'A big emotional shot in the arm': G Day brings girls together in Burnaby, B.C.
'A lot of the courage I have today came from G Day,' says past participant Tru Wilson
At a time when stories of sexual harassment and abuse of women are daily news, an event was held in Burnaby, B.C., Friday to empower and celebrate girls as they make the transition from childhood to adolescence.
G Day was founded in Vancouver four years ago by social entrepreneur Madeleine Shaw.
Shaw had the idea in 2013 after being asked to give a public talk about how she would change a city if she could.
Her thoughts went back to when she was an adolescent girl and how excited she was to become an adult woman.
Rite of passage
But she says there was nothing to mark that transition.
"The idea came back to me that I wanted there to be a special day and a celebration," Shaw said.
So Shaw created G Day — a day full of workshops and activities for girls between the ages of 10 and 12 — as a rite of passage for the "modern, urban, secular society."
"If you think about rites of passage, we do them all the time. We go to weddings, we go to baby showers, we go to graduations. But in terms of our life phases, we don't, for the most part," she said.
Learning skills, having fun
Presenters are drawn from the local community and can be educators, business leaders, politicians or those with inspiring stories.
Saleema Noon is a sexual health educator and has been involved in G Day since its inception.
"I think that when girls come to G Day, they understand what a celebration adolescence and growing up can be," Noon said.
"They not only learn really important skills and gain critical knowledge at their age, but they get to have fun and just enjoy being a girl."
Musician Desirée Dawson, who won CBC's Searchlight 2016 contest with her song Hide, was invited to sing and speak with the girls.
"I just talked to them about how it was for me growing up and feeling the need to fit in all the time and that led me to want to hide," Dawson said.
"If you come out of hiding and kind of face your fears, then beautiful things happen."
Presenter Tru Wilson attended G Day a few years ago herself.
"G Day as I remember it was the most amazing experience of my life," she said.
Wilson is now back to share her own story of battling her Catholic school in court so she could be treated as the gender she identifies with.
"Hopefully that'll give them inspiration and courage to live their life with truth and just not be afraid to live life as their authentic self," she said.
12-year-old Heather Thwaites was already feeling energized half way through the day.
"It's really nice and really inspiring to hear all these people come in," she said.
Of becoming a young adult, she adds she's excited, "but also kind of nervous about everything."
Spreading the movement
Parents, guardians or other important adults are now invited along as 'champions.'
Elizabeth Sheehan came with her granddaughter, Rheagan.
"It's such an important passage into adulthood," Sheehan said, adding she's happy her granddaughter has this chance to celebrate and learn.
"I didn't have it and I'm so glad that she is."
G Day has already spread across Canada with recent events in Toronto and Victoria and ones in the works for Whitehorse and Calgary in 2018.
Shaw's goal is to make it a national movement to support as many young people as possible.
"What we're trying to do is give them a big emotional shot in the arm that says, 'You're awesome right now.'"