Over the weekend of March 10 we held our first ever Girl Connect conference, a day-long conference for girls in grades 5-9. Completely planned and led by the high school girls in our weekly Girl Up program, this conference was huge success! Over 45 participants spent the day exploring topics like confidence and positivity, discussing issues that are important to them and connecting with one another.
As girls arrived early on the morning of the conference, the Women’s Centre was filled with the sound of excited reunions. Girls who hadn’t seen each other since Girl Power summer camps were rekindling friendships that had dulled over the fall and winter months. As the day went on, participants connected with other girls of all ages, destroyed stereotype boxes, worked on crafts, played drama games and enjoyed the safer, girl-friendly space they were creating together.
In addition to the fun, the girls also spent time unpacking serious issues. In one session, girls delved into a passionate discussion about the impact gender expectations have on their friendships, lamenting the fact that they can’t just be friends with boys without everyone at their school thinking they are dating.
On her feedback form, one girl told us “I learned that I kind of follow the sexist stereotypes even if I don’t mean to.” Critical thinking is such a crucial leadership skill to develop, and girls had a lot of chances to build on this at Girl Connect.
The day ended with a special session led by Nicola and Lissette from Girls Rock Camp, where participants wrote and sang a feminist anthem together. Lyrics included: “A rush of power when I know that I am brave; a rush of power when I know that WE are brave.”
This day, full of confidence, community and critical thinking could not have happened without the leadership of each area of the Girl Programs: Girl Up in organizing the sessions, Girl Force’s creation of energetic lunch time activities, and the contribution of Girl Power’s delicious snacks. We are also thankful to the adult volunteers who helped the day run smoothly, and to the Alberta Status of Women Grant Program for their generous support of this event.