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Safe spaces, inspiring role models and positive peer to peer relationships – how SHE Scotland is supporting girls and young women

Karen Anderson, Founder and Director of SHE Scotland, explains the vision behind a project dedicated to supporting young women in the face of increasing challenges to mental health and wellbeing

SHE Scotland designs and delivers focused issue-based workshops in partnership with formal and informal partners throughout Edinburgh, Lothian and Fife. SHE Scotland is not only in name but also in aspiration. We aim to support females and those that identify as female aged 8+ to be empowered, supported, aspirational and to improve their life chances throughout Scotland and beyond.

SHE delivers group-work programmes in partnership with formal and informal educators, provides community-based projects and trains females to become the future role models for girls.

We are all concerned about the rise in body dissatisfaction, negative self-esteem and increase in major mental health issues with girls and young women over the last ten years. Body dissatisfaction is a global epidemic and sadly girls as young as six are expressing unhappiness with their bodies.

As a girl’s worker, over the past 25 years I have seen the devastation which poor mental health, negative body image and a lack of confidence have had on the females I have worked with and I believe we can and need to make positive mind changes.

Research from Girl Guides, Mental Health Foundation and SAMH has shown an increase in poor mental health in girls and young women. The increase in self-harming, online bullying and rise in domestic abuse are all factors. The role of online culture, social media and pornography are all evidenced as having a negative impact on the wellbeing of females from 10+yrs.

SHE Scotland developed a range of issue-based workshops designed to support dialogue and understanding of these sometimes complex issues. As these can include the breaking down of peer relationships, a decline in aspiration to achievement, feelings of low self-worth as well as the negative impact of social anxiety, we knew we had to do more to confront the compound impact of all of this on education and attainment.

This year, 2020, was the year in which SHE Scotland aimed to deliver workshops and projects to support a target number of 2020 girls and young women across Scotland. Unfortunately the pandemic hit just as our new programme was about to be launched. Undeterred,, we took it outside and online to trial our new Circle Time Programme for girls aged 8-12yrs (P3-P7) and our new Mind, Body & Soul group work programme for young women aged 12-16yrs (S1-S4).

Both programmes aim to build confidence and self-esteem and develop positive peer relationships, resilience and the tools to manage everyday anxiety and stress.

Circle Time combines group work techniques which are fun, supportive and informative with activities to increase awareness of emotions, stimulate positive interactions with others and develop techniques which help girls focus on their learning. The new Mind, Body & Soul (MBS) is designed to help manage mind-body energy, connect to others positively and enable young women to move forward and embrace life. The programme includes physical activity to increase opportunities to connect physical and emotional health in a safe and supportive environment. MBS provides the tools, guidance and support to make positive change.

Increasing positive role models is an important aim of SHE Scotland and we have developed, in partnership with Edinburgh College, a SHE Ambassador training programme and an SQA Mentoring Award.

Becoming a SHE Ambassador can be done in High School, via community projects or in the community. SHE has trained more than 45 community ambassadors and 212 young women in partnership with our education partners. All ambassadors have supported SHE delivery and developed tools and activities.

The SQA Mentoring Award aims to teach women the theory and practical skills to becoming a mentor. Developing valuable skills including communication and group work techniques, SHE Mentors will become confident and effective coaches to girls and young women in various settings.

Next steps

SHE aims to be an effective partner in the route to the new ‘normal’ in our communities and schools post-COVID-19. We aim to support girls and young women to navigate to a stronger place in their communities, to become more in tune with their own wellbeing and to improve their life chances.

Our programmes will be offered to informal and formal education providers to enhance their own programmes, to increase and share the support for females and to work together to make a more equal and kinder society.

For more information on any of the SHE services please have a look at our website www.shescotland.org.uk or contact us shescotland@outlook.com.

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About the author

Karen Anderson is Founder and Director of SHE Scotland

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