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Dove research reveals girls in Ireland have amongst the lowest levels of self-esteem in the world

The Dove Self-Esteem Project launches in Ireland for the first time today with the aim of helping young girls reach their full potential by disarming beauty ideals and providing supportive resources to help foster positive body image and self-esteem from an early age. According to recent in-depth research from Dove of girls aged 10-17, the majority (87%) of girls in Ireland do not have high body self-esteem. This is above the global average and amongst some of the highest globally. This can have significant consequences, causing young girls to miss out on activities and opt out of major life events.

Body image and self-esteem issues can also hinder young girls’ education. Almost two thirds (63%) of girls in Ireland reported not attending a school related event because of the way they felt about their appearance. Worryingly, for girls across Ireland feelings of insecurity about their appearance can affect their education, significantly higher than the global average (51%). Insecurities can also cause girls in Ireland to put their health at risk with 66% of girls reporting they did not attend a doctor's appointment because they did not feel good about the way they looked.

As the biggest provider of self-esteem education in the world, Dove believes that no young person should be held back from reaching their full potential. The Dove Self-Esteem Project aims to reach the lives of 1/3 of all 11–14-year-olds in Ireland by the end of 2021 through a free programme featuring evidence-based resources that are available across Ireland. The Dove Self-Esteem Project resources include activity guides and website articles to help parents tackle tough topics like bullying and poor body image; confidence building workshops for classrooms and educational activities for mentors and youth leaders.

In Ireland, girls experience pressures in all aspects of their life, with the pressure to be beautiful ranking higher than the global average. The research reveals 84% of girls in Ireland feel there is too much importance placed on beauty in making them happy and sadly this does not change over time as 85% of women still feel that same pressure girls associate with being beautiful.

Current portrayals of beauty within the media and social media are having a negative impact on how girls feel about themselves, with 50% of Irish girls reporting that they feel worse about themselves when they look at beautiful girls or women in magazines, and 43% feel less beautiful after seeing photos of their friends on social media. This only changes slightly when women were asked the same question, with 41% also feeling the same way girls do.

Speaking about the Dove Self-Esteem Project, Dove Ambassador and TV Presenter, Yvonne Connolly said: “As a mother of two daughters, I can see first-hand how a lack of confidence can affect young girls in all aspects of their lives. I am thrilled to be working with Dove on the Dove Self-Esteem Project – something that is purposeful and important. I had an accident in 2019 that badly affected my self-esteem, so this is an issue that is close to my heart. I was also shocked when I first read the stats and found it especially sad to see how it all started at such a young age. This is why I think the Dove Self-Esteem Project is a fantastic initiative that can really help our girls grow into confident young women and make a change in how they view themselves and their peers”.

There is a direct correlation between the consequences of constantly focusing on body image as a way of being perceived as a valued member of society, and the psyche of young girls growing up in Ireland. Girls look for validation from their friends, and social media is the main platform where girls seek approval. The research found that 56% of girls in Ireland think that getting likes or comments on social media is important for their self-confidence and this increases to 85% for girls with low body esteem. In addition, 62% of girls in Ireland think that for them to do well in life they need to look a certain way, with this pressure to look good leading to feelings of stress and unhappiness.

Yvonne’s 15-year-old daughter Ali added: “I really feel that if I had had access to the tools and resources the Dove Self-Esteem Project is providing from a young age it would have helped me to feel more confident in who I was. It is important because there is so much pressure on my generation to be perfect, not only from outside influences but from each other too.  We need to support each other so we can grow into the confident women we want to be”.

Despite all pressures that girls face, the research from Dove found that girls in Ireland still have a positive outlook on their beauty and that of others. They are proud to be who they are and feel driven and inspired, which is something to be celebrated, with 72% of girls in Ireland saying that they are proud to be a girl. Positively, 81% of girls in Ireland think that every woman and girl have something about her that is beautiful, and 85% feel that they have several skills and qualities. Seven in ten girls in Ireland (71%) reported that they wish schools would teach them how to value others’ differences, and almost seven in ten girls in Ireland (67%) wish schools would teach them how to feel good in their own bodies.

The Dove learning hub here is full of helpful advice for parents and teachers.

Dove Beauty & Personal Care Marketing Manager, Ireland at Unilever Megan Chadwick said: “There is a real opportunity to build confidence from a young age by ensuring that girls have access to the right tools to help them deal with the pressures they face every day. Our tools and resources are developed in partnership with self-esteem experts from around the world and are proven to make a positive impact on body-confidence. We’re excited to roll out the Dove Self Esteem Project and with the support of parents, teachers, mentors and youth organisationsreally make a difference in the lives of young people in Ireland”.

Resources are now available for teachers, parents, mentors, and youth leaders across Ireland. To gain access to the tools or to register your school, check out our online learning hub here.  Follow the conversation online at #DoveSelfEsteemProject.

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