Jenny Baker recently flagged up some great resources on the Sophia network (ladies if you're not already involved in the Sophia network, check it out here, it's worth having a look...some great articles and useful stuff written for women in youth work). You can read more on the Sophia page, but check out the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, it has a couple of great videos and other resources: http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.co.uk/. It's also worth looking at this site too, The Retouch Campaign,which shows how all the pictures we see in magazines are given a big unhelpful dose of photoshop treatment.
I remember a conversation I had with someone at the Dreams for the Future conference in Luton in 2006 who was really excited about a girls mentoring project that was just starting. If that's you, how's it going?
There must be hundreds of us working in schools with girls (ok so I'm speaking as a female youth worker now, but if there's some guys who work with boys and think this is a real concern for them too, do share your thoughts too)...what do you find works in a school environment?
Have you done lessons on self image maybe in PHSE/citizenship, or assemblies on this topic?
Finally I was struck by something I read over the weekend in The Godbearing Life (book by Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster, highly recommended!). In her chapter 'Heeding while Herding', Dean writes about the call not only to point out to young people that they are loved, created unique, 'favoured ones of God' (that's the easy bit), but also the call to deliver the next bit of news...that God wants to take us on and not just leave us as we are. He actually has a purpose for us, and has expectations of us. We read:
"The danger comes when we stop with Gabriel's opening line and fail to deliver God's message in full. Right on the heels of God's affirmation comes God's invitation and expectation. Despite all the positive messages we send to our youth, affirmation without invitation or expectation subtly tells teenagers, "we don't really expect much of you or ourselves because God loves us no matter what." (p. 63)
It was such a great reminder that we need to be challenging girls and guys to rise up and live out who they are called to be. If you work with Christian young people in school, how can you encourage them and give them a huge self esteem boost by giving them some responsibility?
I also came across a report today about the number of obese teenage girls between the ages of 11-15. According to the latest survey, 40% of this age group are classed as obese (read more here). This is really what took my mind back to the Kenda-Creasy Dean book. Yes we can tell girls that they are beautiful and accepted and loved by God and that is true, but it's not the end of the story. He wants us to live healthily and live in a way that honours and respects our bodies. We're not there to nag girls about eating properly (whether that's too much or too little), but we are there to love them and encourage them (creatively) to look after themselves and learn to enjoy being who they are. I'll write more about that another time, this post seems long enough!