Meet Justyne, a senior high school student who is teaching her peers how to feel confident in their own skin.
Is body shaming real?
Yes, it happens. And it’s harming both girls and boys.
Criticizing, humiliating, or discriminating someone based on their physical appearance, body shape or size is body shaming.
You may think your harsh remarks are nothing but harmless jokes, but words are powerful and can easily tear down one’s self-esteem. It can affect one’s mental health.
Body shaming may also be directed to oneself.
Since childhood, we have been fed with unrealistic standards of beauty. And unknowingly, we may be passing on these false standards to the people around us, especially among the youth.
The images we see on television, ads, magazines, and the Internet have been telling us how much we should weigh, what we should wear, how our skin should look, what our hairstyle should be, and so on.
Our current self is never enough.
All these demands on our body are eliminating the beauty of diversity.
Body shaming puts pressure on girls and boys to fit into a certain mold – because if they don’t, something is “wrong” with them.
In Samar, we met one girl who is leading the fight against body shaming. Her name is Justyne and she is 17 years old.
Empowering the youth
Justyne is a Grade 11 student, pursuing Accounting and Business Management track.
She is the Vice President in her school’s Supreme Student Government. As a student leader, she makes sure that she sets a good example for her fellow students.
After high school, she plans to major in accountancy and become a certified public accountant.
Justyne is determined to reach her dreams. “During my free time, I study my lessons in advance,” she said in Waray. “I also enjoy reading books and watching movies.”
A lot of students look up to Justyne as their role model; however, just like any other teen, Justyne also has her own set of worries.
“I’m always conscious about my body,” she shared. “Wherever I go, I’m vulnerable to experiencing body shaming.”
Among Justyne’s advocacies is to put an end to body shaming and catcalling. She wants girls and women to feel safe and comfortable wherever they may go, whatever they may be wearing, and at whenever time of the day.
To achieve this, Justyne and her friends conduct learning sessions to educate their schoolmates about respect, body-confidence, and girl power.
We met her through our #RAISEAbove Project, which empowers adolescent girls, young women, and young men by making them better realize their rights to education and skills development.
The RAISE Above Project trains students like Justyne in becoming Youth Peer Educators (YPE) in their respective high schools.
YPEs provide support, counseling, and information to their peers. We train them on the following:
- Adolescent Health - Assertive Communication - Gender Equality - Youth Leadership
- Youth Economic Empowerment
Our YPE training brought together around 60 youth leaders from Catbalogan City, Tarangnan, Gandara, and Sta. Margarita. We also train teachers on their role as YPE advisors.
“I love meeting with other youth leaders from different backgrounds”, said Justyne. “I’m grateful and proud of being a YPE.”
After completing their training, YPEs like Justyne then train other students so they too can become YPEs – creating a ripple effect among schools and communities.
Together, they establish YPE corners in their schools, which serve as safe spaces where students can freely confide with one another.
In Justyne’s school, teenage pregnancy was among the concerns that surfaced.
But their school is not alone. In the Philippines, 9% of women ages 15-19 have begun childbearing, the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) reported.
“Children born to very young mothers are at increasing risks of sickness and death,” the NDHS argued. “Teenage mothers are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes and to be constrained in their ability to pursue educational opportunities than young women who delay childbearing.”
Teenage pregnancy is one of the major causes of girls dropping out of school. In fact, 61.9% of the country’s out-of-school children and youth ages 16-24 have left school due to “marriage or family matters,” according to a 2017 Philippine Statistics Authority survey.
“Adolescent health education plays a significant role in the lives of both girls and boys,” Justyne explained. “We need to learn about sexual and reproductive health and rights because these are an important part of our development process.”
“Schools must give importance to these topics,” she stressed.
Today, Justyne continues to inspire others.
She has long left her shy and quiet ways; now she stands confidently in front of students to discuss relevant issues. “I feel comfortable and happy in my own skin and I want others to feel the same,” she said, smiling.
We want the youth to raise their hands, raise their voice, and for them to rise above the challenges their communities face.
To do this, we work with the youth themselves, their families and communities, schools and teachers, local governments, the private sector, and concerned regional and national government agencies like the Department of Education.
The RAISE Above Project is funded by Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives. For more information on the RAISE Above Project, you may reach us at plan-international.org/philippines or through our accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@planphilippines).