When I first was invited by Lunapads to be a part of the organizing committee for the inaugural G Day Toronto, I was thrilled. It had been a success in Vancouver, and now it was time to bring it to my community. G Day is a celebration of girls age 10 to 12, and provides them with community-based rites of passage as they make the age-old journey from girlhood to adolescence. How could I not want to be a part of it? While I was busy preparing for Mother Nature Partnership’s girls’ program and was also pregnant and trying to keep some sense of calm and space in my life, I was compelled to commit to G Day Toronto. I had three great reasons that drew me to the event.
First and foremost, I believe wholeheartedly in the purpose of the event. G Day strives to inspire positive self-esteem and supportive family and community relationships as girls start that incomparable transition to womanhood. This couldn’t be more aligned with my own belief that the onset of puberty and menarche should be marked with respect and celebration.
I was also honoured to be a part of the powerhouse group of women who are on the organizing committee of G Day Toronto. I was thrilled to be invited to join the committee by Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads. The group is led by Toronto-based educator Emily Rose Antflick. The other dynamic women who have been pouring their hearts and souls into the event are Zahra Haji of Yoga Goddess, Alison Smyth, Tanya Geisler, and heroes of mine Amy and Kim Sedgwick of Red Tent Sisters. I am proud to be in the company of these women. What a force.
The third reason that drew me to G Day Toronto was the opportunity to share stories about the young women that I had the great privilege of meeting in Mother Nature Partnership’s girls’ program in early 2015. G Day would provide me with a forum to connect girls in Canada with their counterparts in Cameroon. This would be the manifestation of the partnership that is central to our identity as an organization. I would be able to talk about the similarities and differences between girlhood in these two countries. I could shed light on the universalities that unite us all – at least, from my perspective. From my own childhood, I can remember clearly speakers and events that had a profound impact on my understanding of the world and my place in it. I hope to make a similar lasting impression on girls that gather this Sunday, through my stories of girls in Central Africa and their relationship with menstruation and adolescence. I’m looking forward to talking with these Canadian girls about my experiences in Cameroon – and to telling them that girls everywhere talk, question and laugh about the same things.
But what made G Day more real – more vital – for me? On March 27, I welcomed my new daughter into the world. The most beautiful person (I’m not biased, am I?) came into my life. And she is a girl, adolescent and woman in the making. One day in the not-so-distant future this stunning being will be confronted with myriad negative cultural forces, hard decisions, the cruelties of adolescent social circles and the bombardment of pressures that face a young woman in our society. That, I am sad to say, is inevitable. Will she be strong enough to know herself? Will she feel supported, smart and powerful enough to withstand these forces like a wavering but sturdy tree on a windy day? Will I be able to equip her, as much as any mother can, to be kind, confident, self-respecting and powerful in the face of a patriarchal system that has heavy demands to weigh on her shoulders?
I sincerely hope so. Right now, she is sleeping soundly right beside me, perfect and beautiful and powerful and whole, and I wish with all my heart that she sees herself in that same light. Yes, even into adolescence. And in the meantime, as she sleeps and grows and enjoys infant bliss, I hope that the women and girls that come together this Sunday can support one another in a community of strength.
I hope that every girl and woman there sees herself as perfect and beautiful and powerful and whole.