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Educating the next generation on appearance-related self-esteem and body confidence

Since 2004, through the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP), Dove has educated over 82 million young people on self-esteem, body image and body confidence in 150 countries around the world. We do this because large quantitative global studies have proven that self-esteem and happiness, particularly amongst girls, drops dramatically between the ages of 10 and 17 — and this must change. Low self-esteem among young people affects the way they behave every day: they’re less likely to put up their hand in class, for example, or go to the doctor. It’s a serious problem when our girls are not reaching their full potential to become confident, empowered women.

The Dove Self-Esteem Project is the largest provider of self-esteem and body confidence education in the world, reaching 82 million young people so far. For a long time, we’ve had a good partnership with leading academics at the University of the West of England — namely The Centre of Appearance Research (CAR). CAR is the world’s largest research group focussing on how body image affects people’s lives and one of the leading global authorities in this field. So that means, here at Dove, we know we’re always at the forefront of the field. We’ve got access to the latest science to develop the best programs possible for young people. These programs are academically accredited, with multiple externally published scientific papers — and Dove is regularly invited to discuss these issues at the United Nations. 

To deliver these programs, we work with people who are specialists in talking to young people. In particular, 70% of the Dove Self-Esteem Project is put into practice via teachers in schools because we know how much positive change the power of self-confidence can give young people. As well as this, our materials are now included in the national curriculum in France, Argentina and soon China.

The remaining 30% of the work lies with parents and youth leaders. We've developed the Free Being Me program, and a long-standing relationship, with The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS); WAGGGS is the largest voluntary movement dedicated to young women around the world. In 2019 we announced a partnership with UNICEF, an organisation working in over 190 countries to save children’s lives, defend their rights, and help them fulfil their potential. We care greatly about these relationships because they help us achieve the mission and vision of the Dove company. With help from UNICEF, we'll use new innovative digital tools to deliver the Dove Self-Esteem Project to a further 10 million young people in Indonesia, Brazil and India. We want to raise self-image and self-esteem in young people all over the world.

And we're not stopping there. We’re asking how entertainment can be used to educate young people, too. We work with Cartoon Network and the creators of the show Steven Universe – a show that’s all about inclusiveness and acceptance – to make short cartoons that support young people (as well as being fun, too). On top of all of this, in 2019 we launched a partnership with Emmy Award-winning writer, Lena Waithe. This collaboration created a television show called ‘Girls Room’ to help girls understand and cope with any self-image issues. We’re always trying to think of new projects, and for our latest venture we’ll be exploring gaming as another way to send young people positive messages. 

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