“We can not wait to tackle self-esteem” – Olivia speaks out at the UN Commission on the Status of Women

“Our final event at the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women – “Body confidence and self-esteem: unlocking girls’ full potential” – showcased the Free Being Me (FBM) programme and its successes worldwide so far.

I have been involved in FBM within the UK for two years now and have seen first-hand how much of a difference it has made to both me and the girls that I run it with, so I was very pleased to be able to showcase this to others at the United Nations.

032016_CSW60_Free Being Me roleplay

Our panel was made up almost entirely of WAGGGS representatives. In addition to myself we had Germaine from Rwanda, Paula from Germany, World Board Member Haifa from Tunisia and then Dove Self Esteem’s Stacie June. We were lucky to have Jenny, WAGGGS Free Being Me Programme Manager, moderating the event. We were all able to bring different perspectives of the programme to the room and I think people were impressed at the universality of what we were presenting. Audience members seemed particularly excited that we had so many young women on the panel,and they shared this appreciation through Twitter!

032016_CSW60_Twitter comment

We started the event by encouraging the audience to participate in a few FBM activities. I led them in defining the Image Myth, which was brilliant as I have almost exclusively done it with girls, so to see a room of adults getting really into what they were doing and taking ownership of the outcome was great. Then, under Germaine’s direction, Paula and I acted out several Body Talk scenarios and the audience really enjoyed analysing what we were doing.

Now that the whole room understood the underlying concepts of the ‘Image Myth’ and ‘Body Talk’, we moved onto the speeches from the panel. Paula shared her experience of running trainings in Germany and the difference that thinking about Body Talk has made to her and her friends’ self-esteem; then I spoke about the programme as a whole and its impact on the girls I have run it with. Haifa and Stacie both spoke about the facts behind the necessity of the programme and the emerging data we have about the impact so far. It was so exciting to hear that Free Being Me really means that girls are less likely to put up with Body Talk, or allow how they feel about their appearance to stop them doing anything.

032016_CSW60_Haifa, World Board, speaking on Free Being Me panel

We finished with Germaine’s speech about Taking Action in Rwanda and the difference she has been able to help make in areas where girls would prefer to spend their little money on whitening cream than school. What particularly stuck with me was her catchphrase ‘biranyuze’ which means ‘I like it how it is’. I think this is a brilliant attitude to have towards life in general, but particularly body confidence.

I hope, and do think, that the audience left the event with a better understanding of body confidence issues and how they can hold girls, and therefore women, back. We cannot wait to tackle self-esteem after we’ve tackled gender inequality – they must be tackled together, and for all ages. A lack of self-esteem holds girls and women back. We cannot achieve gender equality until all girls and young women know their worth, inside and out.”

Olivia, UK