“What an amazing training experience! Our precious daughters need to know that the blood of a beautiful nation runs through them and that they are beautiful and wonderfully made.They need to know that they can live and walk, dream and run, believe and soar and that they CAN fulfill the destiny that is before them. This training awoke us to see the obstacles that our girls go through and how we need to provide them with a sense of belonging, guidance and assurance that they are gifts from the Creator and they will grow up to be beautiful successful women in the future. Thank you for the bringing this to Treaty FourTerritory! Meegwetch! Thank you!”
Vera C. Tourangeau -Treaty Four Student Success Program, 2010.
“Sherry’s work with her Girl Power Groups and Girl Power Facilitator Training is an effective strategy for addressing the challenges facing pre-adolescent girls. This gender-responsive approach is highly valuable and beneficial to the development of girls and their need to develop healthy relationships and express themselves creatively.”
Girls’ Circle Association
What Parents Are Saying About Girl Power
“Positive Atmosphere is great.”
“My daughter connected strongly with the ideas and concepts. This type of course is so healthy for our future adults.”
“I definitely noticed an attitude change that was good. My daughter feels positive and good about herself after Girl Power.”
“My two daughters have totally enjoyed themselves and all the activities they participated in. Thank you very much!”
“I just wanted you to know how good your class has been and how it made a difference with our little girl. Thank you from the bottom of my heart”.
“Awesome, this training will help us start our own girls group. I’m excited to put this into practice.”
“Great! Thanks, Sherry, I have learned so much and am excited. It was simple and easy to follow.”
“Universal and very adaptive”.
“Very good information that can be brought home to our communities”.
“Thanks for your time, energy and positive information”.
By Jennifer Muir
Special to The Kamloops Daily News
‘I recognized the need for young girls to have positive information about being female in a world that typically distorts girls’ self image. I coupled that with the fact that girls also need skills that will help them stay centred, expressive and value themselves.’
If your pre-teen niece or neighbour, or that girl who sits next to you in class this fall seems confident, self-aware and happy with her self-image, it could be she’s been exposed to a good dose of Girl Power.
Girl Power is a booster of sorts for girls age nine to 12 who are influenced on all sides by television, movies, magazine images and peers to look, act or think in a certain way. It’s a program that encourages pre-teen girls to reflect on and discuss issues they will encounter more frequently as the teen years progress. Body image, communication skills, media messages and puberty are all on the table and topics are talked about in an open, honest manner with each girl getting a turn to express their views.
Girl Power is the creation of Sherry Bezanson, a Kamloops-based counsellor who has 14 years experience with youth at risk and who has worked with agencies such as the Phoenix Centre and the Aids Society of Kamloops. She developed Girl Power in 1997 at the time her own daughter was 10 and has been offering it through the City’s Parks and Recreation brochure since 2000.
“I recognized the need for young girls to have positive information about being female in a wold that typically distorts girls’ self image. I coupled that with the fact that girls also need skills that will help them stay centred, expressive and value themselves.”
The word “power” isn’t used to dwell on gender so much as it is to encourage young girls to use their own voices. Bezanson teaches her participants to communicate in a way that will increase their confidence, self-awareness and self-worth.
“Originally, I wanted a place for girls to meet prior to their teen years,” she says. “These are healthy girls but we don’t know where they go. … As adolescents, identity issues can come out and, for girls, it’s not always popular to speak out about who you are.
“Teens tend to start to close down to the adult world and (the pre-teens) is a vital time to reach out.”
Bezanson runs the program throughout the school year, one day after school per week for six weeks, as well as during the summer. One session ended July 12 and another is scheduled for Aug. 19 to 23 at Heritage House.
In each session, Bezanson introduces a new topic for the day, group members share their thoughts and then take part in a creative activity to reinforce what has been learned. For example, she uses one day to introduce the concept of journalling and, as an activity, each girl decorates her own journal to reflect something about herself. It’s what Bezanson calls “claiming the journal” and it’s a great and fun way to introduce the youngsters to writing down their thoughts, she says.
On this particular July morning, body image is what has got the group revved up and six girls, who range in age from nine to 12, are all eager to share their thoughts on why individuality is important.
Kirsten Bower, 9, or Kamloops, sums up nicely what she’s gotten out of the past two hours.
“(Girl Power) teaches us to just be ourselves. Some people go on diets and try to be like a barbie doll. But if you act like someone else, you’re getting rid of a part of yourself.”
“It’s easy to follow other people. But it’s not good. Being yourself is important. It shows that you are different,” adds Heather Balch, 12, who is from Vancouver, but is taking the program during a visit with relatives in Kamloops. While the program covers a wide variety of topics, the overall intent is to encourage girls to focus on their “insides” and to reinforce skills that will improve their self-esteem and communication skills. Each session begins with a check-in and introduces subjects in a circle format.
“We light a candle at the beginning as an opening ceremony and all blow it out at the end,” says Bezanson. “We use a talking feather, so when a person has the feather, everyone else is listening. It works out pretty well.”
Bezanson has had about 60 – 70 girls participate in the program over the past two years and has seen several participants return for a second and third time. While the conversation is generally positive and peppered with laughter, there are solemn moments, too.
“We do have serious discussions and there have been times where they share grief or disappoints, but generally there is a lot of laughter,” she says.