Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions To Empower Girls In New York State

"Be Aware-Be Informed" Learning Module Will Empower Young People to Forge Healthy Relationships.

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Photo by: sobima

Albany, NY - January 23, 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new actions to empower girls in New York State as part of his 2018 Women's Agenda for New York: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity. The proposals will empower young people to forge healthy relationships, work to close the gender gap in STEM, provide mentoring and leadership opportunities for girls across the State, and ensure access to menstrual products in public schools.
"New York leads the nation in championing women's rights and breaking down barriers to equality, and that mission starts when women are girls," Governor Cuomo said. "With these proposals, New York is demonstrating our commitment to empowering women throughout their lifetimes, and showing girls that they can do anything.  Our 2018 Women's Agenda will continue to raise the bar higher and higher for women in New York, beginning with policies to equalize the playing field for our youngest women."
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chair of the New York Women's Suffrage Commission, said, "We know women's lives are shaped by their experiences as girls. To give every girl in New York a great start, our Women's Agenda will ensure that girls - and boys - learn to distinguish between healthy relationships and abuse and receive age-appropriate, medically-accurate sexual education in the classroom. We will also give girls the tools to become confident, successful women by focusing on mentoring and exposure to non-traditional and high-earning careers. The only way to truly change our culture once and for all is to implement changes at every stage of a woman's life."
Secretary to the Governor and Chair, New York State Council on Women and Girls, Melissa DeRosa, said, "Our charge for the Council of Women and Girls was simple: to advance women's rights within our state, and ensure that all state policies take into account the rights of women and girls. With this series of proposals we are taking enormous steps to create a path to leadership because we want girls to dream big. And we know that only happens when right from the start, they are socialized and educated to do so-- the future jobs and careers of our girls demands it."
Create the "Be Aware-Be Informed" Learning Module to Empower Young People to Forge Healthy Relationships
According to the Center for Disease Control, New York students report a higher rate of physical dating violence than the national average, and more than one in six female high school students in New York report being forced into sexual activity. New York State law enforcement respond to over a half a million domestic violence calls a year, and domestic violence is the reason cited for 25 percent of homeless women and children. In addition, over 42 percent of dating violence incidents took place on school property, but only 3 percent of students notified an adult. Research suggests that these patterns of unsafe dating behaviors can begin as young as eleven. However, effective education about the prevention of dating violence has been shown to lower its incidence by 60 percent. All of New York's young people must have access to tools to lower incidence of sexual harassment, assault and teen dating violence.
Governor Cuomo proposes that the State Education Department and the Department of Health coordinate to create a K-12 learning module for healthy relationships. Such curriculum will include the same definition of consent used in the successful Enough is Enough law to foment a common understanding for all students. Other topics shall include age-appropriate information on confronting and avoiding sexual harassment and assault and teen dating violence, as well as medically accurate sexual health. These actions will help ensure that students are safe at school and treated with respect and dignity. The State will give schools the ability to empower students to make healthy decisions in their personal lives.
Work to Close the Gender Gap by Giving the Youngest Learners Access to Computer Science and Technology
Computer science education is more important than ever before. Technology is among the fastest growing and highest paying sectors today, and the number one in-demand occupation in New York State, but even though 93 percent of parents report that they want their child to study Computer Science, the majority of New York public schools do not offer computer science in the classroom.
In addition, there is a wide gender gap in the students studying computer science. In 2015, New York had 3,801 computer science graduates; only 18 percent were female. Only 3,761 high school students in New York took the AP Computer Science exam in 2016; only 25 percent were female.
This year, Governor Cuomo will launch New York's largest State investment to expand high quality computer science education by offering teacher support and resources in computer science and technology, especially for the youngest learners, starting as early as kindergarten and creating a continuum through high school. It is important to reach students at an early age, as research has suggested that girls are less likely to pursue STEM careers as adults, even when equally talented mathematically. The Governor proposes a commitment of $6 million a year for the Smart Start program that will provide grants to schools for teacher development in computer science. All schools will be eligible but grants will go to the highest need schools first. By providing teachers support to become in-house experts in computer science, more students will be exposed to computer science and will self-select into it. Schools that receive an award will work with their Regional Economic Development Councils to tailor the program to regional businesses or future employers' needs.
