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Banbury Heights Celebrates the International Day of the Girl

By Tara Cronkwright, Grade 8 Teacher, Banbury Heights

A large group of female students poses in a gymnasium

Despite the fact that the Intermediate Lady Bravehearts are going on a trip, it’s a very quiet bus ride. Is this because it’s first thing in the morning, or is it the nervous anticipation surrounding the adventure we’re about to embark on?

It’s International Day of the Girl, which was established by the United Nations in 2011. The UN’s intention for this day focuses on the need to address the challenges girls face, and to promote girl empowerment to help develop both empowered girls of today and leaders of tomorrow. We decided to celebrate this important, globally recognized day by kicking off our first annual Girl’s Empowerment Day.

On the bus ride over, the girls are contemplating the message they have been given – that they are about to spend their entire day consciously building community and teaching girls from three different schools within Grand Erie all about the amazing things that can happen when women build each other up. Today is about realizing that we are all in this together, and that empowered women empower women.

But let’s rewind a bit, back to last spring, when this story really started.

Our Girls Empowerment Day initiative kicked off last year at Banbury Heights School when the female intermediate teachers felt that something needed to be offered to girls in Grades 7-8 to help create a stronger community and break down barriers within the school. They wanted to give female students an opportunity to come together and discuss a big idea: what does it mean to be a girl?

The goal of the day was to emphasize that women of all ages are working through similar issues – hormones, stress, mental health, relationships, pressure to achieve, body image, and so much more.

Back to the present, and the female students from Banbury Heights have joined fellow intermediate female students from Central Public School and Cobblestone Elementary School, and the day is raising a lot of questions. What do teachers want us to do? What will this day be like? Will we have to talk about our feelings?

A small group of female students sits in a circle

For the girls of Banbury, the questions are fewer, but the anticipation is the same.

An multi-school activity such as this offers the chance for many beautiful minds to come together – just over 90 girls are taking part – trusting in their teachers that today would be a good day. They just didn’t know precisely what it would look like.

The day kicked off with an enormous opening community circle in Central’s welcoming new gym. Posters with empowering quotes lined the gym walls, and the girls were challenged to think about which quote resonated most with them.

The three schools were easily identified at the beginning of the day as all of the girls stayed comfortably alongside those they arrived. As the day progressed, however, the walls started coming down. After small group discussions about hopes and fears about the day as well as about being a girl in this world, it was getting more challenging to get the group’s attention – to transition to a new activity – because the discussions were the focus.

During the closing community circle, each young woman had the chance to share a thought from the day. The honest, heartfelt revelations that resulted reminded the teachers and adults in the room why we had set off to plan a day of empowerment for the girls in the first place. By the end of the day, all of the girls were taking part in the final, impromptu activity: a dance party where you couldn’t decipher where one school began and the other school ended.

On the way home, the ride was just as energized as you would hope it would be, with 34 young women who just had a day of connection and empowerment.

The Girls Empowerment Day truly embodied Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan. Using the framework for a fully integrated and immersive day of community building, the event combined the goals of Well-Being, Community, and Equity as the group worked to create a healthy and positive environment. The event also promoted activities and practices that helped the girls feel welcome, included and safe. Finally in just one day, everyone in the room could feel an increase in the sense of belonging among the amazing young women who took part in this powerful exercise.

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