YWCA campaign to prevent sexual exploitation of girls
YWCA campaign to prevent sexual exploitation of girls – “Nearly 80% of women in prostitution were recruited when they were teenagers. The average age of girls when they are recruited is 14.7 years old. Emotional dependency, the sexualization of female identity, low self-esteem, negative body image, the trivialization and pornification of sexuality, and the lack of information about this subject among youth are risk factors that may make girls vulnerable to violence, particularly sexual exploitation” says the press release issued by the YWCA to announce the launching of a campaign ( YWCA campaign to prevent sexual exploitation of girls ) to raise public awareness on sexual exploitation of girls.
The campaign has been named “Je mets mes culottes,” in an attempt to draw attention to the issue of sexual exploitation which today takes place especially—although not exclusively—through the social networks. To get a more detailed view of this campaign, we had the chance to talk to Isabelle Gélinas, Communications Director at the YWCA (Young Women Christian Association):
Montreal Times: What are the specific aspects of this campaign?
Isabelle Gélinas: The campaign has three dimensions: videos, posters, and a fundraising for YWCA Montreal Youth Service through the online sale of underwear with the campaign slogan.
The videos and posters illustrate the traps in which girls can fall and the recruitment tactics used by predators. It shows in a certain way how the social media may contribute to this recruitment and where it can lead. But the message behind this is that critical thinking and self-affirmation can be useful tools to help girls avoid these traps. Hence the motto “Je mets mes culottes” (from the expression “To wear my pants”: to make decisions). Social media yet is not the only method of recruiting girls for sexual purposes: it is one among many others. Recruiting is going on around schools, metro stations, shopping malls, corner stores, not just youth centres as too many believe. The two videos of the campaign are readily available for everybody to share on social networks, through the site www.jemetsmesculottes.com
The posters will be seen in restaurant, cafés and public places throughout Montreal, including college and university campuses. If possible, we are planning to extend their distribution through high schools (we have to get in touch with school boards to do so).
MT: One of the issues that your press release mentions is that of hyper sexualization of girls, a growing phenomenon stimulated by the media and social networks, and even in some cases—not knowing — by some parents. How do you plan to tackle this problem?
IG: Hyper sexualization has been – for the last 13 years – a great field of action for YWCA Montreal. We were among the first to use the term. We had a big awareness campaign for parents three years ago, distributing some 140,000 book markers to parents of grade 5 and 6 children (through the schools of 90% of school boards throughout the province) leading to 4 videos explaining the multiple aspects of hyper sexualization (see it at http://capsule.ydesfemmesmtl.org/)
Hypersexualization is a risk factor – among others mentioned in the press release – that makes girls more vulnerable to recruitment. It has to do with the association made between physical appearance and the value of the self and the fact that “being sexy” is the ultimate criteria. The girls absorb what society portrays as suitable and value themselves in terms of their physical appearance, in terms of what is “sexy.” When being sexy becomes the norm, exploiting sex can also become suitable and appealing, and pimps know very well how to play on these factors.
We will have the posters translated soon, and we’ll see if we can have the videos subtitled, but for the moment the campaign is available only in French. It’s the first time YWCA Montreal has a public awareness campaign of this sort, using ad techniques and channels to raise awareness. We can have this campaign thanks to the generous collaboration of the ad agency DDB Montreal. The campaign has a fundraising component in the form of the online sale of panties bearing the slogan “Je mets mes culottes” and the campaign mascot, an alpaca, designed by Pony to support these programs. The panties can be purchased online for $15 at the website www.jemetsmesculottes.com . Proceeds go directly to the YWCA Montreal Youth Service.