Let’s talk about gender: The Women’s Centre launches Girl Up

The Women’s Centre in Calgary is helping girls by providing a new program, Girl Up, that focuses on leadership and activism.

The program, which aims to launch this month, plans to run a program for girls age 14-17 that facilitates workshops, meetings, and social action projects to create a space that fosters leadership and confidence.

“Girls will get together and meet once a week to start talking about the things that make them angry; that are affecting them and affecting their friends and kind of move towards looking at what kind of action can we take to affect change on some of these things.” Says Sarah Winstanley, Girl Up’s Programs Coordinator.

Most of the new program was inspired by Girl Power, a program the Women’s Centre ran as camps and after school for girls 10-12. Like Girl Up, the program focuses on themes such as gender stereotypes, negative body image, and unhealthy relationships and violence.

“A lot of issues that girls face have to do with society and how society tells girls how they should be and how they should act,” says Winstanley. “We can’t talk about issues like body image and issues like confidence without also talking about the bigger picture and how we can try to start making some change.”


The intersection of gender and systemic forces like sexism, racism, and poverty, are issues that need to be addressed within any community. Women face numerous barriers in society, even at the beginning of 2017, and these barriers increase for women of colour and transwomen.

That’s why Winstanley recognizes the importance of creating an inclusive program for anyone who feels like they want to discuss similar topics.

“For us, it’s sort of like how people identify.” Winstanley explains. “If they identify as girl, then this is a place for them. We also are open to working with youth who are non-binary, and if they feel like Girl Power [or Girl Up] is the place for them, we want to make it a safe space for them.”

Working with youth isn’t necessarily synonymous with conversations on gender analysis, Winstanley comments. Programs like Girl Power and Girl Up are important to allow youth to recognize their frustrations and validate those feelings.

Oppression is never a comfortable thing to address, but doing it is important, Winstanley says.

“[We are] working with girls so that they know that they can do something about it, that it’s not the way it is, which also helps to build leadership skills and work towards girls seeing that their voices are valuable and their worth something and they can do something with that.”