It was a normal Monday night at Girls’ Brigade. The young women were sitting around chatting and laughing; I was enjoying doing life with them. Beauty and celebrity magazines appeared from their bags and soon the air was filled with the flicking sound of crisp pages as they chatted about who was wearing what and which celebrity was dating who.
“So what’s the message that you receive about what it means to be a girl from reading that magazine?” I asked curiously.
The girls paused and pondered before writing down some thoughts on pieces of paper. ‘I’m not thin enough’ wrote one. ‘I’m not rich enough’ was written on another piece of paper.
Sadly I wasn’t surprised by these responses but the words on one particular slip of paper hit me like a sucker punch.
‘I am not enough.’
A few years on, and those four words still resonate with me. Today, too many girls (and too many women) still believe that they are not enough. Girls’ self-esteem has been plummeted by what psychologist Steve Biddulph describes as a ‘war on girlhood’. Our culture is full of identity thieves who are bombarding young people, particularly girls, with paradoxical messages that subvert their God identity; that they are the image-bearers of God with unchanging value and worth.
Surrounded by a popular culture which both screams and whispers to girls ‘you are not enough’, how can we, as a church, empower a generation of girls to live in Gospel hope?
With a rich global legacy of investing in girls for over 123 years, Girls’ Brigade Ministries (GBM) has been exploring this very question. The heart of GBM is to support and equip individuals, churches and organisations in order to see a generation of girls rising in Gospel hope. On International Day of the Girl 2015, we gathered together a group of leaders, activists and youth workers who are passionate about raising hope for girls at the first ever ‘UK Girl Gathering.’ It was a collaborative time of dreaming, hoping and looking forward – resulting in the production of what we’ve called The Manifesto (launched on International Women’s Day 2016) – you can read it here ukgirl.jimdo.com. Now we’re inviting you to join the UK Girl conversation too.
What can you do?
Inspired by the UK Girl Manifesto, here’s five ways which you and I can help raise hope for girls:
- Cultivate Identity Capital
‘I am fearless.’ ‘I am loved.’ ‘I am a leader.’
These are some of the amazing bold statements which I’ve just read from young women in a GB group in Australia. Over the last six months, GB Worldwide has been inviting its members to complete the following sentence: ‘Because of GB, I am…’ We’ve had some incredible feedback demonstrating the need for a counter-cultural hope-filled narrative for girls.
There is a real deficit of self-worth and esteem amongst young people, particularly girls. Today, sources in the media teach girls that their appearances are never ever good enough, that sexual objectification is considered ‘empowering’ and that sexual intimacy is another deposable thing. Our anxiety-inducing culture – a toxic mix of consumerism and liberal capitalism – is draining all their identity capital reserves. Identity capital means that each person knows who they are and whose they are (Ephesians 1:11-12). In other words, we need to enable young people to know they are God’s image bearers with inestimable value and unchanging worth, created for a mighty purpose.
Created by GBM, koko (thekokostory.com) is an innovative award-winning vlog aimed at inspiring a more hope-filled narrative for teenage girls on issues that matter to them like friendship, self-harm and relationships. Let’s build a culture of worth for all of God’s people, including girls.
How are you cultivating the identity capital reserves in young women?
To read more from Claire on the great work the Girl’s Brigade is doing subscribe here