Lily Brigham-Gale is one of four winners of a 2019 writing contest for young women hosted by The Philanthropist and the Girls Conference.
I saw her sitting alone at a table, while all around her girls were talking and laughing in big groups of friends.
I am a 16-year-old high school student from Bedford, N.S., and I have participated in the Girls Conference, both as a delegate and as a volunteer, for the past three years. I have seen how much work goes into an event of this grandeur, as well as the fantastic final product. I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend – so, for those who were not there, here is my experience from the 2019 conference.
This year I was able to attend only two workshops because I was also a volunteer: I attended Positivity Party and Immigrant Youth Leadership on Gender-Based Violence.
I went into the first session of the day and there she was: the girl from that morning. She stood on the edge of the dance floor smiling shyly, looking like she wanted to join in, but couldn’t work up the courage.
The first workshop focused on positivity, self-love, and empowerment. It was a really great opportunity to meet other girls and hear what they love to do to feel confident. For some it is playing a sport or finding an outfit that makes them feel like a star. I’m sure a lot of girls left that day feeling extra confident. The next workshop I attended was about gender-based violence. The facilitator led a group discussion about what it is, and, although some girls there seemed young, many still engaged in the discussion. This was something I thought was really important, because it means that there is someone in these young girls’ lives who is teaching them about important topics like gender-based violence.
Later, at lunch, I passed a girl standing a few feet away from a woman dressed in a Canadian forces uniform. I looked back as the girl stepped shyly up to the uniformed woman and extended her hand. I realized after a moment it was the same quiet girl from that morning.
When I was not participating in those two workshops, I was being interviewed by CTV and volunteering. I loved being in the workshops, but I really loved being a part of the conference from backstage, and seeing what goes into something like a large conference. I helped girls get to and from sessions, which gave me an opportunity to ask what they all thought of the conference: they loved it.
I love the Girls Conference too.
After the prize draw was finished, girls started to go up to the photo booth to take group pictures before leaving. As I looked through the lens of the camera, I noticed the girl in the middle of the group was the shy girl who had been alone that morning, now with her arms tightly around two new friends.
I spoke to a group of girls who were so determined to come to the conference that they had woken up at 4am to drive to it. For others, it was their first time on a university campus, which in itself was empowering, because it reminded them that they could go to university in the future. We had many session leaders who were black or of African descent, Indigenous, or immigrants – showing girls that, regardless of their heritage or appearance, they can rise to the positions they want in life. A 12-year-old girl, Mam-Mary, shared a beautiful spoken word piece with an ending that stuck with me: “I am a girl, and I am the moonlight. You can see it in the way that I know how to speak up for myself. You can see it in the way that I know how to write, talk, learn, and hear about other’s stories. I am a girl, and I am the moonlight.”