Hesperian Health Guides
Changes that Can Lead to a Better Life
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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.
More Informationlow 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.
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.