Rediscovering beauty: the GLOW Course in women’s prisons

Published on December 1, 2013

‘I’ve been working in women’s prisons since 2009 and the thing which instantly broke my heart was the amount of self-harm I saw,’ remembers team member Hannah Bettany.

‘The women in prison often really dislike themselves – they have a real deep hatred of themselves. There is such a need to help them rebuild self-esteem.’

Earlier this year, Hannah developed a four-week course she called ‘GLOW’ which investigates true beauty through real-life stories, reflection activities and discussion times. ‘The underlying theme,’ says Hannah, ‘is whether they’re going to let prison make them or break them.’

The course, which ran again in January and is due to start again later this month, includes an emotional makeover and photoshoot where women have the chance to try on wedding dresses and write messages that express what they learn during the course.

On the first course, victims of horrific abuse were photographed holding up words like, ‘I am a valuable woman’.

The changes in the groups Hannah has been working with are so evident, prison management have taken note and provided funding to ensure the course can continue.

‘For one of our sessions we had a guest speaker come in and talk about their own story of overcoming domestic violence and teenage pregnancy. Afterwards I set the girls some homework to think about who their stories could one day help. What they came back with was so powerful: “I could speak to someone who has started down a path with drugs…”, “I’m going to write to my children and talk about the mistakes I’ve made…”’