414 Mental Health
When a woman feels she makes a valuable contribution to
her family and community, she is said to have good self-esteem.
A woman with good self-esteem knows that she is worthy of
being treated with respect.
Self-esteem begins to develop in childhood. The amount of
self-esteem a woman develops depends on how she is treated
by the important people in her life—like her parents, brothers
and sisters, neighbors, teachers, and spiritual guides. If these
people treat her as someone who deserves their attention,
if they praise her when she does something well, and if they
encourage her to try things that are difficult, she will begin to
feel she is valued.
In some cases, girls have a hard time developing good self-
esteem. For example, if their brothers are given more education
or more food, girls may feel less valued simply because they
are girls. If they are criticized a lot or their hard work goes
unnoticed, they are more likely to grow up feeling unworthy.
Then, as women, they may not believe they deserve to be
treated well by their husbands, to eat as much good food as
others, to have health care when they are sick, or to develop
their skills. When women feel this way, they may even think that
their lack of importance in the family and community is natural
and right—when, in fact, it is unfair and unjust.
As a child, Malika felt less valued than her brothers.
The family thought the boys were important enough
to be given an education, but that she was not.
Self-esteem is an important part of good mental health. A
woman with good self-esteem will feel more able to cope with
(manage) daily problems and better able to work for changes
that can improve her life and her community.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012