Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Changes that Can Lead to a Better Life

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 5: Health Concerns of Girls > Changes that Can Lead to a Better Life


The way a woman sees herself forms as she grows. It is important that a girl learn to feel good about herself when she is young, so that she will be able to develop fully and help make her community a better place. A girl is much more likely to learn this when her family and community show her that they value her.

In many places girls are raised to believe they are less important than boys. They are taught to feel shame about their bodies and about being female, and they learn to accept less education, less food, more abuse, and more work than their brothers. This not only hurts their health directly, but it makes them feel bad about themselves and less able to make the right decisions for a healthier life in the future. When girls are raised in this way, it shows that their communities do not value them as much as boys.

But if a girl’s community recognizes the value of each person—whether the person is male or female—she will grow up feeling she can make a better life for herself and for her family and neighbors.

a girl speaking to a teacher while two other girls listen
Teacher, we could organize a health fair at school to show people how diseases are spread and how to stay healthy.
A girl will feel proud if she sees that her efforts can make her community better.
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low status of women

The way a community treats females also affects how families treat their girl children. For example, if a community believes that girls should learn skills, a family that lives there is more likely to want their daughter to go to school for as long as she can. But in a community where women are allowed to do only ‘women’s work’ and are not allowed to participate in any public meetings, families are much less likely to believe that their daughters should be educated.

There are many ways to help girls feel better about themselves and to help their families and communities understand that girls’ lives can be different. Here are some ideas.

Ways girls can work for a better life

Find someone to talk to who you think will listen and understand—a friend, a sister, or another female relative. Talk about your fears and problems. Together, you can talk about strong women in your community, your goals, and dreams for the future.

Do things that you and your friends think are important. If you see a problem in your community, get together with your friends to do something to change it. You will all feel proud when you see that your efforts can make your community better.

Decisions for a better future

There are important decisions that you can make with your family to create new possibilities for your future.

Education and training. Education can help you feel proud of yourself, earn a better living, and live a happier and healthier life. For many girls, education opens the door to a better future. Even if you cannot go to school, there are other ways to learn to read and develop skills.

a girl making a wall out of bricks
two happy girls looking at a list of students who have done well
For example you can study at home, join a literacy program, or learn a trade from a skilled person (apprenticeship). When you have new skills, you have something special to give to your community, and you can better support yourself and your family. Learning new skills can help you have more choices in your life.

Waiting to get married. Talk with your family about waiting to get married until you feel ready and until you find the right partner. Many girls are able to finish school and find work before starting families. This can help you learn more about yourself and what you want. If you wait, you may even find a partner who feels the same way about life as you do.

Waiting to have children.
a man and woman standing close together
It is easier to raise a happy and healthy child when you wait until you and your partner feel ready to start a family. If you are thinking about having a baby, these are some things to think about: Will you be able to continue your education? How will you fulfill the child’s physical needs—food, clothes, shelter, etc? Are you ready to provide the emotional support a baby needs to grow up into a healthy child? Will your partner commit himself to helping with child raising? How will your family help you?


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