New program at Sunset Community Centre encourages young women to be leaders

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Reported by Chelsea Powrie

Sunset Community Centre is encouraging leadership and social responsibility in young women with its current program, I Am Girl.

On the last Thursday of each month this from September to December, girls ages 13 through 16 attend Sunset Community Centre to get involved in leadership projects, with the last meeting planned for Dec. 29. The girls organize and operate food and clothing drives, among other fundraisers. These activities develop their leadership skills and help them become active members of the community.

Filling the gaps within girl-based programs

Jyoti Shukla, a Langara graduate, helps coordinate I Am Girl. She was part of the team that created it, with the aim of meeting a need for girls’ programming at the community centre.

“We felt like there was a lot going on for boys,” Shukla said. “We want to mentor young girls and let them come up with their own ideas of what they want to work on.”

Most recently, the group has hosted a Halloween bake sale, the proceeds of which will go toward their Christmas hamper project to support single mothers.

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Maureen F. Fitzgerald, gender diversity author. She said creating more programs based around girls to celebrate feminine traits will lead to battling back against gender stereotypes. Photo courtesy of Fitzgerald

Maureen F. Fitzgerald, a gender diversity advisor and feminist author, believes these types of programs help raise a conscientious and strong generation of women who are not held back by gender stereotypes.

“We tend to drive our leadership model around what I would call more masculine skills. We must ask how we can create a system that embraces more feminine values, like collaboration and caring,” Fitzgerald said. “Any focus on girls and doing leadership is a good thing. Women are valuable, feminine traits are valuable, and women don’t need to be controlled.”

Program’s benefits seen in the participants

For Shukla, the importance of the program is the evidence of the girls’ hard work. She has had girls come forward with causes they want to support that are deeply personal, such as a member wanting to support liver cancer research after her father was diagnosed, or senior members wanting to buy prom dresses for girls who couldn’t afford them.

“We want [the girls] to think about what they really want to do, the issues they care about,” Shukla said. “Even though you’re young, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything that matters.”

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