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Skills for Educators

All Skills for Educators

Designing Asset Building Strategies for Girls

Welcome to Skills for Educators!

This educator skill is designed for educators to help girls develop asset building strategies or, in other words, strategies that will help girls deal with the unique challenges they face.


Introduction

One of the key tasks for those working in girls' development is to help girls develop protective factors, or assets, to enable them to deal with the challenges they will face in their lives. Sexuality educators are well positioned to design and conduct girls' development strategies. The possibilities of girls' development strategies are countless. They can include classroom activities, support groups, community events, talent shows and others.

Identifying and designing strategies that build girls’ assets involves the following steps:

  1. choosing a sub-identity or "self" to focus on,

  2. observing and listing negative influences on this "self,"

  3. determining assets to help "protect" girls from the negative influences, and finally,

  4. designing strategies to build the assets.

These steps can be repeated for additional "selves" of girls.

Involving girls in the steps will undoubtedly make for more relevant strategies. It will also provide the girls with meaningful ways to contribute and play leadership roles.


Definitions

1. "Selves"

A girl's identity can be understood as her "sense of self." This sense of self includes:

  • how she views herself,

  • how she feels about herself, and

  • what she wants for herself.

Each girl’s identity (or sense of self) is made up of a collection of sub-identities or different "selves." These "selves" include her:

  • cultural self,
  • social self,

  • sexual self,

  • familial self,

  • community self,

  • academic self,

  • physical self, and

  • creative self.

    See the "Girls Many Selves" table below.

A girl may feel confident, happy, and skillful in one of her identities or "selves" and just the opposite in another "self." For example, Carla may feel good about her physical "self." She could like the way she looks and is confident in her athletic abilities. She might not, however, feel good about her social "self." She might feel like a social outcast because she has few friends, she does not have a boyfriend, and she has a hard time talking to people she doesn't know well.

Girls' Many Selves

Cultural Self

  • ethnic/racial identity
  • spiritual/religious identity
  • geographic identity
  • socio-economic identity
  • cultural aspirations


 

Social Self

  • relationships with female friends
  • relationships with male friends
  • school/social group membership
  • popularity in and out of school
  • social aspirations

Sexual Self

  • sexual orientation
  • sexual values
  • sexual feelings
  • sexual experience
  • sexual aspirations

Familial Self

  • roles as daughter, sister, aunt, mother
  • sense of belonging in family
  • familial expectations and aspirations
  • balance of future career and family

Community Self

  • group/club membership
  • volunteer experience and aspirations
  • activist experience and aspirations
  • employment experience and aspirations

Academic Self

  • student achievement
  • school/social group membership
  • educational aspirations
  • career aspirations

 

Physical Self

  • appearance
  • involvement in athletics
  • involvement in movement activities like yoga, tai chi, etc…
  • sense of physical safety
  • sense of comfort in body
  • disability status

Creative Self

  • creative talents or interests
  • involvement in hobbies or activities
  • creative aspirations
  • creative talents as careers

2. Negative Influences

Negative influences are risk factors that challenge or impede one’s healthy development. For example, negative influences on girls might be:

  • messages that they cannot play particular sports because they are girls,

  • messages that girls are supposed to be demure and soft-spoken,

  • messages that girls should be thin, have perfect skin, and long polished nails in order to be considered beautiful.

Negative influences can come from friends, family, school, community, ethnic groups, and media.

3. Assets

Assets are protective factors which empower girls to deal with negative influences or situations in their lives. Assets can be skills, personal qualities, situations, or opportunities. For example, girls' assets might be:

  • stress reduction activities (skill),

  • assertive communication (skill),

  • trust in one’s own intuition (personal quality),

  • regular contact with a supportive adult female such as an aunt or family friend (situation),

  • access to girls' sporting activities in the community (opportunity).

The Skill

Step I: Choose a "Self"

  1. Review the table of girls’ "selves."

  2. Think about the group of girls you serve and which of their "selves" could use support and development. If your position limits you in dealing with certain content areas, be sure to respect those limits and consider "selves" that fall into your realm of influence.

