We all have our own answer to the question 'why we should empower girls'. In a blog post from the UN Foundation, the author talks about five reasons why it is important to empower girls. They go as far as saying to "achieve the global goals for sustainable development", we have to "reach girls".
I like to have big goals and believe that we can all change the world and make it a better place. What is equally as important is to start with the small things directly around us and initiate change there. So to start, let's empower girls around us and allow them to live their best life!
Here are three ways to empower girls that every one of us can adapt easily in their daily routines:
1. Empowering girls through language and books
Language is a very powerful tool. We can make people feel good or bad only with words. The way we talk to others teaches children how to treat other people.
And the way we talk to our children lets them know how we feel about them and how they should behave. A girl that is constantly told that she is cute and beautiful will strive to be exactly that - and more of it. A girl that runs around shouting or fights with other children and that is told to not be so noisy, will adapt and try to be more quiet. A girl that is told that she can become a nurse, a teacher or a dentist assistant will have those options in mind when choosing a profession.
You might now say that you never tell your girls those things and that they are encouraged to become whoever they want to be.
Whenever we read a book to our children, they learn from the stories we read to them. Have you ever paid attention to how many of those books are falling into stereotypes? Fairy tales show our girls that they cannot survive without the strong prince, try to find a female superhero or a story that doesn't show traditional family roles with the mom taking care of the children and the dad spending most of his day at work.
Book recommendations to check out:
Komal Singh, a google employee, technologist, speaker and author has written two books about Ara, a girl that thinks like an engineer. Age recommendation: 3-7
Rebel girls has published many books about strong girls and women. Including the book 'Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls', a children's book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. Age recommendation: 6+
New York Times best selling book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Age recommendation: 9+
A German publishing company Zuckersüß Verlag has many exceptional children's books: books with strong values, with outstanding illustrations and important messages. Books that make children strong, encourage and inspire them. Age recommendation: 2-16
2. Empowering girls through toys
When you visit a toy store, it is not difficult to find the girls section. Just go to the pink and sparkly alley. But what exactly makes it a toy for girls? The color? The design? The theme?
When you let young children pick their toys, they don't follow the rules we have put in place for them. Boys also play with a pink doll or the play kitchen and girls also pick the truck or the robot to play with. As of 4 or 5 years old, children become much more aware of what is happening around them and unconsciously they learn that 'they are not supposed to play with toys that are meant for the other gender.' They don't understand anything about gender roles or stereotypes yet and still are aware of what they are supposed to play with. Many (big and smaller) brands are trying to not separate anymore between toys for boys and girls. However, most stores haven't followed that trend yet.
Recommendation for parents:
There are many ways to empower your child and let them choose the toys they want to play with. The most important part is for the parents to be open, encourage the child to explore other toys and play together with them. If the child feels from a very young age that it is ok to play with all toys, they might be more open to do so later on. It is not about discouraging a girl to play with a doll but also give her the opportunity to assemble a car.
3. Empowering girls through representation
We all have role models and people that we look up to. For a child, the most important role models are the people around them - their parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. Whenever they see only man or women do a profession, that is all they know. Small children cannot put things into perspective and only know what they see.
As parents and anyone wanting to empower girls, we should make sure our children see and experience us and other strong role models and are encouraged to follow their dreams.
You may ask now: How do I empower girls through clothes?
Very similar to books and toys, clothes are a strong signal for children what and who they can be. A girl that loves the space or construction sides, might want to wear clothes with those motives and drawings on them. When we now look for a dress with a spaceship on it, we quickly realise that the choice is very limited (or even non existent). Some girls want to be a princess and love to have a castle and a unicorn on their clothes. Other girls want to become scientists, astronauts, doctors or artists. By giving those girls clothes with motives of their interest, they will feel reinforced that they are allowed to follow their passion.