Growing up is hard sometimes, especially when you feel like you don’t quite fit in or meet other people’s expectations. Some of us worry about being pretty enough or smart enough, while others worry about being good enough.
But, the truth is, everyone feels this way at different times in their lives. These expectations are put in place by many different people, organizations and the media which makes it impossible to be everything to everyone.
Our experiences vary.
Sometimes we try to fit in while other times we choose to follow our heart. Whatever your experience has been, the experiences of younger generations are probably not too different.
Our hope is that the girls of today (and tomorrow) will learn to be confident in themselves and that those around them will come alongside of them, encouraging the same confidence.
The change starts with all of us (both women and men). However unnoticed or unintentional our words and actions are, they have a strong impact on young girls. When we hide something as natural as menstruation or speak ill of our bodies, younger girls will follow our example. We must learn to be kind to ourselves so that younger generations will learn to do the same.
We asked some of our partners and fellow women’s health advocates to share why empowering girls and women is so important. This is what they had to say:
“I am asked all the time the best way to help our girls delay sexual involvement. And the answer is always self-esteem. While people choose to have sex for many different reasons, we know that the girls who feel best about themselves tend to delay sex with someone else the longest. There are many benefits to waiting. Help your girls find what they are good at, whatever that may be, and give them the tools they need to excel in it!”
Stephanie Mitelman, Certified Sexuality Educator, Director, Sexpressions
“When it comes to empowering girls, the most important thing you can do is model the way. That means being really conscious of the ways you talk to and about yourself in front of them; treating yourself more kindly benefits you and them, because young girls are watching your every move and picking up all kinds of clues on how to be, think, and act. It’s pretty astonishing to see all the instances where you’re tempted to criticize yourself out loud. Give them a good example to follow.”
Kate Hanley co-author of the 28 Days Lighter Diet
“I find that when a girl is thoroughly informed regarding the various menstrual management options available to her, she understands the power that is in her control to manage her own needs as best suits her. It is a very personal choice and by making it independently she will surely feel a positive acceptance and ownership of her body and its needs that will serve her well.”
Alison Sanchez, Feby Empowerment Inc
“Possessing self-love and educating yourself on topics like health and wellness at an early age will empower you to achieve the incredible. Make a promise to yourself to never stop learning, and always dream big.”
Leslie Klenke, author of Paleo Girl
“As the Mother of a 9 year-old girl, I am trying to offer her as many diverse role models as possible, as well as teaching her to understand and value how her body works, rather than focus on her appearance. A simple but important and powerful thing we can do for girls is to teach them the accurate names and locations of their reproductive anatomy, not just lump it all under the misleading umbrella of “vagina”. Another idea is to co-create some form of ritual or celebration when your daughter starts her period. She may feel embarrassed, however it’s worth seeing whether she’s interested – as an adolescent I yearned for such an event, however didn’t know how to make the request. So powerful was this childhood dream, in fact, that it ultimately led to the creation of G Day – a modern rite of passage event designed to celebrate and empower girls ages 10 to 12 as they enter adolescence. On April 28 of this year, we hosted 250 girls in Vancouver to talk about leadership, career goals, relationships and what life is like for girls in the developing world, topped off with a ritual where they tied red ribbons around one another’s wrists as symbols of Sisterhood.”
Madeleine Shaw, Co-founder, Lunapads.com
“Across the globe, Spring brings to mind flowers, new life and warmth. Metaphorically Spring can highlight the start of better times. The inner spring in a women’s life as she transitions from a girl to a woman, regardless of her culture or background, is a vitally important and sacred time. This time, facing puberty and more specifically menarche (or a girl’s first period), brings many new beginnings. So often we consider this ‘spring’ time in a young women’s life as something secret and even dirty and forbid our girls to speak about it. As a taboo, this special springtime is disempowering to our girls. Girls who have positive information about puberty and menarche are more likely to have improved body image and self-esteem, leading to a better life.We, as women, mothers, sisters, aunts and friends guiding our girls into their spring, need to support them in positive ways and ensure she begins her beautiful journey in a positive way. Open yourself to learning about the importance of this time in a girl’s life, and have and support positive conversations in our children as early as possible.”
Jac Torres-Gomes author of Cycling to Grandma’s House
“We will be making progress if mothers become more comfortable encouraging their daughters to cherish their bodies by helping them navigate the complexity of their anatomy as a female. If mom’s are not comfortable talking to their daughters, they can seek literature for their daughters to read on their own and open the door for their daughters new wonders of her body. Women’s Health Foundation’s upcoming book, Below Your Belt, is a primer for young girls to know the inner workings of their magnificent bodies. Also, embracing a girls first period by planning something special for her, verses a dreaded afterthought, can change our culture and have girls feel supported during this new journey of being girl, as they all should.”
Molly Kirk Parlier, Women’s Health Foundation