  3. Choose a "self."


Step II: Identify Negative Influences on "Self"

  1. Generate a list of negative influences for the "self" of girls you chose. Pull from your experience and your observations.

  2. You can also ask some girls and their parents for some ideas about negative influences that affect the girls’ "self." Add their ideas to the list.
Example:
Physical Self

Negative Influences:

  1. Teen magazines focus mainly on appearance giving a message that a girl's appearance is the most important part of herself.

  2. Women in the entertainment media are generally extremely thin.

  3. The school does not have many sports options for the girls.

  4. The physical education teacher makes derogatory comments about girls who are overweight.

  5. Many of the girls' parents in the community do not support girls playing sports.

 

  1. If your list has more than four or five negative influences, you may want to choose the four most important or prominent negative influences for your girls. You can use these four negative influences as you continue in the process to identify assets.

Step III: Identify Assets
  1. For each negative influence, generate one or more assets that can empower girls to effectively overcome or address the negative influence.

  2. You can also ask some girls for their ideas about how to overcome the negative influences and add their asset ideas to the list.
Example:

Physical Self
Negative Influences: Assets:

Teen magazines focus mainly on appearance giving a message that a girl's appearance is the most important part of herself.

Believing that appearance is only one aspect of a person — not the whole person.

Women in the entertainment industry are generally extremely thin.

 

Ability to resist unrealistic media messages about looks. Knowledge that healthy bodies come in many different shapes and sizes.
The physical education teacher makes derogatory comments about the girls who are overweight.

Ability to speak up against situations that are unfair.

 

The school does not have many sports options for the girls.

Ability to advocate for oneself and others. Ability to get involved in school policy and planning.

Many of the girls' parents do not support the girls in playing sports.





Knowledge that sporting activities help build girls' confidence in many areas of their lives. Skills to negotiate for physical activities that parents may find acceptable — possibly sports like dance, martial arts or yoga that are alternatives to traditional sports.
 

Step IV: Identify or Design Asset Building Strategies

  1. Choose a high priority asset or cluster of assets.

  2. Determine the objective of the strategy to build this asset.

  3. Describe the main steps for conducting the strategy.

    Example One:

    Physical Self

    Negative Influences:

    Teen magazines focus mainly on appearance giving a message that a girl's appearance is the most important part of herself.





     

     

     

     

     

     


    Assets:


    Believing that appearance is only one aspect of a person — not the whole person.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Strategy:


    Objective:
    Girls will identify important qualities of who they are. Girls will identify important qualities of their role models.

    Step One: Have girls identify their role models.

    Step Two: List on the board the qualities of the role models they admire.

    Step Three: Ask the girls how many of those qualities are related to the role model's appearance. Lead a discussion about the importance of the other qualities the role models possess.

    Step Four: Have the girls list some of their own characteristics or qualities from all aspects of their lives.

    Step Five: Have girls create a statement, drawing, or collage to affirm themselves for who they are including all their wonderful qualities.


    Example Two:

 

Physical Self

Negative Influences:

Women in the entertainment industry are generally extremely thin.





 

 

 

 

 

 


Assets:


Ability to resist unrealistic media messages about looks.

Knowledge that healthy bodies come in many different shapes and sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strategy:


Objective:
Girls will track and respond to the negative media messages about being thin that they receive. Girls will identify healthy and attractive bodies that do not fit the industry norm of thinness.

Step One: Have girls keep journals. The first assignment is to track and journal the number of thin women they see on TV and in movies and magazines in a given time frame.

Step Two: Have girls track and journal the number of average-sized women they see on TV and in movies and magazines in a given time frame.

Step Three: Have girls journal how they feel about getting media messages that women are supposed to be thin.

Step Four: In a given time frame, have girls describe in their journals different types of healthy and attractive women's bodies that they observe in real life.

Step Five: Have girls journal what they can say to themselves when they get messages from the media that they should be thin.

  1. Once the objective and main steps of the strategy are created, you can further develop the strategy on your own or with the input from some of the girls you serve. Please note that strategies do not need to be for girls only.

  2. Repeat Step IV for additional assets.