Girl power

A Kiwanis forum motivates and inspires young women in Barbados.

By Wendy Rose Gould

Growing up is hard to do — especially when you’re a young girl trying to navigate a complicated world filled with social media, peer pressure, self-doubt and fear. The Pride of Barbados Kiwanis Club held an event dubbed the Princess Diaries Forum to help tackle those issues head-on. The event brought together girls ages 12 to 16, with the goal of empowering, inspiring and motivating them.

“We wanted a forum that would allow girls to hear some of the island’s successful women speak on topics they could relate to,” explains Nicola Ward, the club’s immediate past president. “We wanted to help these young girls learn to love themselves, build their self-confidence and self-esteem and give them access to mentors.” 

In total, 35 girls attended the free event, hosted by well-known local radio personality Caroline “Ci Ci” Reid. The roster of guest speakers was diverse in socioeconomics, education, ethnicity and appearance. They included Miss Barbados World Leah Marville, business owner Shelly Williams, Lieutenant Governor of Division 27 Cynthia Blackman and trade policy specialist Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, among others. 

This diverse lineup helped ensure that each girl could relate to and identify with at least one speaker. 

“The girls heard that where you go to school does not define or limit your potential,” says Ward. “They heard from former Miss Barbados World that they do not need makeup to be beautiful, and they heard of the importance of being true to yourself and knowing that they are enough.”

In addition to hearing from powerful women and getting the chance to speak with them after the event, the girls received special treats, and some were given opportunities to develop their hobbies and interests. The response was overwhelming and reassured club members that they were meeting the needs of their community, Ward says.

“Parents, teachers and guidance counselors who were not aware of the session beforehand called and emailed asking when we would be hosting the next one, because the event was something that they wanted their daughters, wards and students to participate in.”

Because of the positive response, the club plans to host another event in the future. Members even have a similar forum for boys in the pipeline as well.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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