It is dark in the basement. The only light comes from candles adorning vanilla and chocolate cupcakes. The girls are asked to make a wish for all girls. Some wish for “things not to be so expensive, so everyone can afford what they need,” others wish for “girls worldwide to feel loved and free.” The wishes vary from girl to girl, but the intent is consistent – a kind of belonging for all girls. The countdown begins and the lights are extinguished with simultaneous breaths of hope.
In each week of camp, more than a dozen young women aged 10-12 share their unique insight into the challenges and experiences of their communities. Each day of camp corresponds to a theme, ranging from body image, media and self-esteem, to healthy relationships, to activism. The girls get to share feedback and input on every topic. As the week progresses and the girls feel safer sharing, the comments become increasingly indicative of their respective circumstances.
The open-ended question “What are some issues you have seen in your community?” is initially met with silence. The girls’ hands begin to rise, slowly at first and then all at once. Examples of racism, bullying, and discrimination are shared. The girls identify peers, strangers, and even teachers as the perpetrators. Suddenly, the room is bursting with newly-emancipated voices, and they eventually reach the question, ‘What can we do about it?’ This question is handed back to them, along with the opportunity to affect change.
The girls move forward more confidently as leaders into the next activity. Tasked with making activist ‘zines,’ or free form magazines, some are not sure where to start. While many girls are choosing sparkling stickers and colourful markers to highlight their messages, one girl sits alone, writing in her journal with a look of focus. She sets down her pencil, and asks if she may share her work with the others:
On the last day of camp, phone numbers and email addresses are exchanged hurriedly. But it won’t necessarily be the last time they’re all together. They clutch flyers announcing the coming of an ongoing after-school program at the Women’s Centre. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30-5:30pm starting on October 6, girls are welcome to join in the drop-in program to keep learning and sharing in workshops and fun activities.
As they bound up the stairs to enjoy the rest of their summers, a new question echoes “Will I see you in the fall?”
This year’s Girl Power Camp series was made possible by the generous support of these community partners.