How do you know you belong when you haven’t figured out who you are yet? That’s one of the problems that girls between the ages of 10-14 face - fitting in with friends, family, and their communities can be hard. Many girls don’t have the skills to deal with any issues they might be experiencing within these groups. These problems, along with pressure they face from social media, advertisements, and their friends, can lead to low confidence and self-esteem, perpetuating bad habits and poor social skills.
Julie Iafrate has been overseeing Go Girls! Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds, a group mentoring program for girls, for over 8 years at her North York middle school. “Go Girls is extremely valuable to our school,” she says, “we target students with self-esteem and confidence issues, poor body image, and problems at home. When you have low self-esteem it plays out in the school environment… a student can become a negative leader because they don’t know how to belong. It’s easier to act out and get negative attention.” Go Girls counteracts these effects by teaching girls how to solve problems together.
Each session is led by female volunteer mentors and includes activities, games, and an anonymous question box from which the group brainstorms solutions to submitted questions. During the process, the girls bond with their mentors and with each other, teaching them the importance of healthy relationships. “Go Girls gives you people to talk to, you don’t need to bottle things up,” explains Melizabeth, a Go Girls participant. “They're going through the same thing as you, so they don't gossip, they help you with things - issues you have with friendship or how to deal with certain situations.” Coupling teamwork with lessons on healthy lifestyles, Go Girls offers participants a chance to build their confidence and teaches them to respect others, explains Katie Green, a Go Girls volunteer for over 5 years. Katie has seen girls who had no friends become leaders in their schools, she’s seen girls change their opinions of themselves, and she’s seen the chain-reaction that Go Girls starts in schools because of the trust and support the group offers.