If it takes a village to raise a child, what do you get when an entire city decides to help raise young girls’ self-esteem? A whole lotta love, certainly from us.
New York City is unique in the U.S. with its $330,000 campaign to boost girls’ self-esteem. The program is dubbed the NYC Girls Project, and it’s truly in your face on subways and buses across the city.
The campaign features posters of real-life girls with the tag line: “I’m a girl. And I’m beautiful the way I am.”
That’s the message Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s press secretary, Samantha Levine, wants to get out. The program is her brainchild. She’s concerned about girls’ body image in the face of unrealistic media stereotypes of perfection.
“I think being a woman in this city, it’s sort of impossible to not be aware of the pressures there are around appearance, around weight, around trying to look a certain way,” she said in an interview with the New York Times.
We’ve talked about how teen girls are dissatisfied with their bodies, but tweens and even younger girls are unhappy with how they look. That’s why the NYC Girls Project is aimed at 7- to 12-yr old girls, to immunize them against negative self-talk.
According to the project’s website:
- By 10, a majority (80%) of girls are afraid of being fat
- By middle school, up to 70% are unhappy with two or more parts of their body
- Almost 50% wish they were as thin as models in magazines
- 31% admit to starving as a way to lose weight
With such worrisome stats, the campaign aims to be more than passive messaging. The Parks department is offering fitness classes in conjunction with the program, and there’s an after-school pilot project at 75 schools to help girls feel better about themselves.
The goal is to protect girls’ physical health (eg, reduce the risk of eating disorders, alcohol abuse and unwanted pregnancy) by protecting their mental health (eg. reducing the risk of depression).
That’s what our Girls’ Respect Groups program is all about. Kind-hearted high school girls talk to middle-school girls about the challenges that are out there today – and the bigger challenges ahead. In a safe, supportive environment, young girls get the guidance they need to make the right choices in their lives, whether it’s at home or school, with friends or on their own.
The NYC Girls Project is only funded in New York for two months. Girls’ Respect Groups has been around for 7 years, and is now used in the US, Canada and 80 countries worldwide! We plan to extend our umbrella of “Girls Helping Girls” for a long time.
With our shared goals in mind, we’re sure the experiment in New York will have a positive impact on young girls’ lives and attitudes. Now when we talk about a village raising a child, we’ll be thinking of 20 million people helping!
Start your Own Girls’ Project!
We’ve got great resources to share. Start with these two books:
- Blumen, Evans & Rucchetto, “Girls’ Respect Groups: An Innovative Program To Empower Young Women & Build Self-Esteem!,” Camberley Press, 2008
- Macavinta and Pluym, “Respect: A Girls’ Guide To Getting Respect & Dealing When Your Line Is Crossed,” Free Spirit Publishing, 2005
Check out all the other free, downloadable resources here on our website.
Learn more about the NYC Girls Project:
A. Hartocollis, “City Unveils Campaign To Improve Girls’ Self-Esteem,” NYTimes.com Sept. 30, 2013
E. Dockterman, “Bloomberg v. Pop Culture: NYC’s Campaign To Boost Self-Esteem”, TIME.com, Oct. 2, 2013