea Johnston

Celestial Arts, 1997, 2005

pp.230, $12.95