For the second year in a row, Elmira District Secondary School students want girls to know they aren’t alone.
With Girls Night, Grade 12 students Mikayla Cooper, Brielle Dobes and Jordan Shantz are inviting girls from all over the region to have a fun night of empowering young women and making new friends.
Starting at 6 p.m. tonight, Apr. 21, the event has two guest speakers. Fearlessly Girl’s Kate Whitfield is up first with her relatable message of redefining beauty, value and possibilities. Brenda Porter will also be chatting with the young girls in attendance about her Days for Girls organization – a program that provides girls in developing countries with personal hygiene kits so they don’t have to miss school or work during their monthly cycles.
The idea for Girls Night came from the three students attending the Ontario Student Leadership Conference and seeing Whitfield speak. They all knew they wanted to bring her to EDSS, and started working on an evening where girls could come and hear her message.
The first event was a success with Grade 8 girls from around the region coming to check out the school, and learn to be a bit more confident when entering high school. This year, the three organizers are hoping to get more students from different grades to come and hear what the speakers have to say, and hopefully, carry on the tradition.
“The girl world is hard. It really is. We all have these problems and nobody talks about it – it is taboo. You feel like you are alone all the time,” said Cooper. “Then once you start talking about it, you realize that every person in the room understands and has been through the same thing.”
Dobes says it is all about bringing young women together.
“It doesn’t matter what ‘kind’ of girl you are. You all experience the same thing. There is this one level that you can get to where it doesn’t matter what group you are in or what clique you are in. It is everyone’s problems,” she said. “It is a unifying experience. It is girls from Grade 8 to Grade 12. There is no division. Everybody is together.”
Shantz just wants to see girls act a bit nicer towards each other.
“The big message is about feminism, but this event is more focused on being kind to other girls. Focusing less on competition between each other – that is a really big thing with girls,” she said. “I think they focus too much on that and they aren’t as nice to each other. I think it is more about kindness.”
The evening also aims to dispel any myths that surround what it means to be a girl, and the societal stigmas that come attached to that. The message: just be yourself.
“A huge thing for me is the stereotype around girls. As you can see, we are all wearing pink. Me, I don’t really like the colour pink. Mikayla loves pink and people sometimes equate the colour with weakness and it is about going head-on into that stereotype, claiming it and being fearlessly girl,” said Dobes. “If you love pink, wear pink strongly. Don’t throw ‘like a girl.’ Throw as hard as you can. That is what this is supposed to mean. It is diving into the stereotype of girl.”
The evening starts out with the keynote address from Whitfield just after 6 p.m., then a break for some food. Porter will chat about the struggles of girls around the world while attendees eat. The girls will then break off into groups to discuss what they have heard, and share inspirational messages with each other before wrapping up the event at 9 p.m.
It all takes place at EDSS, with doors opening up for 6 p.m. Every girl in Grades 8 to 12 from any school is invited to join.