“Girls just want to wear diamonds.”
“Allergic to Algebra.”
“I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”
“Future trophy wife.”
It’s hard to believe, but stores in Canada market girls’ T-shirts bearing disempowering messages like these. Stereotypes sell, even though they’re the last thing girls need.
Through clothing, advertising, TV, movies, and other media, girls receive a steady stream of degrading and sexualized images of women that feed into a negative self-image. As they approach adolescence, girls often experience a slump in confidence: from Grade 6 to 10, the percentage of girls who say they’re confident drops from 36% to 14%.
Lorna Jones, a Toronto elementary school teacher, wanted to do something about this, so she approached the Canadian Women’s Foundation with an idea. She wanted to create a program to help girls to not only notice and challenge these kinds of messages, but also to put their own empowering messages on their T-shirts.
With the help of the Foundation and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the As We Are project launched. Through a series of workshops, girls age 9 to 13 created more than 100 T-shirts with positive messages on them.
Through this simple exercise, girls were able to find their voices and realize their potential to create change in the world around them. And we will need a new generation of change-makers if we’re going to achieve gender equality.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we’re reminded that there are decades of work ahead. Gender parity is this year’s IWD theme, but the World Economic Forum predicts it will take 117 years to reach this goal worldwide. If you think Canada is leading the way on this, think again – we rank 30th out of 145 countries in the WEF gender gap index.
If we can’t expect to achieve gender parity within our lifetimes, we need to empower the next generation to carry the torch, and projects like As We Are to do just that by helping girls build confidence, resilience, and media literacy.
You can help. Help spread the word and expand the As We Are project to girls across Canada by:
- Buying a T-shirt
- Sharing the video online
- Downloading the workshop materials for use in your classroom or community group
- Putting up the poster in your home, workplace or neighbourhood
- Donating to the project.
Girls are intelligent, creative, strong, brave, and have the power to change the world for the better – let's make sure they know it!
- Yoyo's Story: How a T-shirt Project is Empowering Girls
- Self-Esteem 101: Dey Ain’t No Betta Than You
- How Dads Can Help Girls Grow Up to Be Confident Women
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