Media ought to showcase positive role models to inspire girls to be all they can be, writes Rachael Dickson
You might think that only leaders with lots of guiding experience under their belt can represent the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) at such a high profile event as the Women in the World Summit in London this month. I certainly did. But with support from my district commissioner I decided to give it a go and apply – and to my astonishment I was selected to attend.
The summit, held for the first time in the United Kingdom, brought together women leaders, activists and political change-makers from around the world to share their stories and discuss ways to build a better life for women and girls.
The focus this year was on girls and young women – Generation Girl – and I got the chance to attend the forum with other WAGGGS members from across the world.
Previous research from Girlguiding, released in December last year, has shown that 55 per cent of girls and young women feel that there’s not enough positive female role models portrayed in media in anything from sports and politics to business. Indeed 87 per cent of girls also feel that when women are portrayed by the media the focus is more on their appearance than their achievement. We know that positive female role models can play an important part in broadening girls’ ambitions and giving them the determination to fulfil their potential.
This is why events like the Women in the World Summit are so important. It put inspirational and successful women from all walks of life and their stories in the spotlight. It showed me and other young women like me that we can do anything we set our mind to. It also launched the Generation Girl platform, sponsored by Dove, which will showcase authentic voices of young female leaders and role models for girls.
I can’t begin to explain how much inspiration and confidence attending Women in the World and meeting all these incredible women has given me. Each speaker shared their own personal story which was inspiring in so many different ways.
Yeonmi Park, a young woman who spoke about her harrowing experience as she escaped from North Korea, made me appreciate the country I was born in. Where you’re born is like a lottery draw – and although you can’t immediately change your surroundings, through time, you can strive to do something about it.
Model Cara Delevingne, someone who I always thought must have the perfect life, spoke about her battle with depression.
Cara made me realise that social media only ever represents a fragment of a person’s life – and often only the best bits.
I’ve always thought there must be a secret to success – a secret that not a lot of people know. But after meeting inspirational women like Yeonmi Park and Cara Delevingne I now think I’ve found it out.
These successful women are human just like you and me, but they have an ambition to achieve their dream.
This summit helped me realise that just because I don’t have years of guiding experience – yet – it doesn’t mean I can’t still be an inspiration to my Guides.
We need to make sure media outlets commit to showcase more positive female role models so that we can continue to inspire girls and young women to recognise their potential and realise that they can shoot for the stars.
• Rachael Dickson, 20, is a Guide Leader from Bo’ness, near Falkirk.