Big Sister Plans to Boost Teenagers Women's Role: Initiative Aims to Improve the Confidence of Girls amid Concerns That They Are More Likely to `Drop Out'

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A MAJOR initiative to promote the role of women in society, including a drive to improve the self-confidence of teenage girls, was announced by the Government yesterday.

Amid concerns that teenage girls were more likely to "drop out", Baroness Jay, the Minister for Women, said efforts would focus on challenges such as eating disorders, smoking and pregnancies.

Ministers are likely to use teenage magazines and soap operas to get their message across and they will also set up a panel of "role models" for young women. But Baroness Jay appeared to backtrack on suggestions that Geri Halliwell, the former Spice Girl, and Emma Thompson, the actress, have been approached, stressing instead the importance of mothers and big sisters as role models for girls. "For women to reach their full potential in adulthood they must have self-worth as teenagers. Role models are very important in the development of teenage girls in arguing that they should have higher aspirations. At the moment, we are still trying to create a group of people we can use to be that," she said. Research has shown that girls out-perform boys during their early school years, but then fall behind. Tessa Jowell, the Public Health Minister said figures proved that one in four teenage girls smoked and there was a trend of increasing drug and alcohol dependency among that age group. Baroness Jay announced that the women's unit, set up by the sacked social security secretary Harriet Harman last year, was being relaunched and moved to the Cabinet Office. She made clear that Ms Harman's work was seen as a "building block" for the new measures, pointing to the unit's achievements which include a national childcare strategy, a "family friendly" working package, an increase in child benefit and legislation allowing pensions to be shared on divorce. …