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Vancouver movement celebrates girls reaching puberty

By Stefania Seccia

Madeleine Shaw, left, and Suzanne Siemens, co-founders of Lunapads, on their first trip to Uganda where they helped foster AFRIpads by providing them with their patterns and business mentorship.
(Photo submitted)

Madeleine Shaw, left, and Suzanne Siemens, co-founders of Lunapads, on their first trip to Uganda where they helped foster AFRIpads by providing them with their patterns and business mentorship. (Photo submitted)

A Vancouver movement celebrating the rite of passage for girls between childhood and puberty made its way to Toronto on Sunday as hundreds of girls came together to embrace adolescence.

With activities centred on positive body image, confidence, career aspirations and self-esteem, Madeleine Shaw and Suzanne Siemens organized last year’s G Day Vancouver and brought the message over to Toronto this past weekend.

Following the two, first-ever Vancouver G Day for Girls events last year, the duo were asked to bring it over to Toronto, said Shaw, director at the non-profit United Girls of the World.

“It’s an idea I had when I was a kid,” Shaw said. “When I was 10, 11, 12 ... becoming an adolescent woman became special to me.

“I even had this funny fantasy that when I came to puberty, when it started to happen to me physically, there would be some kind of acknowledgement or celebration.”

The event saw around 400 girls between the ages of 10 and 12 celebrate the first few steps taken towards womanhood, according to Shaw.

“I have a 10-year-old daughter now, and last year for various reasons I wanted to try and make this idea real,” she said. “It’s basically a secular rite of passage to acknowledge and celebrate girls as they enter adolescence.

“I’ve had some adults say, “I wish there had been something like that for me that made me feel so special, more confident and feel better about my body,’” she said.

The first two events were held in Vancouver last year, which saw about 250 girls attend. Another two G Days are planned in B.C. in 2015: one in Victoria on Sept. 20 and the other in Vancouver on Oct. 23.

“G Day is there to give them a big emotional shot in the arm that says you are awesome just the way you are,” she said.

Shaw and Siemens are also the co-owners of Lunapads, which has locally manufactured washable cloth menstrual pads and underwear since 1993.

In 2008, the two were asked to bring Lunapads to Uganda from a couple who were working on a developmental aid project to help girls there not have their education affected by their menstrual cycle.

They provided their patterns and business mentorship to the couple free of charge, which became known as AFRIpads.

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