Free Being Me

Back in the Autumn, I had a conversation with four of our oldest Guides about the above video. We had been noticing as leaders some chatter and conversations amongst the girls that we’d sometimes overhear, other times to us or in front of us about feeling like they were fat, being teased at school for what they looked like. Free Being Me was at the back of my mind. After the conversation about the ‘Like A Girl’ campaign even more so.

Then a friend who is a photographer approached me about the work I do in Girlguiding. She was concerned about the next generation of young women and the challenges to their body image and self esteem, and wondering if there was a way to use her photography skills to do something to help challenge these issues.

We met in a cafe before Christmas, and got talking…and then I went to our leaders, then our District and Division Commissioners with an idea. We wanted to know if it was possible before we pitched it to the girls.

I didn’t mention anything to the girls, because to be honest, it’s way too easy for us as leaders to make assumptions on what WE think the issues are. It was a difficult balance trying to set something up, fully aware that I was going to scrap the idea completely if the girls didn’t show interest.

On our first meeting back, we sat the girls down round a huge piece of paper and asked them two simple questions.

1. What are some of the things you’d like to do as a unit?

2. What do you think are the main issues and challenges facing girls your age today in our local area?

Body image, self-esteem and girls participation in sport was what they immediately came up with. There was a lot of discussion, many stories they told us about experiences they’d had at school and friends had at school. There brought up issues about gender stereotypes. I was blown away. I promise you, none of us leaders gave any prompts at all.

They didn’t want to leave the meeting that night, they wanted to keep talking and eventually we had to say that we had to leave it there…but based on what they’d said, we wanted to know if as a unit they wanted to look a resource that Girlguiding had produced. We also told them about the photography idea – and asked if they would be interested?

Stunned silence….and then a lot of frantic nodding and ‘yes’ saying followed. We said ok, we’d need to speak to parents, and apply for funding…but we’d try to make it happen.

This week, we began Free Being Me. My friend is going to be coming in halfway through to do a bit of a workshop with the girls as we’ve booked a photography studio at the local college so the girls can design their own self portraits based on what they’ve been learning during Free Being Me. They’ll also get to learn a bit about photography in the process hopefully as an extra bonus. Our hope is to get the photos printed and framed and exhibit them after we finish Free Being Me as part of their Take Action project.

It’s an exciting time, but it’s a been (and stil is) A LOT of work. The parents however have been overwhelmingly positive about it, and we’ve had messages from them (and conversations with them) telling us how glad they are their daughters are getting this opportunity and how they feel something like this is so relevant and needed. That is keeping me going, because at the moment things are CRAZY busy as I’m now on my practice placement for university, and trying to set up and plan my research project (which is going to be looking at the work of Girlguiding, I hope!).

Please be thinking of us, and hopefully I’ll be able to share more about the experience. Also, keep your fingers crossed that the local trust we have applied to gives us the funding for the photography part of our project…we do have a back up plan for funding, but we hope we don’t have to resort to Plan B! đŸ™‚

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