Body Positivity Advocacy Group
Rikkysha, Rina, Anshuya, Astha, Shery, and Salina, participants of the 2017 LEAD Course are fighting gender stereotypes and helping other youth to be more comfortable with their body. Their mini advocacy campaign called #Oneofakind is centered on celebrating differences and combating body shaming.
“You will get a doll when you look like one!” was told eight-year-old Anshuya on her birthday. “Little by little, these comments about my weight transformed me. I was no longer the happy and careless girl I used to be. My fear of being judged stopped me from going out to play with others. Some days I even stopped eating.” Astha received similar comments about her looks. ‘You’re too tall! You will never find a husband’ said her aunty. A 2016 survey from Girls Guiding found that 87% of adolescent girls feel judged on their appearance rather than on their ability. Because of gender inequality, women are first seen as brides, wives, and mothers rather than individuals with their own needs, perspectives, and dreams. Those who don’t conform and whose bodies don’t meet the conventional beauty standard are judged and openly criticized.
The LEAD Course covers the four broad themes of Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Advocacy, and Development, a formula that instills a sense of responsibility in the girls and gives them the tools to fulfill their aspirations. Through the advocacy component, the LEADers learned how to advocate for a cause they care about and influence change. In groups of six, they identified a problem, researched and discussed its root causes before defining together a strategy on how to address it. Each group received guidance from WLEAD staff and a stipend of $50 to deliver an effective and impactful mini-advocacy project.
Rikkysha, Rina, Anshuya, Astha, Shery, and Salina joined forces to tackle gender stereotypes and body shaming. Despite their different physiques, personalities, and interests, they all share the same goal of breaking harmful stereotypes and being accepted for who they are. During this year, they came to realize that being different is a strength and that they shouldn’t try to fit the norm. “We want students to understand that society and the media put pressure on the way they think, act and look. We want them to be aware of the consequences of body shaming on their self-esteem and their physical health.”
Our six LEADers went to two schools and facilitated sessions on gender stereotypes and body positivity for around 200 students. They prepared content relevant to boys as they are also affected and often teased for not being “manly” enough. To make a more lasting impact, Anshuya and her friends now want to meet the school principals and convince them to incorporate body positivity in sexual education class. They are planning to present the information they collected in the surveys to show the principals how common body shaming is and share with them real-life stories on how it is impacting the students.
This advocacy project was a great opportunity for the girls to pay it forward to the community and do something about a cause they strongly feel about. It also gave them a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. They now believe that they are real leaders able to make a positive change. At the LEAD Course graduation ceremony, last Saturday, Anshuya spoke confidently about her story in front of a large audience of 100 people: “At WLEAD, I learned the power of believing in myself and to fight for my opinion. I’m no longer afraid of standing up for myself and I proudly say out loud: ‘My body is not yours! My body is mine! My body is not a joke!”
LEADers receiving advocacy training
Rina sharing her opinion in Advocacy Week session
LEADers with Oasis school students
Body Positivity Training in Annal Jyoti School
Rikkysha, Astha and Anshuya facilitating a session