As you’ve scrolled across the Girlville blog, have you ever wondered how and why this website came to be? I know I get asked that question from time to time, so I thought I’d sit down with Lisa Seel-Thompson, Managing Director of Multigenerational Resilience & Community Development at carya, and one of the many brainchilds who brought Girlville to life.
Girlville: Can you share with me where the idea of Girlville came from?
Lisa: Years ago, we recognized a lack of safe, reliable information for young girls that adequately answered their questions about puberty, sexual health, friendships and relationships, coping with difficulties and so much more. We researched to see what was available, and what little we did find was heavily influenced by agenda or marketing.
Girlville: Who was involved in the original idea, and in creating what we see now?
Lisa: It started with a group of us here about seven years ago. We had a conversation about what we thought girls needed, and how we might be able to help bring it to them. We started working on the concept of the website, and on developing the personalities of the Girlville girls. From there, we conducted focus groups with some of the girls in our Starburst program to make sure we were hitting the mark and getting things right. We weren’t. So we went back to the drawing board a few times to fix things based on the feedback we received from the girls. And then finally when things were ready to go, we got great support from funders and community angels to bring it all together.
Girlville: Looking back at it now, do you think you’ve achieved your original goal of providing safe, reliable information to girls?
Lisa: Yes, I think so, and I say that based on happy responses we’ve received from both girls and their parents. We’ve seen interest in the site grow in terms of visits and information, and hope to keep expanding on that with open submissions from youth bloggers.
Girlville: What are some things you’ve learned from those first days to where you are today?
Lisa: I think watching Girlville launch and grow continues to highlight to me that you have to take your dreams and put it out there. You don’t need to do it alone—find the people you need to make it happen and surround yourself with people who are smarter and better than you at every single thing that needs to get done. We never could have continued without the support and buy in from everyone involved.
Girlville: What impact has stood out for you?
Lisa: One neat thing we’ve noticed is that word of mouth has really gone a long way, and that we’re getting visitors from outside Calgary and Alberta, which is fantastic! We started small and are starting to see our reach broaden.
Girlville: What other initiatives do you have for girls?
Lisa: We recently hosted HERstory, our first-ever leadership conference on December 8, and we were thrilled with the response. We welcomed 75 girls and women allies, and delivered the message that we all have the capacity to make change and lead. We also featured a blogging station, and we were pleasantly surprised to see how many people were interested and submitted blog posts. We hope to take that momentum and interest and invite more girls to write for the Girlville site.
Girlville: What is your vision for Girlville moving forward?
Lisa: First, I’d like for this site to be wholly inclusive and reflective of all girls in Alberta and Canada and beyond; the personalities we’ve included on the site are very diverse, and I’d like to expand that even more with girls of different abilities, representing LGBTQ2 and making sure all voices are heard. We are also focusing on infusing it with even more woman power—providing role models to girls within their own communities, and in the careers they’re interested in. And finally, I think there is some strong interest in possibly developing a similar resource for boys. If we really want things to change, we need to provide the same information and guidance to boys.
Girlville: Do you have any advice for girls right now?
Lisa: I want girls to know that the world is better when girls are leaders. There are so many different ways to lead. You can lead up front and centre, speaking for the quieter voices. You can lead quietly from the back by encouraging others and helping them thrive. What’s key is to find a way to use your gifts and assets to incubate ideas and effect change. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, girls!