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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Girl Power reveals secret lives, emotions

Before she started college, Lisa Richman never felt silenced.

She grew up with four sisters who were always willing to talk about their feelings and ideas.

But when Richman, now a graduate student at the University, began her undergraduate project at Franklin and Marshall College, she learned that many teenage girls feel suppressed by society.

On Friday, Richman presented the stories of a few of these young, at-risk teenage girls from Lancaster, Penn., in a photojournalism project titled, “The Girls’ Room.”

“Everyone has a story but the stories of girls are rarely heard,” she said to the group gathered in the Women’s Center.

Richman used a Power Point presentation filled with quotes and photographs of the girls to tell their stories.

With the help of Girl Power, a government-sponsored campaign focused on improving the lives of girls between ages 9 and 13, Richman was able listen to some of the girls talk. The group provided names of girls for her to interview and photograph for her project.

Richman began listening to the girls’ stories by speaking to each pre-teen girl in her bedroom and then taking photographs of her.

She chose to interview them in their bedrooms because she thought they’d be most comfortable in their own personal spaces. She said she was shocked by just how much these girls told her about their lives.

One 13-year-old girl, at five months pregnant, told Richman she would probably drop out of school. Another, struggling with her gender identity, confessed that her mother forced her to wear make-up because she wore her hair like “like a boy.”

As these girls told their stories, Richman recorded their conversations and then, after several months, presented her findings at a gallery at Franklin and Marshall College.

“You’re not going to hear these girls’ voices in statistics,” she said.

In her presentation at the Women’s Center, Richman told the group about the realities these young pre-teen girls face everyday – low self-esteem, friendship crises, identity issues and poor body image.

“Because some of these issues seem tiny, we may not hear them sometimes but these are their whole lives,” she said.

Laura Kutcher, a sophomore who attended the presentation, said she got something out of Richman’s work.

“It makes you realize that so many other girls don’t feel up to par or up to other people’s standards,” she said.

In addition to sharing her story in university communities, Richman has also presented her project at the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Conference in Harrisburg, Penn., in Big Brother and Big Sister training programs and at Montreal’s Transforming Spaces conference, a Canadian non-profit organization that supports social justice for girls.

But Richman just hopes her project will continue to have an impact.

“The Girls’ Room, in my opinion, is a living breathing thing,” she said. “I don’t think we should be waiting until [the girls] are adults to find out what they’ve gone through.”

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