Editors Note: This blog was submitted by Vision 2020’s first Junior Delegate, Ying Ying Shang.
92 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women’s suffrage, what is still holding us back?
Gender equality is an ongoing cause. We as Vision 2020 supporters know that. Women still make 77 cents to the dollar, account for 3% of Fortune 500 CEO’s, and hold 17% of seats in Congress. In 2012, we have still never had a woman president.
But to evaluate the full range of obstacles that hinder women, we have to look further back—to the full range of obstacles that hamper girls.
As a Girl Scout, the first Vision 2020 Junior Delegate, a high school senior, but most of all, a teenage girl, I know firsthand how hard it is to believe in myself as a leader. A study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that 61% of girls were either ambivalent about leadership or said it wasn’t important to them at all. Of the 39% of girls who weren’t disaffected, only one in five believed that she herself had what it took to lead.
At SPARK Summit (http://www.sparksummit.com/2010/10/07/what-is-spark/), the movement for girls’ rights to healthy sexuality where I am a SPARKteam blogger and a Girl Activist, we believe we have identified at least one factor that prevents girls from believing in themselves—the harmful influence of the media. The media bombards us with powerful messages, the strongest of which is insecurity and belief that our value lies in having “the perfect body.” Our recent successful petition against Seventeen Magazine’s PhotoShopping of models was a major victory.
But I couldn’t help but feel that there had to be more than good body image to confidence . In order for girls to truly embrace leadership, there are so many other social factors for girls to overcome. In India and Malawi, girls are told that they aren’t worth an education—that their worth lies in their dowry as a child bride. In America and Western countries, the media tells us that our worth lies in our youth, sexuality, and physical attractiveness. Neither is true.
As one of sixteen United Nations Girl Up Teen Advisors for the upcoming school year, I plan to help change the former and help girls in developing countries gain access to education and the chance to realize their full potential. But for now, I want to show people everywhere that girls and women, and even men and boys, deserve to believe in their REAL WORTH—who they are inside, rather than their worth as objects of desire or trade. That’s why for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I launched the REAL WORTH Campaign (http://realworthcampaign.tumblr.com/), a self-esteem campaign mainly targeted towards girls and women, but applicable to people everywhere. To grow the pipeline of women leaders, we need to first invest in girls—most of all, their self-esteem and belief in their own ability to lead.
I want to forge a world where all girls, including my 9-year-old sister Melissa, who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a form of muscular dystrophy, can believe in themselves.
That’s why I’m appealing to all Vision 2020 Delegates and supporters to make my vision a reality.
In taking a picture of yourself with a bold message, you are not only spreading the message, but also empowering yourself to take ownership of those words and live by them.
So to help a Vision 2020 Junior Delegate and Girl Scout achieve her Gold Award, submit a picture of you affirming your Real Worth. Girls are watching. Let’s create a world where my sister Melissa can be 13, 18, 25, 70 and still believe in herself, her leadership potential, and her own Real Worth, despite her disability.