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Whistler girls get power

Mentoring program introduced for women of all ages

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Thirty girls sprawled around a room at Myrtle Philip School bending their heads in concentration over a piece of paper entitled "Amazing Things About MeÉ"

As hip hop tunes from the Black Eyed Peas played from the stereo, the girls sang in unison, bopping their heads in time to the music, thinking of all the things unique and special about themselves.

"Brainstorm all the things that make you a beautiful person," instructed facilitator Saleema Noon.

Noon explained that she was looking for compliments rather than facts about each girl.

"The more you give yourself compliments, the more you believe it," she added.

The exercise was part of the "Go Girl!" workshop and the first event put on by Whistler Girl Power, a new organization in town designed to provide fun and interactive opportunities for girls to foster friendship, self-empowerment and community-mindedness.

Whistler Girl Power was founded by a group of women who saw a need in the community to introduce better role models to young girls and provide some fun and interactive activities as well as mentoring opportunities. While this first event was specifically designed for girls in Grades 5, 6 and 7, local mom Deanna White sees that as just the tip of the iceberg.

The long-term goals of the group are for Whistler women to help other women in all stages of their life. That work will be done through another new organization called W.O.M.E.N., which stands for Women creating Opportunities for Mentoring, Empowerment and Networking.

W.O.M.E.N. will not only develop Whistler Girl Power for young girls but also create programs and activities for women of all ages to mentor each other.

For example, teens could mentor tweens, women in their 30s who are established in the community could help women in their 20s who are new to the community, and women in their 40s could mentor those in their 30s as they pursue business opportunities.

W.O.M.E.N. is also a way for women to come together socially and simply have some fun.

"ItÕs women helping women all the way along," said White. "ThatÕs our dream. This (event) is the bud."

The Go Girl! workshop was founded in 1999 by Lower Mainland youth facilitators Saleema Noon and Teresa Harris. Since then theyÕve been taking the workshop around the province, teaching 10- to 13-year-old girls the knowledge and the skills they need to make it through their teenage years.

"More and more I saw the need for girls to be able to come together outside of school, without boys, to deal with the stuff they have to deal with at this age," said Noon.

Through her work as a sexual educator Noon said she sees teens coping with a number of pressures. TheyÕre facing pressures to be adults, sexualization at an earlier age, pressure to look a certain way. Teens can also be dealing with things such as low self-esteem, eating disorders and unhealthy relationships, among other things.

"WeÕre trying to encourage girls to love themselves, be the best they can be, resist peer pressure, make smart decisions, keep their body healthy," said Noon.

She praised the Whistler Girl Power initiative.

"I think its such an amazing initiative Ð to provide girls with the whole concept of mentoring," she said.

The next Whistler Girl Power event will take place Thursday, Feb. 10 at Myrtle Philip school. Girls will be making jewelry.

The event costs $2 and that fee includes the supplies.

To register for the event, which runs from 3 to 5 p.m., call Julie Cummings at 604-935-4222. Space is limited.

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