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Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

High School Gender Equality Competition 2015

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: a Conference specifically dedicated to advancing gender equality worldwide. Though we have come a long way in advancing women's rights, there is still a lot that needs to be done. The Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School asked high school students for help in envisioning a world where gender equality is a reality. We were blown away by the number and quality of entries, and thank all those who took the time and effort to show us their vision of "what gender equality looks like to you."

We are delighted to announce the winners of the high school Gender Equality Competition 2015 below.

Joint-First Place Prize Winner: Abigail Salico

Gender Equality Competition winner

Joint-First Place Prize Winner: Olivia Colón

"Human Beings"

Human Beings.
Beautiful, Intelligent, Loving, Caring,
Each with a set of eyes, a pair of ears,
One mouth and one nose.
Neck connected to shoulders,
Sometimes wide, sometimes slender,
An arm attached to either side,
And a hand, with five fingers at the end.
Then comes a chest, then a torso,
A pelvis and two legs,
And ends at two feet, two heels, and ten toes.

Human Beings,
All so similar, yet so different
In our likes, our dislikes,
Hair color, eye color, body type and build.
But none of which make any one person
Superior to another.
It is Character,
The way one treats a fellow human being
That determines one's greatness.
So this is for every girl
Who was ever told she wasn't
Good enough.
Smart enough.
Strong enough.
For those society labels as

Ignore them.

Be Weird, be Different.
Better yet,
Be Yourself.
And learn to Respect others being themselves.
Because we are all Human Beings,
All Beautiful, Intelligent, Loving, Caring.
All One of a Kind.

Second Place Prize Winner: Aurora Solla


Gender equality;
The only option.
We are dying out here
Without it.

Because "boy" or "girl" is the first distinction made.
Because the binary is all we are taught.
Because trans kids are killing themselves
When they think there's only one way out.

Because people still argue "they" cannot be singular.
Because we are taught never to explore our genders.
Because a man in a dress is a joke,
And a woman in a tux is "making up for something".

Because rape rates aren't decreasing.
Because you can be legally murdered as a trans person.
Because toxic masculinity doesn't just hurt women;
Boys, intersex, and nonbinary people feel the pain, too.

Because the first thing assumed about someone is gender.
Because the wage gap will take fifty years to close.
Because people still don't understand
Feminism is for everyone.

Because not being male is a joke on television.
Because trans youth are a major component of homeless people.
Because you see I have breasts,
And assume I'm female.

How do I see gender equality?
It's the only option. Without it,
This society's tearing itself into
A thousand tiny pieces.

Third Place Prize Winner: Allison Romer

"A Certain Way"

If we were equal
This poem would not be needed
But, no.
We still have not succeeded.
Telling young girls
That to be pretty
They must dress
A certain way
Wear their hair
A certain way
Wear makeup
A certain way
Or else
They are a whore.

Telling women in higher education
To not be raped
Once again
To dress
A certain way
To act
A certain way
To choose your job
A certain way
To talk to men
A certain way
Or they are a bitch.

Telling mothers
That they need to dress
A certain way
Feed your child in public
A certain way
Give up your job and work at home
A certain way
Cook for your husband
A certain way
Clean the home
A certain way
Or else you have failed.

Telling successful businesswomen
That they must dress
A certain way
Make less money
A certain way
Speak to men
A certain way
Behave in the office
A certain way
Be specifically successful but-
Only in a certain way.

Fourth Place Prize Winner: Maria Skezas

"Hourglass Feeder"

I want to walk the streets
Without being examined like
A tender sirloin, wrapped, packaged and on display.
"Look like you know what you're doing,
People are more likely to prey on the weak."
Shoulders back, eyes up, swinging my arms slightly
The glowing humanlike
figure changes to a red hand
I stand looking forward, not making eye contact
With the man with a lean in his step
Making his way towards me
"Hey baby girl. How you doin'?"
The light turns and I make my way across the street
Feeling male eyes all down my back.

I want to live in a world
Where breasts are meant for feeding the young
And not for men to stare at
Through my comfy, yet tight, shirt
And fantasize about how well they would fit in the palm of his hand.
Where hourglass figures are for
Baring children, and not for
Holding down the woman that a man is
Forcefully penetrating.

Women and their bodies are pieces of art
And should be treated as such.

