The past 7 days has seen the press hyperventilating yet again about the latest research telling us teenage girls in the UK are among the most miserable in the world; mental health referrals are out of control, bullying and sexual harassment in schools is a daily occurrence for many girls and the dark side of social media is driving our girls to suicide. Add to this the overriding pressure to be perfect and it is not difficult to see we are creating a generation of tortured, depressed and lost girls.
I, for one am fed up of all this research. As an action orientated social entrepreneur who has dedicated the last 20 years to working with women and latterly teenage girls I want less talk and more action. How can we seriously talk about how tough it is for our girls without even recognising some of the reasons for their despair, let alone investing in the solution? I do not need any more surveys or polls or empirical studies to highlight the state of play. I want investment in our mental health services so girls who self-harm or suffer with anxiety attacks are not waiting up to 19 weeks for an appointment with a counsellor; I want more focus on life skills and resilience in schools as opposed to the obsession on academic prowess; I want compulsory sex education that is relevant and talks about porn and intimacy and self-respect; I want zero tolerance on sexual harassment and sexist behaviour in schools including stereotypical educators and banter.
Am I being too demanding? Do ya think? Well I am more than happy to be seen as demanding and difficult on this one and if you have a daughter or a role in a young girl’s life I suggest you get on board anytime soon.
It takes a village to raise a girl these days. The role of her female community beyond Mum, matters. Cool Aunts, Big Sisters, Mum’s best friend, Godmothers and Grannies all have a part to play in showing her the way, teaching her the basics of self-respect, feminism and friendship. Helping her harness her uniqueness and dumping fake and keeping her safe, happy and free. Never has it been more important for our girls to have gumption and to find their voice. I for one will not be sacrificing mine until we have worked out how to help them navigate the toxic path to adulthood and beyond.
Are ya with me??