Empowering circles of women and girls. Picture credit: Anea Bogue
As girls, we need the fabric of female narrative in our lives. For example, at the age of 7, I attended some workshops called “The Conversation of Women”, designed for girls 9-13 years old, by my old headmistress Dr Jadis Blurton at The Harbour School in Hong Kong, involving older female leaders as the “crones”, mothers and daughters. These intergenerational workshops started with Dr Blurton talking about how girls have eavesdropped on the conversations of elder women historically, citing her grandmother joining a circle of elder women when she was old enough to sew her first sampler, something which took time, affording her lots of time to listen to the cultural inheritance and reflections of the two generations of older women. From here, we moved on to discuss our relationship as girls with the media, our families and friends, and how these are practice runs for our future relationships ahead. We discussed the biologically unhealthy proportions of Barbie and the importance of being our most healthy selves. Dr Blurton spoke of how we must find skills in the area or areas we are passionate about, and how we should surround ourselves with people who support us.
At 9, I attended REALgirl workshops run by Anea Bogue and Justine Campbell of MindQuest. We investigated how the media and society can affect self-worth, body image and friendships. We learned to critique unhealthy magazine pictures and articles about women. We drew body maps, connecting our bodies to our emotions. We were reminded not to compare ourselves unhealthily with others and to have confidence in our values. These workshops were also especially insightful in terms of comprehending the subtleties of our changing bodies, in terms of the intuitive and extrovert phases of our “moon cycles”. Bogue says of her workshops that they are “my wish for the world – that girls and women will know their deep and inherent value, wisdom and beauty, trust their razor sharp instincts and intuition, realize that the same life force that enables them to create human life also enables them to create their own path, as well as powerful communities and new possibilities the world has not yet imagined. And when this happens, we will all be better and stronger together – girls and boys, women and men.”
Also at 9, I had a Global Issues Conference; having chosen the topic of Girls’ Rights, I had ample opportunity to explore these issues further and to share them. The same elementary school taught me that technology is a “tool not a toy” and my social media use has been informed by that, likely with protective effect. A study looking at the impact of social media platforms on the health and wellbeing of 12-24 year olds has found that Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all spark depression, anxiety, poor body image and loneliness. New York University’s Child Study Centre found that “the average girl’s self-esteem peaks at the age of 9 and then plummets”; the workshops I attended were designed for and usually attended by 9-13 year olds with the intention of preserving peak esteem or mitigating this loss; having attended these workshops at 7 and 9, and had open-dialogue on these issues at home, I think it was certainly of benefit for me to engage with these topics earlier.
Last year, at 13, I joined the Junior Academy of the New York Academy of Sciences. The JA platform involves teams collaborating to bring scientific solutions to a wide range of global issues. While this is for both girls and boys, and involves both female and male mentors, two of my three teams so far have been all girls, and it has been refreshing to team up with other motivated and collaborative girls and inspiring female mentors. Now 14, I’m extremely fortunate to also be part of the Girls in Science 4 SDGs team, and am extremely grateful to Sthuthi Satish and HRH Princess Dr Nisreen El-Hashemite for giving me the chance to join this circle of girls and our female mentors on this platform; I am so lucky to be inspired and supported to develop my confidence to engage further with science and international relations in this safe space where we build each other up and collaborate with confidence.
Have you been inspired by a circle of women and girls? Please share your experiences below!