Highly Commended: Rebecca Cousins

"Global Fight"

Rebecca Cousins High School Competition

Highly Commended: Michelle Peterson

I am a man
Meant to provide, live tough and be strong as an ox
I am a man.
One that mustn't cry or show affection of any kind
I am a man; my own boss.
Unorganized and reckless, mustn't stay at home nor get tips
I am a man.

Yes, I am a man but I have feelings too.
I am a man but still similar to you.
I have my insecurities and you have yours
So tell me, what's the difference?
I am a man.

I am a woman.
Here to be kind, look pretty, stay at home and clean.
I am a woman
Small and weak, mustn't make a squeak,
My purpose is miniscule to most,
I am only a woman.

Yes, I am a woman but I have feelings too.
I am a woman but still similar to you.
I have my insecurities and you have yours
So tell me, what's the difference?
I am a woman.

Why do we discriminate by religion, race or gender?
Why can't we see through the eyes of one another?
We set up barriers, walls and blockades
Why do we choose to live in a world filled with hate.

We are all human
With one head and a heart.
Strip us of the skin and you'll never tell us apart.
Stereotypes and judgments making all of us distant
Stirring up evil
Not a soul who cares to listen.

Listen to the story of another close to you.
Listen to their struggle
To fight for a child like you.
And yes you are a child both small and physically weak
But even a child can have the strongest voice to speak.

I am a man who respects myself and others
I am a woman spreading love to all my brothers
Brought into this world just the same as you
Searching for peace and equality
As all of us humans should do.

Highly Commended: Cody Rose

"Two People"

Two people, of opposite genders.
Both of the same age, both of the same class.
One happens to get paid more,
One happens to be a woman.
Two people, of opposite genders.
Both of the same age, both of the same class.
One happens to sleep with many,
One happens to be a slut.
Two people, of opposite genders.
Both of the same age, both of the same class.
One happens to wear what they please,
One happens to be called a whore.
Two people, of opposite genders.
Both of the same age, both of the same class.
One happens to be a man, One happens to be a woman.
Two people, of opposite genders.
Both of the same age, both of the same class.
Both almost identical, with the difference of a chromosome.
Both should be equal,
Yet one is not.

Highly Commended: Alex Skezas

"The Rose and The Rock"

You stood there even in the toughest adversity,
Through the rain, the hot summers day and even the harsh winters,
I wish I could be with you though,
But you're a rose and I'm just a rock,
Everyday I stand here watching you time to time,
All I do is nothing,
You're a rose, people want you for your beauty,
But then you die out and get thrown into the garbage,
I can never really relate to you but,
I wish I was alive,
But you're a rose and I'm just a rock,
Every rose has its thorn,
And everybody doesn't like them,
They're afraid of bleeding,
But I'm not,
Because I'm not alive,
I wish we could be together,
But you're a rose and I'm just a rock,
Someday I'm gonna be with you,
And we'll be the same,
Standing together side by side,
Standing in the face of adversity,
We can be more than who we are,
They'll say you're a rose but I'm just a rock,
I don't care anymore,
We're going to be alive,
No matter what

Highly Commended: Wictor Sundstedt

Wictor Sundstedt High School Competition

Gender equality for me is something we "normal people" don't have control over. It's the people in power that can make gender equality come true but they think in boxes and they want to stay in their comfort zones. I choose to focus on this idea and make a painting showing this. There are a few boxes in the painting showing how they think. The boxes, however, have openings showing that they can break free from their mindsets. The face is showing the brave people who break free. The colored circles are the people in powers' comfort zones where they want to stay. The black color symbolizes my anger that it's not equal in the 21st century which is wrong.

Highly Commended: Julia Tantillo

"Just Do It"

"You throw like a girl!"

I'm going to keep throwing like this.
And you'll regret what you said
When I'm famous.

"You'll look better with a smile honey"

I'll do what I want with my face.
If you tell me what to do
I'll speak up and put you in your place.

"Your clothing is a distraction."

Boys can't help themselves from staring?
Well maybe they should learn some manners
And you should stop criticizing what I'm wearing.

"You should lose a few pounds"

I'm not a model and not a size 2.
I don't fit in your standards of beauty.
But I prefer being myself over listening to you.

"You're acting like such a bitch."

Expressing my opinion is frowned upon?
I will accomplish what I intended.
I am determined and I am strong.

Be proud of who you are.
Don't let others tell you what you can and cannot do.
If someone tries to hold you back,
Don't worry what they think and just do it.