According to the United Nations’ findings, worldwide, nearly one in four girls aged 15-19 years is neither employed nor in education or training. Because one in ten boys of the same age is in the same situation, these numbers are alarming. A United Nations report also shows that around 435 million women and girls live on less than $1.90 a day, including 47 million pushed into poverty due to the global pandemic.
Additionally, one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence or both. The data shows that since the outbreak of coronavirus, violence against girls and women has intensified. All of this happens in the year of celebrating several important milestones for women all around the world. The International Day of the Girl Child (11 October) commemorates a quarter of a century since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, (the most progressive plan for advancing the rights and empowerment of women and girls,) and the launching of a Generation Equality, a campaign, and movement for bold action on gender equality.
The International Day of the Girl nudges us to stop and think about how we can help girls live free from gender-based violence, diseases, and harmful practices; how they can learn new skills for their chosen careers and future, and how they can lead as a generation of activists advancing social change.
Improving Girls’ Self-Acceptance and Self-Worth
In the social media age of mixed messages about how girls and women are supposed to look, act, and learn, they face significant self-esteem issues. This particularly applies to girls during adolescence, a crucial period for their forming and identity development.
These negative messages and the thoughts they spark are becoming more common in schools and our homes. Girls are experiencing increased anxiety and depression, troubles with concentration and learning while becoming more perfectionistic, measuring themselves against unrealistic standards.
Although the current day issues, risks, and stresses in the lives of girls and young women shouldn’t be ignored, they should not be the sole subject. There must be a focus on what is working for girls and how we can, as humankind, help our young generations in navigating these challenges during their development.
One study suggests that while a supportive school environment and social relationships can positively affect girls, the key to the well-being equation lies in the positive self-concept. This means that if a girl feels good about herself, she is more likely to form healthy social relationships and benefit from the provided support.
So, how can we influence how girls think about themselves? How can we support future generations so they can flourish into accomplished individuals? We must tackle the question of their evolution both from the inside and outside.
Girls need to:
- Get physical – Girls can profoundly benefit from regular exercise. Studies have shown that physical activity alone can improve self-esteem and self-worth in girls and young women. Why? Because adolescents’ self-concept is mainly connected to their sense of physical attractiveness and body image. We can positively impact their minds and bodies by encouraging regular exercise at school and home and supporting team sports, yoga, swimming, or other activities.
- Focus on self-compassion – Treating themselves with kindness, compassion, openness, and acceptance is a healthy alternative to the overwhelming negative mindset that girls have nowadays. One study has shown that girls with higher self-compassion demonstrate greater well-being because they’ve acknowledged and accepted their flaws, struggles, and mistakes. Because of their self-compassion, they can form healthy social relationships since they can treat others with the same kindness.
- Avoid comparison – Although this unhealthy habit is not reserved solely for young girls, they are more susceptible. Adolescents tend to be sensitive to who they are compared to everyone around them. Social media doesn’t help in this matter; however, schools are also shaped for social comparison. Grading, labeling, and grouping students don’t particularly honor the ups and downs of growing up. Schools should reduce social comparison by not making grades public, avoiding grouping, and focusing on individual growth.
- Capitalize on their skills – If we pay attention to girls’ talents and interests, we can cultivate their strengths. Girls need to have a supportive environment where they can express their interests and talents and realize them. We need to encourage them to explore their interests and skills to feel more capable, confident and inspired.
As individuals and organizations, we need to actively support our girls through actions, projects, and solutions to promote positive social change in their communities and nations. We need to cheer them on as they develop the mental and physical habits and strengths to support them throughout their lives. The World Happiness Foundation is involved in this activism, aiming to support girls’ and women’s rights and create a world where they can flourish and thrive. Tomorrow’s future starts with us today. Join us in our endeavor to make our world a brighter place for all.
Read part 1 (Mental Health and Girls) of the Series on Mental Health and Girls/Women