Girl Power Campaign is Helping Young Girls Stay Healthy
By Meghan Fay, Assistant Editor

Girl Power! is a national public education campaign sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services that encourages and motivates 9 to 14 year-old girls to live healthy and drug-free lives. Recently, the campaign released a Community Education Kit to help adults who work with girls to create programs with the following message: girls have the right to be the best that they can be – confident, fulfilled and true to themselves. 

Why is this necessary, you may wonder? Well, studies show that girls tend to lose self-confidence and self-worth during this pivotal age, become less physically active, perform less well in school, and neglect their own interests and aspirations. It’s during these years that girls become more vulnerable to negative outside influences, which can lead to risky behavior.

“We want to tell every girl: You are unique, you are valuable, and, if you put your mind to it, you can succeed. We want to tell every parent and every caring adult to listen to girls, to encourage them, to help them set high standards, and provide them opportunity, by doing this you can help them not only survive – but thrive – through adolescence. We must teach girls that their health and their future are more important than their image, that the size of their ambition is more important than the size of their clothes, and that the dreams they create for themselves are more important than the dreams that are created for them. We want to make sure that girls have Girl Power!” said Donna Shalala, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services about the program.

What is Girl Power?

Girl Power is the power that girls have to be the best that they can be. It means helping girls make the most of their lives and encouraging them to pursue their own interests and talents. Girl Power means telling all girls that they are worthy of success, that opportunities do exist, and that expressing themselves is okay. Girls with the power care about being healthy, both mentally and physically. 

 “Girl Power! means saying no to risky behaviors, no to smoking, no to drinking, and no to illegal drugs. Girl Power! also means saying yes to pursuing your interests and aspirations…, yes to being involved in sports and physical activity …, and yes to participating in positive activities like volunteering,”  said Shalala.

Why Girls 9 to 14 Need Girl Power?

The transition from childhood to adolescence occurs during these years. This is often the time when girls start to lose the Girl Power! they had in childhood. During this transition time girls begin to respond differently to what others say. For example:

  • Girls who perform well in the classroom at ages 9,10 or 11 often perform less well in school at age 14.
  • Girls in their early teens are often encouraged to place more emphasis on their personalities, social skills, looks and abilities to please others rather than develop their own interests and aspirations.
  • Some girls who earlier experienced adult and peer approval for demonstrating athletic abilities before puberty are often discouraged from participating in many sports once their bodies show signs of maturing.
  • This is often the first time that girls are exposed to drug use and other risky behaviors.
What Can You Do?

“We want to tell every parent and every caring adult to listen to girls, to encourage them, to help them set high standards and to provide them with opportunities,” said Secretary Shalala. 

  • Talk with girls and listen to them
  • Believe in girls and their abilities by praising girls’ attempts as well as their achievements
  • Help girls understand that alcohol, tobacco and drugs are unhealthy, dangerous and illegal
  • Actively support girls’ goals by providing as many opportunities as you can for them to participate in sports, the arts, and other positive activities of interest to them
  • Help girls to perform their best in school
  • Encourage girls to be active and exercise
  • Plan special activities that you can enjoy together
  • Be there for them when they need help
The Girl Power! Community Education Kit was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). The kit can be previewed and downloaded from the Girl Power! web site at Individual components or the entire kit can also be ordered by calling SAMHSA’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at 800.729.6686. Components of the kit include:

Welcome to Girl Power! – an overview of the Girl Power! campaign and information on the issues and challenges facing 9 to 14 year-old girls; Girl Power! across the country – an anthology of statewide, one-time, or annual community-based programs; 

How to Access and Activate Girl Power! in Your Community – a booklet that helps to assess existing resources for developing community-based programs

Girl Power! Speaker’s Guide – an easy-to-use summary of talking points and transparencies for speakers;

Girl Power! How To Get It! – an activity guide developed with the Girl Scouts of the USA for 9 to 11 year-old girls to help them build the skills they need to realize their full potential;

Girl Power! Keep It Going! – an activity guide developed with the Girl Scouts of the USA for 12 to 14 year-old girls to help them develop skills in communicating, problem solving, critical thinking and resisting peer pressure; and

Girls: A Guide for Caring Adults – a resource guide of books, audiovisuals and other resources designed to help adults develop programs. 

A part of the Girl Power! campaign, the kit provides useful and demonstrated activities to assist adults in building on the strengths and ideas of others to create their own programs for girls. Across the country, national, state and local organizations have enthusiastically embraced the Girl Power! message by developing community-based programs and activities that assist girls in realizing their full potential.

Since its creation in November 1996, the Girl Power! campaign has teamed with nearly 5,000 community-based programs and organizations, 300 local endorsers and over 60 national endorsers including the American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Medical Association (AMS) and the Girl Scouts of the USA to promote the Girl Power! message nationwide.

Girl Power! Campaign
159 Burgin Parkway | Quincy, MA 02169
617-471-4445 | Fax 617-770-3339