Girl Power! Providing girls the tools to succeed

The Family Living Educator, Mary Ann Schilling, with the University of Wisconsin – Extension in Waushara County recently began teaching a new prevention program called “Girl Power!,” a group self-esteem curriculum for girls ages 9 to 12 years old. 

The goals of the program are to inspire and promote self-love, self-esteem and motivation; to develop life skills, healthy coping skills and decision-making skills; and to keep girls who are at risk out of the influence of gangs, drugs, and human trafficking. 

There is a need for this program because girls starting puberty are at a higher risk for low self-esteem, which is, in turn, related to depression, poor academic achievement and negative body image. Some of the factors contributing to low self-esteem include obesity and the media.

Below are a few statistics about young girls, body image and low self-esteem: 

•Twelve-year-old girls with low self-esteem are 2.5 times more likely to engage in heavy alcohol use at age 15, with 74 percent of girls saying they are under pressure to please everyone. (Statistics from: Girls, Inc.; The Supergerm Dilemma; and CasaColumbia.org). 

•Seven in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with family and friends, and 98 percent of girls feel there is an immense pressure from external sources to look a certain way. (Statistics from: Real Girls, Real Pressure: National Report on the State of Self-Esteem, Dove Self-Esteem Fund, National Report on Self-Esteem, Dove campaign, National Institute on Media and the Family). 

•Teen girls who have a negative view of themselves are four times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later. Also, one in four girls today fall into a clinical diagnosis – depression, eating disorders, cutting, and other mental/emotional disorders. (Statistics from: The Triple Bind, Steven Hinshaw, Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse). 

The “Girl Power!” program was first offered this past summer with UMOS’ Wisconsin Migrant Childcare Centers, and is currently being taught by Schilling at the A+ Afterschool Program at Parkside Middle School in Wautoma. The topics are covered through fun activities, discussion and role-playing, which include Making Good Choices, Healthy Feelings and Relationships, Elements of a Healthy Body, Bullying, and Self-image. The A+ Afterschool Program is looking for a male volunteer to teach a similar program to boys. 

For more information about this program, or other UW-Extension Family Living Programs, contact Mary Ann Schilling at ( 920) 787-0416. Like the Waushara County UW-Extension Facebook page at facebook.com/waushara.uwex. 

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