Each March we celebrate Women’s Month, we honour our women, and remember those who have helped make a positive difference to Cayman Islands culture and society, not just for the female population, but all residents. This month’s theme is ‘celebrating girls, inspiring future’
Caymanian girls are the next generation and it’s therefore important to recognise that as older sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers, coworkers and friends we all have a duty to help them realise their potential. ‘Back in the day’, women traditionally stayed at home to raise families while the men went off to sea. Recent decades have seen a huge shift from this model, to women having careers that have developed in Cayman, in hospitality, government, legal and financial sectors.
However, women now thankfully find themselves with all kinds of career choices, often as well as the demands, wearing all the other ‘hats’ of wife, mother, and career women.
Although woman have made gains in education and employment in the fight for equal rights, it seems we are losing the self-esteem war with research suggesting that girls self-esteem peaks at about 9 years old and then plummets. As girls enter their ‘tweens’, ages 10-12, self-esteem becomes too closely tied to body-image and physical attributes fuelled by the media and often peer pressure.
Positive self-esteem is a quality essential to good mental health. Self-esteem relates to how you feel about yourself, not just your physical appearance or how clever you are, but how you feel about yourself as an individual person, your strengths and attributes. Having good self-esteem means you are resilient to whatever life throws at you, but having low self-esteem can lead to poor coping skills.
Society is sexualising girls from a young age; that is portraying images of girls and women in a sexual manner in movies, television, in music, magazines and on the Internet. As much as we want to protect our girls from these influences it may feel sometimes impossible to do so, but we can educate them and encourage girls to place a greater value on themselves as young people, rather than weight, clothes, hair or body shape.
This makes for a healthier young woman in every way. Yes, you can be attractive, but do it for yourself, be independent, assertive, strong and able to make good choices in life. One way to do this as a parent, is to try and not limit girls choices and stereotype activities that are ‘female’ versus ‘male’ activity.
For example, if the girls in your family want to try football, mechanics, or are interested in maths and science encourage this. Expertise doesn’t matter but interest does, and by encouraging girls to try something you may not have had the chance to do, clearly gives them the message that ‘they can do anything’ and life isn’t limited to stereotypical choices.
Having said that, if we think about a traditional female role we may think about motherhood. This is one of the most important jobs in the world and should be highly valued. But as parents we want our girls to be able to choose when to be a parent, when they are mature enough to handle the life-changing responsibility that goes with being a parent, be able to nurture a mature adult relationship with the father and have the confidence and skills to deal with being a parent.
So, let our girls enjoy their innocence and childhood without encouraging them to grow up before their time. Nurture, teach and encourage girls for the next generation and help them grow into self-confident Caymanian young women.
As the famous quote says; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, and we are all part of the global village.
Emma Roberts is a counsellor with the Employee Assistance Programme of the Cayman Islands. For more information or to contact a professional counsellor with the organisation call 949-9559.