The final session of TWIGG focussed on the Free Being Me programme, which IGG is currently rolling out across the country with the Catholic Guides of Ireland (CGI). We were delighted that Cecilia Browne and Yvonne Browne of CGI were able to join us for this session as well as Mary Cunningham of the National Youth Council of Ireland and Orla O’Connor and Sara Clarkin of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Lorna Finnegan, IGG’s International Commissioner, introduced the session by saying it was hoped that as many Brownie and Guide units as possible would sign up to the programme. She said there was an urgent need for the programme across the globe, given that a survey found that only 11% of girls think they are beautiful and six out of ten girls opt out of daily activities because they are so concerned about the way they look. “We have to offer hope that we will make a difference, that we will make a change,” Lorna said.
Marg McInerney, Leader of Carrigdhoun Guides and a member of the Free Being Me committee, said that over 400 Leaders had been trained in delivering the programme and she encouraged Leaders to get in touch when they had delivered the programme to their Units, including completing the Take Action project.
Emer Foley, a plus-size model and basketball coach, who once played basketball for Ireland, talked about how she wished there had been a programme like Free Being Me when she was in the Brownies and Guides in Bray, Co Wicklow. She talked about her struggle to accept her body image when she was growing up and says that now, at age 29, she can honestly say that she finally feels comfortable with “being me”. She says that she has learned to rise above criticisms and put downs, including rejections from some modelling agencies that said she didn’t have “the right look”. She said she liked the way Free Being Me encouraged girls to appreciate their bodies for their natural abilities. “Be confident, be happy, don’t stress, love yourself,” she said. “I’m very proud to be a part of this programme. You are special people and I am very proud to be in a room filled with such great people.”
Helen O’Reilly, Leader of Stillorgan Brownies and Guides and a member of the Free Being Me committee, took to the stage with two of her girls who have completed the programme and asked them about their experience.
Rachel Caird (age 11) said she really liked Free Being Me because it helped girls to realise that they are perfect the way they are and that “everyone is special in their own way”. She said she felt more confident after doing the programme because it made her feel better about the way she is. “I would recommend the programme to other Leaders because all the girls in their Units will learn that looks aren’t the most important thing and that it’s more important the way you treat people and the way you act,” she said.
Sara Caird (age 10), said her favourite Free Being Me activity had been trying to spot the air-brushing in pictures of models. “After the five sessions, I felt better about myself and prouder of the way I am,” she said. “After doing Free Being Me, I judge people by their actions rather than their looks.”
Chief Commissioner Helen Concannon concluded the session, saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if IGG and CGI were the starting point for seeing change in the way a whole generation of girls feel about themselves?”
~ Fiona Murdoch, Communications Officer, Irish Girl Guides