In addition, the Governor will convene a working group of educators and industry partners to create model computer science standards to be made available to any school. By equipping our young people with computer science skills at an early age today, we will prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.
Continue the Successful New York State Mentoring Program
Approximately 13,000 students, over six percent, still drop out of high school every year. The dropout rate is even higher for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners. Mentoring is recognized as a drop-out prevention strategy by the United States Department of Education.
A study of more than 14,000 adolescents found that youth with an adult mentor were twice as likely to attend college as their peers. Yet only half of youth in poverty report having an adult mentor. Research has found that youth with mentors were less likely to break the law or experience substance abuse. Mentors make a difference in helping students of all backgrounds succeed. A separate study found that girls that engaged in a supportive mentoring relationship were four times less likely to participate in bullying behaviors than girls without mentors.
Recognizing the importance of the role of a supportive adult in a child's life, Governor Cuomo relaunched the New York State Mentoring program in 2015. In 1984, at the request of her husband, Governor Mario Cuomo, Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo created and implemented The New York State Mentoring Program, the nation's first statewide unique school-based one-to-one mentoring program to prevent school dropout. Today, the New York State Mentoring program serves 1,766 students in 97 school-based sites across New York State.
Launch "If You Can See It You Can Be It" A Day for Girls to See What is Possible
Marian Wright Edelman, renowned civil rights leader and founder of the Children's Defense Fund famously proclaimed, "It's hard to be what you can't see." While women are making strides for equality at a pace unmatched in history, society is still falling short. New York champions the belief that if you work hard, you too can be anything you want to be, no matter your gender, but there is more to do to help level the playing field.
To encourage more girls to enter "non-traditional" occupations and pursue positions in leadership in all fields, Governor Cuomo is announcing an "If You Can See It, You Can Be It" campaign. As part of Take Our Daughters to Work Day, born over 25 years ago in New York, New York State will enhance internal programming and partner with top New York companies to give more young girls the opportunity to shadow women leaders in "non-traditional" fields. The State will also be working to connect homeless youth, youth in foster care and young people from low-income areas to programming where they live. Additionally, the State will also develop an "If You Can See It, You Can Be It" PSA campaign and launch a learning module to give a broader audience of girls the tools to realize a limitless future.
Ensure Access to Feminine Hygiene Products in Public Schools
Many young women in New York lack access to feminine hygiene products, which are as necessary as toilet paper and soap, but hardly ever as available or free. In New York, 42 percent of children live in low income families. At $7 to $10 per package, a month's supply of something as simple as a box of pads or tampons can be one expense too many for struggling families. The United Nations has even linked menstrual hygiene access to human rights.
This year, Governor Cuomo will propose legislation requiring school districts to provide free feminine hygiene products, in restrooms, for girls in grades 6 through 12. This important step will make New York State a leader in addressing this issue of inequality and stigma, ensuring that no girl's learning is hindered by lack of access to the products her biology demands.
President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts Robin Chappelle Golston said, "The Governor and the Women and Girls Council know that knowledge is power and we applaud the inclusion of the "Be Informed-Be Aware" module in the Executive's Budget Proposal. Giving young people the tools they need to have healthy, safe relationship benefits all New Yorkers. It is key to give all youth access to medically accurate, age-appropriate learning regardless of where they live. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Council to make this a reality."
President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Andrea Miller said, "Governor Cuomo and the Council on Women and Girls have made a significant step forward in including a K-12 comprehensive sexual health initiative in the budget with the Be Aware, Be Informed education module. When all students have the information to make healthy decisions, and our schools have the resources to provide that information, the result is a healthier New York."
NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, "With Be Informed/Be Aware,' Governor Cuomo and the Women's Council recognize that supporting young people's education, development and identities requires instruction and skills building about healthy relationships and bodies. We look forward to working together to ensure that these components of comprehensive sex education touch every single student in our state."
Co-Chair of the NYS Make the CASE Coalition, Jillian Faison said, "Our Coalition applauds the Governor and the Council on Women and Girls for including a K-12 comprehensive sexual health initiative in the budget through their Be Aware, Be Informed education module. We look forward to working with the Executive to ensure that all children have access to the information necessary to make healthy decisions about their bodies. Healthy kids make a healthy New York."