By ShaRonda Amon, Preventionist
"If we succeed in empowering girls, we will succeed in everything else" — Desmund Tutu
There are many risks that women face because of their gender. Relationship and sexual violence, social media exposure, unrealistic and unhealthy body expectations are only a few problems that disproportionately affect girls and women. Girls ages 10 – 16 are especially vulnerable due to physical and emotional changes occurring at this time in their lives.
It is important that girls receive mentorship and guidance during this time to offset the risk factors many may experience. Gender specific prevention is designed to promote resiliency and assist in their journey to womanhood. There are advantages to gender specific programs for girls. Girls Inc. reports, girls who are engaged in girls-only prevention or intervention programs are more likely to go to college and achieve their goals than their peers who have never participated. "When girls have models of success and the perspectives of strong women, they thrive." Also, girls are more likely to express their feelings in a female only group. Their unique issues may make them feel embarrassed or intimidated in a co-ed group.
Wellspring offers a gender specific program designed to foster self-esteem, help young women maintain a connection with their peers and provide positive social support to each other called All About We. The purpose of the group is to reduce substance use by improving coping skills and empowering young women to make healthy choices. Topics include self-care, improving self-esteem, substance use prevention, refusal skills and peer pressure.
During the five group sessions, the young women are encouraged to share their experiences and participate in creative activities that are hands-on and engaging. One of the activities was a self-care scavenger hunt where the young women were to race around the house and find items that promote wellness, such as something that makes you smile or something that you can squeeze. Each week, the ladies reviewed their homework (yes, they had homework to complete every week!), played interactive games and participated in group discussion. By the end of the last session, they were taught life skills to help them become strong and confident women who can manage life's stressors in a healthy way.
Feedback from the participants was extremely positive. Even though all of the sessions were delivered virtually due to COVID-19, it was an effective way to interact with participants. The young women were able to interact and provide care and support to each other. Wellspring and the Middlesex County Family Success Organization, knew how important it was, especially during these difficult times, to provide an opportunity to support and empower young women.