Editor’s Note: Today’s weekly message is written by Ms. Janice Ferebee, MSW. She is the author of Got It Goin’ On™, an empowerment handbook series and curriculum for girls (featured on OPRAH and a recipient of a 2003 ESSENCE Award). For more information about girls’ self-esteem, life skills and leadership, contact Ms. Ferebee at 202-213-5646 and check out her web site at www.janiceferebee.com
What do Beyonce, and ‘Lil Kim have in common? Yes, they are both females, but more importantly, they continue to perpetuate the sad state of affairs in this country and around the world: that sex and celebrity sell. The good news is that with the new first family, which includes two young girls, we are witnessing a sea change in the kinds of images being put forth about black women and girls world wide.
If we want our girls to become confident, competent, and self-respecting young women, we must counteract the negative images and messages depicted in rap videos and music by making self-love, self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth the louder voices for our girls. Our girls are God’s most precious gifts and they must grow up surrounded by powers of example (not bad examples) and encouraged to grow in healthy ways. Got It Goin’ On™, an empowerment curriculum for girls (a program of Ferebee Enterprises International), uses its personal growth and development handbook, Got It Goin’ On-II: Power Tools for Girls! as well as workshops and keynote speaking as tools to combat the challenges and negative messages our girls face everyday.
For the women – so much of what our girls become is a reflection of what we have thought of ourselves. If we feel unworthy, our girls will too. If we feel unlovable and exploitable, our girls will as well. If we feel we are nothing without a man and deserve to have someone, who claims to love us, but does not respect us - but abuses us - our girls will learn to feel the same way too. So, if we want to raise our girls to become loving, powerful young women who will reach for the stars – not just the nearest man or shortest skirt – we must first love ourselves. For example, Got It Goin’ On™ workshops provide safe “No Parent Zone” opportunities for girls to talk about their feelings and be heard, receive accurate information about life, participate in achievement oriented activities where they can feel good about themselves and learn to critically think about the messages they see and hear.
For the men – our girls develop their sense of security and relationships with the opposite sex based upon their relationships with their fathers/guardians and how these men feel about themselves. If you felt neglected as a child and still do or have abandoned your daughter, our girls will lack a sense of value. If your parents or caretakers raised you to believe women were worthless and merely objects for pleasure, you will raise your girls the same way. If you feel unable to compete in today’s society because you feel someone owes you something, our girls will never know confidence.
So, if we want to raise our girls to become confident, competent young women – you must learn to respect and love self no matter what life brings you. It does not matter what challenges we face. We must measure our worth by how we face those challenges. For many girls and their caregivers, Got It Goin’ On-II is a stepping stone toward womanhood that offers them a 21st century approach to many of today’s challenging issues. Issues, such as the value of education, teenage sexuality and pregnancy, drugs, violence and gangs, cyber bullies and media exploitation, personal values and achievement.
So, for the women and men alike who raise our girls, we must first take good care of ourselves so we have enough to pass on to them. When I speak at conferences, schools, churches, juvenile facilities both in the US and abroad, I emphasize the importance of being genuine because our children know a “fake” when they see and hear one. I also stress these four Ts: 1) Tell our girls the truth about life; 2) Teach them from your wisdom; 3) Spend quality time with them; and 4) Demonstrate what positive touch is to them. In addition, we must listen to them with non-judgmental ears. We must support and affirm our “angels” with loving discipline and glowing compliments. We must encourage our girls to develop and strengthen their own natural talents. We must honor our girls with our best lives so they can become the confident, competent young women God placed them on this earth to be.