Understanding Girls Like You (U.G.L.Y Tribe) is a programme aimed at improving emotional health and wellbeing for marginalised young women. Hosted at Centrepoint’s Dean Street centre, the six-week long programme features a series of workshops including coaching, motivational seminars, mentoring and events.
Homeless young women, and those at risk of homelessness, are among the most disenfranchised and socially excluded members of society. With few positive role models, individuals can become trapped in a cycle of exclusion and despair. And without a stable wider network of family and friends, marginalised young women can often start to feel isolated.
To tackle this, I founded the U.G.L.Y Tribe movement to create a safe space for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds. To bring this dream alive I teamed up with Monikah Lee, a former Centrepoint resident who is also passionate about making a positive change within her community.
The programme provides young women with the skills and abilities to help build emotional resilience, improve confidence and increase self-esteem.
“I learned quite a lot here. I learned I didn’t need to compare myself to others and I don’t need to work at the pace that maybe others are my age, and that anything I set my mind to I can achieve,” said one young woman who attended the programme.
A sisterhood community
The traumatic experiences faced by homeless young people often result in poor mental and physical health. Some cases have also led to a reliance on drugs or alcohol. Out of the young people who attend Centrepoint services, 75% have experienced abuse or neglect and 18% have attempted suicide.
U.G.L.Y Tribe provides young women with a safe space to talk about what they’re experiencing – without fear of being judged.
“I was in a place where I wanted to focus more on self-care, so it was a good time to find out about it. I feel like this is kind of a family now. It’s like a sisterhood community where people can be real and honest,” said one U.G.L.Y Tribe member.
“We talk about a lot of things like self-confidence, leadership and relationships. I feel like these are all important issues for young women in London and the world. I really appreciate that influence and being so open and honest about stuff.”
Typically, but not exclusively, young females in Centrepoint services are also more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and wider social circles. Homeless young women, unlike homeless young men, also have the potential challenge of managing maternal care.
Building confidence and healthy relationships
Many of the young women who attended U.G.L.Y Tribe sessions have reported they had experienced toxic relationships in the past. These relationships had affected their confidence and self-esteem – preventing them from achieving their goals.
“I’ve found it amazing in terms of my confidence and being able to open up to people. I’ve grown to understand other girls around me and I’ve built friendships. I think it’s just been an amazing experience to build on myself as a person, feel confident in my body and feel confident as me. When I was younger I was in a lot of friendship that were perhaps slightly toxic in that I used to pretend to be something I’m not,” said Naomi, a Centrepoint young person.
“In this group, I’ve been able to come and be myself – my true authentic self – without having to pretend. That’s the biggest benefit I’ve got out of group.”
The six-week programme has also helped young women realise they’re not alone in facing some of the challenges and issues they’re experiencing.
“The fact that we’re in a group is more helpful, because that other people are going through similar things to you. If you’re feeling down or not feeling 100%, then you know that there are others around you who are supporting you and know the best way to support you. That’s something that’s hard to come by where you able to just sit in a room and be real with a group of people,” said Kadeejah.
“I’m very proud to be an U.G.L.Y Tribe member. I am U.G.L.Y and have met other U.G.L.Y girls.”
The ultimate goal of the U.G.L.Y Tribe movement is to empower young women to reach independence. Many of the young women who attended the programme reported that by increasing their self-confidence, they’ve been able to move on to further training and work placements.
“When I came I was blown away, because I’ve never been part of a group where you can be yourself and not be judged by what you look like or what you do. I didn’t know anyone when I first came, so I was quiet at first. But I’ve grown in confidence and I’ve now started a new work placement,” said Samantha.
“I’ve done so many things and I feel like being here has helped me boost my confidence. It’s the skills that I’ve learned at U.G.L.Y Tribe which have helped me be where I am now.”