In one of our first Girl Up meetings, the teen girls in attendance wanted to talk about the American election, particularly the ways in which the ability of a woman to lead a country was continuously demeaned. One girl pointed out that historically, women were excluded from politics because their menstrual cycles supposedly made them emotional and unreliable, and connected that to the suspicion women leaders still face today. This conversation expanded out to include how these ideas create barriers for women and girls to accessing leadership positions, and what we can do it.
Research by Nicole Archard (2013) supports what girls have been telling us about their initial impressions of leadership. Archard says that girls recognize at an early age how difficult it can be for women to hold positions of power because mainstream ideas about leadership often emphasize competition and dominance. Because of this, many girls do not see their leadership potential. Of course, there are structural reasons that girls and women do not pursue leadership roles, including income, childcare and how gender intersects with race, class, ability, sexual orientation and so on. However, at the Women’s Centre we work with girls to expand girls’ definitions of leadership and encourage them to identify as leaders. Girls have the opportunity to name and share their strengths and abilities with the group, and experience talking about their ideas and practice giving support to other girls – all important leadership experiences.
And it seems to be working! In Girl Power After School, for girls in grades 5-6, almost 100% of girls have said that because of the program, they see themselves as leaders, and the same number told us the program has taught them ways to make the world a better place. One Girl Up participant told us: “I’m more encouraged to stand up for my opinions.”
Know a girl who would be interested in building her leadership skills while building confidence and community with other girls? This is a great time to get involved! For the first time, the Women’s Centre will not only be running our Girl Power summer camps for elementary school girls, but also brand new summer programming for young women in junior high and high school.
Girl Power Camp is a week of day programming for girls going into grades 5 and 6 where girls have the opportunity to explore issues like gender, body image, healthy relationships and activism. They also get to try fun activities like art, dance and martial arts, and meet women doing cool things in the community. We will be holding two weeks of camp: July 24-28, and July 31-August 4.
Girl Force Camp is a week of day programming for girls going into grades 7-9. The week will focus on girl-identified topics such as gender, body image, healthy relationships and mental health. We will spend time exploring issues in hands-on workshops in the mornings, and spending the afternoons taking action on these issues and doing self-care activities. This camp will run August 21-25.
Girl Up Summer Program is a drop-in program from 5-8pm where girls going into grades 10-12 can come hang out and talk about issues related to leadership and social change with cool change makers in the community, including social media and activism, art for social justice, public speaking, craftivism and more! The program will run every Tuesday night from 5-8pm from July 4-August 22.
All of these exciting programs are free of charge, with all lunches, snacks, supplies and bus tickets provided with the help of our generous donors. Special thanks to Soroptimist, Status of Women Alberta, and the Collaborative Funder’s Table for helping to make this happen.
To sign up or get more information, please call Alexe, Sabrina or Sarah at 403-264-1155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reference: Archard, N. (2013). Women’s participation as leaders in society: An adolescent girls’ perspective. Journal of Youth Studies, 16(6), pp. 759-775.