“I’m happy to be a girl!” Lily Robinson announced at last weekend’s empowerment event for girls hosted by the Elizabeth Fry Society, the local charity that advocates for women and children.

 I love YOU just the way you ARE! gathered together young girls at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. The purpose was to celebrate being a girl and promote awareness about the pressures that girls face as they grow into women.

Girls were encouraged to express themselves and bond while creating friendship bracelets, designing their very own t-shirts, as well as a community art project. Parents had an opportunity to screen the documentary Miss Representation.

This event and its theme presenting stark contrast to the statistics quoted from the film including:  “53% of 12 year old girls feel unhappy with their bodies”…”Girls are learning to see themselves as objects”…”women spend more money on the pursuit of beauty than on their education”. These facts provided insight for parents that attended the event and opened up dialogue with their pre-teens and teens.

As the girls painted hearts on the community canvas and embraced self acceptance, they talked about what it means to be a girl in the world today. When asked what they liked most about the event, three of the young attendees smiled and said “everything…just everything!”. Parent’s added they hoped this would be an annual and growing event.

I love YOU just the way you ARE! was organized by the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society and funded by the Youth Initiative Grants from the United Way to provide a safe space for girls 10 and older and their parents.

 “We wanted to provide girls the opportunity to define their strengths through creativity and self expression – it’s about reclaiming girlhood” Allie Grey, Elizabeth Fry Society’s Resource Centre Facilitator. The hope is that events like this will plant seeds that take hold and stay with them as they grow in this age of media saturation and unhealthy messages about girls and women.

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