On Friday I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the International Day of the Girl event at the Southbank Centre which was sponsored by Dove in connection with their Self Esteem Project.
As regular readers will know, body image is an issue which is very close to my heart and I believe that it is never too early in your child’s life to start putting the right building blocks in place to ensure that your children grow up confident in who they are and knowing that they are beautiful inside and out.
At the start of the event we were treated to a performance by Nérija, an all female jazz band followed by opening speeches and interviews with Jude Kelly, the Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre, Jessie Ware and Chibundu Onuzo. As Jude Kelly was explaining the reason behind the day she said ‘each one of us is entitled to be exactly who we were meant to be’ and that really stuck with me throughout the whole event. Whether we were looking at body image, or talking about self-esteem or hopes and dreams for the future, the overriding message was: be who you are and don’t try to be anybody else, and I loved that.
Since it was founded in 2004, the aim of the Dove Self-Esteem Project has been to ensure that young people grow up secure and confident, knowing that everyone is beautiful and unique and that they don’t have to conform to the unrealistic ideals the media would have us believe is achievable and ‘normal’.
I was shocked to learn that 47% of young girls in the UK aged between 11 and 14 are missing out on activities such as swimming and answering questions in class because of low self-esteem. Recent findings even highlighted that these young girls would avoid going to friend’s birthday parties because they don’t like the way they look. I find that such an incredibly sad statistic. As the mother of a young girl, I find it heartbreaking to imagine that Meg would ever turn around and say she wanted to miss out on something because of how she viewed herself. However, I can remember being 12 years old and making my parents cancel my place for a school trip to France because I didn’t want to go…because I was terrified of having to go swimming at the beach and everyone seeing how I looked, so I can fully understand the mentality.
On Friday, in conjunction with the International Day of the Girl, Dove announced their partnership with Girlguiding which aims to boost low self-esteem amongst young girls with a body confidence workshop and badge. They hope to reach 400,000 girls in the UK and 3.5 million girls worldwide.
I attended one of these body confidence workshops at the event and really enjoyed it. It was eye-opening to hear how many young girls wish they looked different and were unhappy with their bodies. I thought it was particularly good how the workshop didn’t focus on this but highlighted it and then encouraged the girls to think about how they were unique. One of the activities they did, was to write some positive things about one of the people on their table. It was lovely to see the girls faces lighting up when they read what other people had written about them, and was a reminder of how vital it can be to speak positively to young people and make sure we are constantly boosting their self-esteem by encouraging and speaking well of them.
I listened to some of the conversations between the girls on the way out and was really pleased to hear them talking about what they had learned and some of the things they hadn’t considered before. I hope that those girls are able to take that forward with them.
Another part of this campaign was a ‘Missing Out’ installation which was in place from the 9-13 October on the Riverside Terrace at the Southbank Centre to highlight some of these issues. Unfortunately it was raining when I visited it so my photos don’t do it justice but there were quite a lot of people around looking at it which means it’s serving it’s purpose, to get people to talk about these issues. There are also lockers at the installation for people to share their own ‘missing out’ stories.
Dove have also launched a new interactive part of the Self-Esteem Project’s website which has fun and educational activities for parents, young people and those who work with young people to make use of to highlight some of these issues. Dove are hoping to reach over 15 million young people by 2015 with this new resource.
Although designed for girls a lot older than Meg I will certainly be taking these statistics and information on board and considering how best to talk to her about these things over the coming years. I will also be making use of the available resources online to take inspiration on some of the issues we might face in the future.
There are a great many ways that you can find information on this topic and some of the links are below.
If you have young girls, or young boys, I would certainly recommend having a look at the website.
You can also tweet about anything related to this using #doveselfesteem
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this event in conjunction with the partnership between Mumsnet and Dove.