Whistler event encourages girls to speak up on International Day of the Girl

Speaker series includes Anita Naidu, Vivian Tsang and Tru Wilson at Oct. 13 event

When Dee Raffo kickstarted Whistler’s first celebration of the UN’s International Day of the Girl five years ago, she was really just interested in watching a movie.

“Honestly, it was kind of a selfish want of mine — I wanted to watch the film Girl Rising, but to get the film you had to pay for a screening,” she recalled.  
Raffo put out the idea, expecting a handful of close friends to be interested in the documentary about girls’ education across the globe. Instead, so many people responded they needed a bigger space, resulting in the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre offering up their 80-seat theatre. “I thought, ‘we’re never going to fill that, but let’s just do it and open it up to the general public,’” Raffo said.

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Clearly, she wasn’t the only one in town with equality on the brain.

“In that year, we actually had to do it twice because so many people wanted to come see this movie,” she said. “We ended up helping the local libraries in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — we paid for them to have the rights to screen it as well, because there were people who couldn’t make it to those two events,” she said. “It had a much further-reaching response than I had anticipated, and then people said ‘what’s it going to be next year?’ It was a very organic, snowball effect of the community saying, ‘we want to hear more; we want to learn more, how do we step up and push forward for gender equality?’”

Now in its fifth year, the 2017 celebration will be continuing this learning by encouraging people to use their voices, under the theme of “Girls Speak Up!”

To that end, the event will feature three speakers sharing their own stories in celebration of the power, creative voices and unique place of girls around the world, while simultaneously challenging attendees to step up, speak out and make a change.

Speakers include Whistler’s Anita Naidu, a Canadian astronaut candidate and pro-mountain biker who won the prestigious 2017 Google Impact Challenge as part of the PeaceGeeks organization, as well as Vivian Tsang, a cyberbullying survivor, youth advocate and medical innovator, and Tru Wilson, a teen transgender activist who landed herself a spot on the list of Vancouver’s 50 Most Influential People.

“It’s meant to be an inclusive event where we recognize some of the issues girls have both at home and internationally, but that we all together as a community — male, female, people of fluid gender — have to move forward together,” Raffo explained.

The theme of “Girls Speak Up” also encompasses the questions surrounding what to do after witnessing an instance of something that isn’t forwarding equality, she added. “Now is the time more than ever to speak up and have a voice, but how do you do that?... That’s the question we’ve posed to the three speakers we have. How do people best live their truths, or how do they stand up when they hear (about inequality). How do you speak up and say, ‘that’s not right, that’s not fair, that’s not the way I think it should be,’ but how do you do that in a positive way?”

This year’s event is scheduled to take place at the Rainbow Theatre, inside the Whistler Conference Centre, on Friday (Oct.13) from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available online at ticketzone.com/dayofthegirl, with funds raised going to the Howe Sound Women’s Centre and One Horizon.

Both doors and silent auction table will open at 7:30 p.m., with talks scheduled to start at 8 p.m. with MC Tara O’Doherty. For more information on the speakers and to follow the event for updates, register for the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/125432844780165.

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