The YWCA began its annual leadership conference for young women on Friday with a self-esteem workshop at Carlton Comprehensive High School.
Sponsored by Dove, the workshop was held in conjunction with the Power of Being a Girl conference.
“We’ve been doing this for five years now,” YWCA Regional Newcomer Centre manager Amanda Parenteau said.
“It’s just to bring young girls between the grades of 6 and 12 together to discuss issues that they’re having with self-esteem, and just issues in general with girls within that teenage range.”
Organizers split the 2013 conference over two days in order to accommodate more girls, who were drawn from schools throughout the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division and Prince Albert Catholic School Division.
While previous years saw approximately 120 girls register for The Power of Being a Girl, this year saw a whopping 220 registrants sign up.
The Friday morning workshop -- originally set to take place at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club before sewer issues compelled a last-minute location change -- targeted girls from Grades 10 to 12.
Meanwhile, girls in Grades 6 to 9 will experience the Dove self-esteem workshop on Saturday morning at Queen Mary Community Public School, with additional workshops set for the afternoon.
Spearheading the workshop were a pair of local politicians, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Victoria Jurgens and Saskatchewan Rivers MLA Nadine Wilson, along with Carlton student mentor Cheryl Ring.
A squad of volunteers known as group mentors also helped facilitate the event.
“They discussed issues that young girls have here in Prince Albert and in Canada with their physical being and things that they go through in school,” Parenteau said.
“Then they broke down into groups and discussed them in smaller groups so that it was more intimate.”
A recurring theme was the need to take a critical view of how women are represented in the media.
Rather than comparing their physical appearance to often unrealistic standards, girls at the conference were encouraged to see themselves as beautiful regardless of shape, size, colour, etc.
They discussed issues that young girls have here in Prince Albert and in Canada with their physical being and things that they go through in school. Amanda Parenteau
Yet body issues were by no means the only topic that came up. During the round table discussion groups, many of the girls talked about their goals after graduation -- schools they wish to attend or careers they aspire to -- as well as ways they could contribute back to their communities.
“What we did was we’d get the girls talking and encouraging them to think of new ways of thinking of themselves,” Jurgens said. “Too often we’re our own worst enemies, and they are coming away with new ideas.”
“That’s right,” Wilson agreed. “We wanted these women to be the best women they can be, and today in society it can be very challenging. So we were trying to give them the tools to enable them to be good rounded people.”
Both MLAs drew upon their life experience as female politicians to serve as mentors and role models for the workshop registrants.
Each was attending the event for the first time after hearing about it from a colleague. Jurgens noted that the theme of the workshop fit in well with provincial anti-bullying efforts.
“The premier is very adamant about helping curb bullying, and this is one way,” she said.
“When you have better self-esteem, you’re able to deflect the bullying aspects.”
Following round table discussions, the workshop wrapped up.
Thanks to the help of sponsors, each girl managed to take home a pair of complimentary items. But Parenteau expressed her optimism that they would also take away something more intangible.
“Each girl got to leave with a bag and T-shirt,” she said. “And hopefully, a stronger self-esteem.”