International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March each year. In this post Head of Programmes, Julia Hargreaves, reflects on some of the challenges young women face today, and the positive role youth work plays in the transition to adulthood.
International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March each year, and represents a fantastic opportunity for people around the world to collectively celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality. The theme for 2015 is Make it Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.
This annual event is an important time to highlight the specific issues facing girls and young women as they make the transition to adulthood.
On the surface, it may seem as though girls have less to worry about than boys. In some areas they are significantly more successful in making the transition to adulthood, particularly in education. However, this academic success doesn’t translate into career achievement, with women the majority of minimum wage workers, and still entering traditionally female occupations, such as social care and hairdressing (I Brinkley et al, 2013).
Only this week the BBC covered an OECD report highlighting girls’ lack of confidence in pursuing high-paid careers in science and technology, despite their school results being as good as or better than boys.
At recent events with our member organisations and girls they work with, the word confidence was a recurring theme. The sessions highlighted a number of issues facing girls – career aspirations, body image and positive relationships. When we talked about how we could improve support, developing confidence seemed to underpin a lot of the approaches.
The Demos (2011) report Through the Looking Glass focuses on girls’ self-esteem. They highlight three key areas to empower girls, ensuring they receive the education, support and guidance needed for successful transitions:
- tackling poverty
- supportive parents
- improving teenage girls’ relationships with their peers
Ambition is particularly focused on supporting girls living in disadvantaged communities, many with limited opportunities and resources available to change their lives for the better. We recognise that we can’t do it all as a youth organisation, with schools and parents, and social economics having a hugely influential role to play in positive outcomes for girls.
However, through youth work interventions we can provide opportunities to increase the attributes that might help girls from disadvantaged communities. These include access to mentors, leadership training, enterprise programmes, industry visits and social action. These informal learning opportunities outside of school can make a huge difference to girls.
We want to Make it Happen for girls, working with them and their youth workers, and partner organisations that are committed to making it happen too.