Friday, November 13, 2009

Circles of Protection

The other night I went to an event where I heard Becky McDonald speak. Becky McDonald is the founder of Women at Risk International (WAR), a nonprofit organization that serves women at risk around the world. Her goal in creating this organization was to create circles of protection around young women who are at risk of being sold into slavery and trafficking, as well as to rescue women from these situations, empower them, and communicate the message that they were created for purpose and dignity. She has a passion for giving young girls and women a voice and has worked hard to bring healing to women in over 18 countries.

Helping women (and especially adolescent girls) to find their voice is something that I have been passionate about for a long time. It is one of the reasons that led me to become a counselor. The context in which this has played out is pretty different than that which Becky speaks of, however, I believe that her message is especially relevant for the women and girls that I work with. Her message of God's hope and healing is one that we all need to hear, regardless of our circumstances or what we have been through.

So often, young girls in adolescence begin to lose their voices as they worry more and more about fitting in. They may pretend not to like certain things, or they may pretend TO like certain things. Sometimes girls silence their voices so much that they lose their sense of self; they hardly remember what they like, what they think or what they want. Many girls that have eating disorders experience feelings of powerlessness, and with powerlessness comes a silencing of the self. Other self-harm behaviors, such as self-mutiliation or cutting, are becoming more prevalent in the lives of young teenage girls as they seek to deal with their emotions and their inability to express who they really are for fear of not being accepted.

As a quick aside, To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit that is dedicated to providing hope and light to people who are struggling with depression and self-harming behaviors, which are both so common in girls with eating disorders. Apparently, November 13 is To Write Love on Her Arms Day, although my source for this is facebook :). Whether or not this is a sanctioned day of awareness is pretty insignificant to me- I think any day is a good day to raise awareness-- and because it is November 13 and the theme of this post is giving girls a voice, I wanted to make sure to mention this. To read more about this organization and what they are doing, follow this link.

Creating circles of protection around young girls in our society is SO crucial- whether it is to protect them from slavery, or from cultural messages about body image, or both. How do we create circles of protection around girls? By restoring dignity, showing them their purpose, empowering them through education and skill building, as well as working to impact change on a large scale through advocacy. For more information on Women at Risk, visit

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