Friendly advice for girls

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:00 23/08/2014

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A Nelson researcher has received an award for her work in the area of girls' violence which she plans to use to put her academic findings into practice.

Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) tutor Dr Donna Swift has received the Sonja Davies Peace Award, which is awarded to promote initiatives that advance peace in New Zealand.

It was presented by the New Horizons for Women Trust, awarded to a woman or group led by a woman who developing an initiative that will help them create a more peaceful world at home, school, the workplace, or in the community and includes a financial component.

Swift will take her research done at an academic level into girls' violence and other issues facing girls and young women, and use it to create user-friendly resources for those working at the coalface with girls - such as caregivers and teachers.

In her research she had found there was too much emphasis on girls looking a certain way to get male attention, and there was an unhealthy competition between each other for male attention.

She had also found a lack of strong female role models.

When it came to creating the user-friendly resources, she wanted to get whole communities involved.

"By getting the community involved we will be able to change options for girls so it doesn't become such a desperate act to get males' attention, so they have other pursuits and opportunities."

She wanted to stress to girls that what they saw on TV was not their reality.

She wanted to encourage girls to seek better role models than many of the aggressive characters shown on TV.

Politicians were another contentious issue when it came to role models and young girls.

Recently she had been working on the West Coast, and found all the councillors for each district were all male.

She had not followed the headline-grabbing political fallouts from the release of investigative journalist Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics, though did think politicians were too aggressive, which did not make for good role models.

"In terms of language and the dirty politics, it makes a world for young people which is about cheating, dominating or oppressing the other and that is not a good role model," she said.

"It's extremely aggressive, that's something I see with young women they are learning an aggressive, as opposed to an assertive way of being. We don't teach them how to be assertive."

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- The Nelson Mail

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