'Girls are fierce like tigers': Young women want strong messages on billboards

#GirlPowered hopes to break stereotypes perpetuated by sexualized female images plastered in public spaces across the city by using messages created by young girls.

#GirlPowered hopes to break stereotypes of sexualized female images plastered in public spaces across city

#GirlPowered hopes to have messages by young girls displayed on billboards like this one at Yonge-Dundas Square. (Youtube/Canadian Women's Foundation)

"The most important thing a girl can wear is her confidence."

"Girls always slay."

"Girls are fierce like tigers."

These are some of the messages you could soon be seeing on billboards in some of the city's busiest areas.

They're part of a campaign called #GirlPowered spear-headed by the Canadian Women's Foundation and in collaboration with international ad agency, Havas. 

The campaign began online in October 2016, on International Day of the Girl. It asked young girls what inspiring messages they want to see in public. 

After collecting more than 1,400 submissions, a group of young girls involved in the campaign sat on a "Girls Council" Wednesday night in Toronto to select their top four to six messages for the national media campaign, which will launch Feb. 13.

Young girls from across the country attended the Girl's Council meeting Wednesday night in Toronto (CBC/Chris Langenzarde)

'Sometimes you just want to fit in' 

Thirteen-year-old Ella Frank was part of the girls' council. She hopes that the campaign will break down stereotypes of young women as they are portrayed in ads. 

The submission by Ella Frank, 13, was: "Nobody and no body is perfect but everybody and every body is beautiful." (CBC/Chris Langenzarde)

"From pretty much the time we're born, girls are conditioned to look a certain way and act a certain way and think and feel a certain way and that's why I'm here because that's not right," Frank said.

Rhi-Onna Carey, 14, agreed. She also sat on the council and said that a lot of the images rampant in ad campaigns fuel insecurities young girls have about their appearance and personalities. 

Rhi-Onna Carey, 14, submitted the message: “This girl doesn’t fit in your mould...I’m not your clay.” (CBC/Chris Langenzarde)

" just want to fit in," she said. "It's a shame because they really don't know how good they are...they don't appreciate themselves sometimes."

From T-shirts to billboards

The campaign started off small, with the messages slated only to be printed on T-shirts. But once international ad agency Havas got involved, it extended as wide as billboards. 

"There's a lot of campaigns out there that are tapping into female empowerment, but really at the end of the day those campaigns are trying to sell something, whether it's makeup or breakfast cereal," said Cory Eisentraut, VP and creative director at Havas​. 

Beth Malcolm, director of the Girls Fund at the Canadian Women's Foundation, hopes the campaign will break down the overly common sexualized images of women. 

Beth Malcolm from the Canadian Women's Foundation hopes the national ad campaign will extend into transit and mall ads across the country. (CBC/Chris Langenzarde )

"We're seeing all kinds of sexist messages, stereotypical messages and girls are being sexualized in the media all the time and it's finally time to take that back," she said.

The Canadian Women's Fund hopes the scope of the campaign will extend to conversations with parents and get people talking about why it's important to magnify these empowering messages by young girls for young girls.