Empowering Young Girls in the 21st Century

Bucks County Women’s Initiative, an affiliate group of UW Bucks, works to help girls become strong women through mind, body and spirit. This article comes from Dawn Haaz, a Psychology Resident at ACES, LLC about an opportunity to help empower pre-teen girls this summer.

As a psychotherapist, I have worked with many women who have struggled with low self-worth, negative body image, and a history of unhealthy relationships. They have often suffered from depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and abusive relationships. In working with these women I have realized unfortunately they did not always have the opportunity during childhood and adolescence to develop the foundation to become empowered (i.e. have the skills, confidence, and resources to stand up for oneself and make positive choices).

My experience helping these women has inspired me to develop ways to empower young girls. After all, it is not easy being a girl in the 21st century. In addition to the typical pressures of sex and drugs that every generation has contended with, girls today are faced with increased competition, cyber-bullying, an unstable economy, and the pressures that come with increased media coverage.

With the help of Psychology Intern Samantha Lohr, M.E.d., I am facilitating Camp Girl Power, an empowerment camp for girls 11-13 years old, to help them overcome these challenges. Camp Girl Power is a fun and interactive way to provide girls with the skills to be empowered in the 21st century.

Each day of camp will be focused on a different topic, including self-identity, self-esteem, self-care, healthy relationships, leadership, and teambuilding. The camp is being hosted at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County in Jamison, PA.

By providing girls with the foundation to feel empowered at a young age, they will develop the ability to grow into healthy, successful women who can reach their fullest potential. Girl empowerment groups are found to enhance self-esteem, improving girls’ decision-making, including their ability to resist pressures to engage in risky behavior such as drinking and smoking, according to self-reports of participants. (British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, 2012). These girls also reported an improvement in self-respect, self-acceptance, and body image.

In addition to Camp Girl Power, here are 5 ways you can empower young girls in your life:
1) Boost their self-confidence – Focus on their strengths and let them know you care about them unconditionally.
2) Teach them to be assertive – Teach them to ask for what they need and want without being disrespectful of or attacking others.
3) Help them figure out who they are – Help them discover their values, goals, and passions. If they have a stable sense of identity, they are less likely to give in to peer pressure.
4) Help them form healthy relationships – Help them distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Encourage them to be in relationships that make them feel good about themselves.
5) Help them make positive decisions – Teach them how to anticipate the consequences of their decisions and make ones in their best interest.

If you want to learn more about Camp Girl Power, which will run between August 11th and August 15th, you can contact Dawn at dawnhaaz@psychologyaces.com or call 215-345-7868.

About the contributor: Dr. Dawn H. Haaz, a Psychology Resident at Associates for Counseling & Educational Services, LLC (ACES), is passionate about empowering women and young girls. She works with individuals, couples, and families and is available to provide public presentations and workshops. 200 S. Clinton Street, Doylestown, PA 18901, http://www.psychologyaces.com.


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