Girls Allowed

Working with girls aged 8 to 18 to build self-confidence


Location: Edinburgh and the Lothians, Scotland
Demographic: girls and young women aged 8 to 18
Delivery setting: schools; communities
Years active: 2019 –
Contact email:
Keywords: girls; women; youth; communities; schools; Scotland

“Every day feels like a challenge, from the moment I get up and look in the mirror I stress about my looks, my body, my clothes. I check my phone all the time to see if anyone is chatting with me and hope today is going to be o.k. at school – that it is no my turn to be ignored”.

The world we live in is one where girls are bombarded with messages about how to look, live and behave. Peer pressure, unrealistic images in the media and social media can compound this and lead to stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges.

Imagine then, that you are a young girl who is in care, has been involved in the care sector or is well known to social services.

Over the last ten years Mentor UK has worked with hundreds of girls and young women known to their local authority, or at risk of being involved with youth justice services. Virtually without exception, they have not had good early experiences, compounded by ongoing trauma, stress, neglect or abuse. They often live in areas of high deprivation, affected by multiple social stresses that produce risk factors which can affect their futures.

Mentor has seen first hand how these early experiences can lead to feelings of built up anger, neglect, a sense of unworthiness and at their worst a tendency to self-destruct. These are not only issues that teenage girls face – girls as young as 8 can struggle with feelings of unworthiness because they are being bullied and feel lost, confused or isolated.

The idea for Girls Allowed emerged from a group that Mentor facilitated for girls between the ages of 10 and 15. They met to support each other as well as to help shape Mentor’s work with girls like them going forward. They devised Girls Allowed – a project that supports, empowers and inspires young women to aim towards a bright future. This project supports young women to understand how to navigate difficult emotions and anxieties, build confidence and self-esteem and create a positive self-image with which to tackle challenges.

Girls Allowed works through a combination of group support and peer mentoring within schools and communities. The project is for girls and young women between the ages of 8 and 18. In its Pilot stage the project is due to be run by Mentor Scotland across Edinburgh and the Lothians beginning in 2019 and will provide the opportunity for 80 girls to participate each year over the first 3 years. The continuing development of Girls Allowed will be led by our advisory panel of young women, assisted by youth workers, volunteers and female mentors over the age of 24. The latter will come to the project with a range of life experiences through which to support our participants.

To find out more about Girls Allowed, please contact Heather McVeigh at:, or by phone at: 0131-334-8512.