Girl Guides ‘Free Being Me’ campaign gets the thumbs-up

By Brendan Grehan

A GROUP of girl guides from Lucan had a visit from beauty queen, Miss International Ireland, Katherine Gannon, who gave a thumbs-up to the girl guides “Free Being Me” body confidence campaign.

This campaign is empowering young people across Ireland to speak out and challenge body image myths.

From left Alana McDonnell 13 Katherine Gannon Ellie Rose Cawley 13

Gannon, a 25-year-old model from Galway, believes health and happiness should always come first. Speaking to members of the Irish Girl Guides (IGG) in Lucan, Ms Gannon said: “If you don’t have health and you don’t have happiness, you don’t have anything.”

Gannon, who is an accounts manager by day, is on a mission to tell girls and women that “there is nothing wrong with you just the way you are”.

She added: “My message to girls and young women is to never go down a road that is unhealthy. If you’re not healthy and happy doing something, then there’s no point in doing it.”

This message ties in with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts/Dove Free Being Me programme that IGG and the Catholic Guides of Ireland have been promoting the past three years.

Free Being Me gives girls an insight into airbrushing and teaches them that images they see of women in the media have more often than not been digitally altered.

This boosts their self-esteem and helps them to accept their natural body shape and to use their bodies for what they enjoy – whether that is sport, dance, music etc.

Until she did a reality TV show, Fashion Hero, in the autumn, Gannon did not go anywhere without wearing make-up. Since the show, however, which saw her “stripped” of make-up at one point, she has happily gone without make-up for much of the time.

When Gannon came across Free Being Me on the internet and how it portrays “such a great image of women and gives girls something to look up to”, she got in touch with IGG to say she would like to give her backing to the campaign. She liked the fact that Free Being Me was “a healthy message, a positive message that promotes positive thinking”.

She enjoyed learning more about Free Being Me from Griffeen Valley Brownies (age 7-10) and Guides (age 10-14) in Lucan who have completed the programme.

Emily-Ruth Brennan (14) said she had learned that it was okay to be herself.

“You don’t have to be perfect for anyone,” she said. “You don’t need to go starving yourself or go to extreme lengths to look perfect. You don’t have to have a flat stomach and super-skinny thighs. You’re fine just being yourself.”

Alana McDonnell (13) said she had learned everyone was insecure and you shouldn’t have to change anything about yourself.

“Free Being Me gave me more confidence” she said, “and I know that it helped lots of other girls in the Guide unit too.”

Ellie-Rose Cawley (13) said she believed “Free Being Me “was especially helpful for teenagers who use social media because “they see lots of pictures of beautiful people and they feel pressured to look like them. You shouldn’t worry about how you look; as long as what is in the inside is nice, that is what matters.”

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