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Embracing girl power
Empowerment and openness key at full-day conference

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gender identity and learning to follow one's dreams were among the topics covered during a one-day Power of Being a Girl conference held at Northern United Place on Jan. 23.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cindy Ngo, left, and Mary Chocolate, both 11, get to know each other's passions during an opening game at a workshop held as part of the Power of Being as Girl conference held Northern United Place earlier this week. - Danielle Sachs/NNSL photo

"We get to learn how to express ourselves," said 11-year-old Racheal Long, who was getting ready for a yoga workshop.

The conference, organized by Ashley MacDonald, program co-ordinator of Girl Space at the YWCA, is an annual event that invites girls from Grade 6 through Grade 8 to participate in a series of workshops designed to empower and educate them.

"I honestly think I have the greatest job in the world," said MacDonald. "There's not always a space (outside of the conference) where you can explore your thing, whatever your thing is."

MacDonald said she is constantly surprised by some of the things the girls say, whether in the weekly Girl Space program or during the one-day conference.

"I learn from them all the time," she said.

Wednesday's event was open to girls from both school divisions and the 80 participants were recommended by teachers or guidance counsellors.

"It's a lot of fun," said Erykah Darku, 11. She also attends Girl Space and was looking forward to participating in the yoga workshop. Although the day was far from over, there were already some highlights for Darku.

"I liked colouring the picture in our gender identity workshop," she said.

Long, Darku's friend, who was sitting on a neighbouring yoga mat, agreed.

"It's a fun day and we're learning new things," she said.

Natasha Duchene, local singer/songwriter and documentary director, kicked off the conference as the keynote speaker.

"Yellowknife is one of the best places you could possibly live to be an artist," she told the group. "There's a huge support network. If you're going to run your own business, you can do that too."

Duchene spoke about her experiences putting together her first album and directing North Paws, a documentary on the SPCA.

"The best thing you can do when you have a big thing you want to do, whether it's something you want to overcome or something you want to achieve in the world, is to surround yourself with people who support you and are on your side," she said. "This city has an amazing community happening here and when you find your community you'll find yourself doing things you never thought you could do."

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