At the Junior League of the Quad Cities, it’s a key element of an ambitious program to nurture self-esteem among girls and young women.

It’s also part of a larger understanding of self-esteem issues among women and girls. According to the Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty, only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful and, in a global study of over 1,200 10-to-17-year-olds, 72% of girls said they felt “tremendous” pressure to be beautiful. Perceptions of beauty aside, girls’ self-esteem issues have also been tied to in negative activities like disordered eating, bullying, smoking or drinking.

So where does the mud come in?

JLQC’s first annual I AM Strong Mudventure Race is a 5K road race for girls and women that combines a standard “fun race” with elements of a scavenger hunt and track obstacles like tire flips, rope pulls and the mud crawl that inspired the event’s name. Part of JLQC’s larger I AM initiative, the goal of I AM Strong is less about competition and more about providing ways for girls and women to support one another by accomplishing a challenge together. (And 100% of race entry fees go to Quad Cities area nonprofits!)

But the other I AM program elements are equally interesting.

  • JLQC kicked off the program by hosting a viewing of the documentary Miss Representation in April. The film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom (the keynote speaker at AJLI’s 2012 Annual Conference) explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence. The goal: Get a conversation started in the Quad Cities community.
  • JLQC expanded the program with WINGs Teen Peer Mentor Program, a pilot mentoring program at West High School in Davenport designed to help young women create a positive perception of themselves. Participating high school students will eventually become mentors to middle school girls to help them work together to battle negative self-image and improve the perception of young women. The goal: Get teens involved.
  • JLQC then found a fun way to promote the program across the community that you have to see to understand. The I AM Art Project involves local girls and women graphically focuses on how women currently see themselves, how they want to be seen and what their hopes and dreams are for the future. JLQC is working with a local art gallery to display the “art” and is investigating how to bring it into schools and other community forums. The goal: Create a buzz about the I Am initiative.

Nice program. Well executed. Good work, Quad Cities members!