As parents, we want our daughters to grow up confident, with an amazing sense of self-worth, a whole lot of resilience, and respect for others and our diversity.
In a world where gender inequality is still a major issue and sexual harassment of young girls seems to now begin earlier and earlier, our daughters need to feel empowered to face these challenges. There is no easy fix for this, but as a mother of three young women, here are a few suggestions.
1. From a very young age, educate your daughter in Body Safety and to understand her body is her body, and that she is the boss of it. People need to respect her personal body boundaries. She needs to know this is her right.
2. Ensure you have an open dialogue with your daughter from a young age. Nothing should be off the table as she develops, including sex and the increasing easy access to online pornography. That way if your daughter has any concerns, she will feel comfortable to talk to you about them.
3. Self-confidence is key. The world in which your daughter is growing up will often try to strip this from her. Offer opportunities for your daughter to participate in a sport or activity where she is valued. This will only increase her confidence and sense of self.
5. Give your daughter choice from the the earliest of years. Let her know she has a voice and it is valued.
6. Mothers in particular, feel confident about your own achievements. Never talk about yourself and/or your body in derogatory terms in front of your daughter (or at all). Remember our daughters are often listening (even when we don’t think they are) and we are their immediate role models.
7. Show your daughter you are passionate about issues and you have a voice. And that you are not afraid to use it! Note from experience: She may be embarrassed by your passion in the tween and teenage years, but as an adult she will come to value it!
8. Believe in your daughter, then she will grow up knowing at least one person has her back. Believing in your daughter helps her to grow up believing in herself.
9. And here is the trickiest one of all! Try not to be too critical, especially in the tween and teenage years. Your daughter is pre-programmed to break away. Try not to take it too personally. Encourage your daughter (as much as you can) to come up with her own solutions.
10. As your daughter develops, sadly, she will encounter sexual harassment. How she copes with this will depend on the situation and the risk factors. I personally encourage my daughters to confidently walk away, call the male/s out on it (if they feel safe to do so), tell a person in authority (if in the work place or at school), and/or tell me or a person on their Safety Network (especially when they were younger and teenagers).
My guess is that most women have at some time been sexually harassed. Often we just accept it but it is actually UNACCEPTABLE. Men need to step up and STOP this practice. Men need to step up and CALL OUT other men who think they have a right to harass and degrade women. Parents need to educate their sons to respect women and value their contribution to this world, and that sexually harassing girls and women is NEVER acceptable.
Meanwhile … I hope the above points help in some way to empower your daughters, so we can all move forward to a more equitable world.
For Jayneen’s children’s book about an exceptionally empowered young girl read Pearl Fairweather, Pirate Captain.