This GYAL can

In Hackney Centre of Mission, Pioneer Evangelist Andrena Palmer has set up online workshops to help improve the self-esteem and mental health of young black women.

We spoke to Andrena about why she started the This GYAL Can workshops after taking part in Mind’s Mental Health First Aid Course

“I am at the beginning of a journey, partly inspired by the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affecting black people, and also by the Black Lives Matter movement.

There is huge pressure on young people from social media to conform to a certain way of being and looking – to have the ideal body shape – which many cannot live up to, and so this causes anxiety and low self-esteem. Appearance is everything in an Instagram and TikTok world.”

This GYAL Can aims to be a safe space for black women, championing positive wellbeing, and encouraging them in their strengths, abilities, and talents.

The workshops also offer personal development, as well as education and employment opportunities. 

We caught up with Andrena after the first session. Two comments from young women on self-esteem stood out: 

“Gaynor* told me, “I didn’t like my hair so I shaved it all off.”

And Kira* said she visits the gym at 10pm because she knows no-one else will be there then.” 

Just like the woman at the well in John 4, when you feel like you don’t fit in it can cause you to live in the shadows.

If you’re happy in your own skin it can be hard to even imagine why young women would feel this way, but the mental well-being of a whole generation is at threat.

Andrena wants to give This GYAL Can participants goody bags containing pampering items, a mirror to remind themselves they are beautiful, and a journal to help process feelings and record their journey. Most importantly she wants to give them a mental health toolkit to improve self-esteem and aspirations.

Imagine a world where young women have the tools and resilience to navigate difficult life situations.

Imagine a world where every young woman has positive self-esteem and mental wellbeing, and can get up in a morning thinking “I am enough”.

This is exactly the kind of world This GYAL Can is working towards.

“We can make such a difference – we just have to do it.” – Andrena

*name changed

Help us support more young women like Gaynor and Kira and affirm they are enough by donating online now.

Watch the COVID-19 Diaries to hear more about how our frontline staff, like Andrena, have adapted their activities and support for their communities during the pandemic.

Read more stories of transformation in other areas of our work here.

Please be aware that the Hackney Centre of Mission closed in August 2022.