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Girlguiding survey: things to sort out

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Girlguiding survey 2016, media reporesentation of women and girls, equality, Girls revealed the challenges they are facing and what they want to change.

This year the girls and young women who took part in Girlguiding’s 2016 survey revealed that they feel held back by gender stereotypes, sexism, and anxiety about how they look.

They said they think they may not achieve their aspirations because they do not feel safe, that they are facing double standards on what behaviour is acceptable because they are girls not boys, and that they don’t feel the same roles are open to them as are open to boys.

Yet it is clear girls are challenging this unfairness.

They are, for example, reclaiming the internet to express their views and have a voice.

They are also calling out sexism where they see it and demanding that women and girls are not judged by how they look and that they have equal opportunities now and in their futures.

More specifically, girls revealed the challenges they are facing and what they want to change in relation to:

Body confidence

Girls as young as seven say they feel embarrassed and ashamed about how they look.

And fear of their bodies being criticised holds them back from doing everyday things they would like to do; 36 per cent of girls aged 7-10 said people make them think that the most important thing about them is how they look., while 54 per cent of girls aged 7-10 said ‘stop judging girls and women on what they look like’ was one of their top three priorities for change.

Responding to this, Girlguiding have developed Free Being Mea body confidence badge for Brownies and Guides.

Sessions help girls recognise myths about how girls and women ‘should’ look and be happy in their own skin.

And Girlguiding is also supporting girls to call for change through the Girls Matter campaign.

Women in the media and everyday sexism

Girls see and experience sexism and gender stereotypes all around them.

And 70 per cent of girls aged 11-21 said sexism is so widespread it affects most areas of their lives.

The good news is that half of girls say they challenge sexism when they see it.

Girlguiding has been taking girls’ voices to Parliament and government to encourage change.

For example, Girlguiding provided evidence and girls’ views to the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA) on gender equality in advertising, and how sexism in the media is affecting girls.

And now girls aged 7-25 can get their Free Being Me badge, which teaches girls about issues such as airbrushing and challenges the narrow image of beauty which is presented in the media.

Personal safety and harassment

Being faced with frequent threats to their safety means that many girls are adapting their own behaviour to avoid experiencing sexual harassment.

When asked what the three most important ways to improve girls’ and women’s lives are, 50 per cent of girls aged 7-10 included ‘making sure that girls are safe’.

Girlguiding Advocates have started a petition to end sexual harassment in school, so that girls can be safe while they are trying to learn.

This followed from Girlguiding’s pre-2015 General Election campaign Girls Matter, which included calls for change directly from girls and young women to the government including calls for schools to take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment.

Girlguiding also submitted evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools in England and hosted the launch of their report with recommendations for the government.

Online and social media

Girls think sexism is worse online and many have experienced this themselves making them feel silenced; 49 per cent of girls aged 11-21 said fear of abuse online makes them feel less free to share their views.

Yet half of girls said that social media empowers them to speak out.

Girlguiding Advocates have started an online campaign to end sexual harassment in schools because as the Girls’ Attitudes Survey shows, sexual harassment is a widespread issue

Mental and emotional well-being

After the 2015 survey, Girlguiding set up ‘Think Resilient’ which aims to help girls understand the need for and importance of resilience, as well as practise resilience-building techniques and then plan ways to keep growing their own resilience.

The first session is run by the Peer Educator, who introduces four of these techniques to the girls: problem solving and positive thinking; self-calming; identifying their support networks; recognising their skills and achievements; understanding their own emotions. This should then be followed up with the Leaders: Take it Forward resource,

Education and skills

Gender inequality and stereotypes are present in what girls are learning at school and they’re not getting the same choices as boys or to the valuable life skills they need.

Girls also said that the Personal, Social and Health education (PSHE) that they’re getting at school isn’t up to scratch – especially about sex and relationships.

For example, only 44 per cent of girls aged 13-21 think people their age clearly understand what sexual consent means.

Girlguiding has been supporting young members in a campaign for policy change in education since 2014 to make high quality Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) compulsory in schools.

Aspirations and leadership

Girls have high aspirations and feel inspired by a diversity of role models. And half felt more determined because of the inequality they see in leadership.

Yet many still see the workplace as an unequal place for women.  Only 35 per cent of 17-21 year-olds think that girls and boys have the same chance of being successful in their future jobs,

Read the full Girls’ Attitudes report.

Find out exactly what girls said in the full report – then share it so that even more people hear what girls have to say.

To read the full report, click here.

And please feel free to send the link to your MP and ask what they are going to do about the issues girls face. Because these are things that can be sorted out.

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