An introduction and overview of girl.talk@dgc
The birth of the girl.talk concept in the latter part of 2016, came as a result of four of our grade 11 girls attending a youth leadership summit just outside Washington DC. Upon their return, it was recognised that there were pressing social issues that were being spoken about at these conferences and ultimately being addressed on a global scale, but nothing meaningful was available here, and with a local focus, or which gave girls a platform to explore particularly female focused issues.
I decided to facilitate the creation that became girl.talk@dgc2017 with the theme BE BRAVE, NOT PERFECT.
This inaugural girls-only event played host to meaningful contributions from 21 amazing speakers over three days. Girls explored issued surrounding education, health and the media and were able to engage with both the speakers and the 94 delegates from 16 schools. Research showed that women were socialised to be perfect while men were socialised to be brave and this key discussion point was threaded through each address.
On 31 August 2017 just two months after the conclusion of girl.talk@dgc2017, I penned the theme for 2018 after reading it on an “inspiration notice board”…..SUCCESS DEMANDS PURPOSE. Little did I know just how much purpose would be uncovered as the 2018 event began to evolve.
Speakers I approached agreed with massive enthusiasm as they booked their diaries to give of their time and expertise, and were hugely supportive of the initiative.
The three days would focus on Success, Demands and Purpose and topics would be relatable. Girls would easily identify with the speakers stories and ultimately their message ….. that success demands purpose.
Each speaker encouraged the delegates to interact and engage with them in either one on one interviews or panel discussions where more than one specialist in a field was present. There was a real connection between the audience and the presenter/s and the conversations were open, intelligent and free. The space where they shared words, thoughts and experiences was free from judgement and became a safe haven where there was great support for one another.
Through the journey to find awesome speakers and real purpose, I suggested that as part of the registration fee, the girls should have the opportunity to give back to the community and to make a difference by attending the summit. The three chosen charities were Project Dignity, Thusong Youth Centre in Alexandra Township and The Jes Foord Foundation.
Each delegate donated washable and reusable pads and panties to a rural schoolgirl so that she too could attend lessons all month. A donation to Thusong will enable young girls to have access to sanitary pads and other feminine products and the Jes Foord Foundation will hopefully be able to buy their much needed 4×4 vehicle to allow them to reach communities which are currently unreachable due to poor road conditions. Countless victims of assault and violence are not receiving the care they so desperately need.
And so half of the registration fee per delegate is destined to make a real difference.
2018 DGC welcomed 149 delegates from 34 schools including the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Meyerton, St George’s School for Girls in Scotland, Downe House School from the UK and a delegation of 10 from an American partner school in Virginia, Rock Ridge High School.
One can only begin to imagine how this has impacted the lives of the girls who were selected to represent their schools at this event. Many came from less fortunate schools and environments and were given the opportunity to offer prospective and insights that would ordinarily not be shared with such a large, very diverse, all-girl group.
AND SO, LOOKING AHEAD -This year our focus will be on Breast Cancer Awareness and Early Detection and Female Wellness (day one, Friday 9th August) as well as Entrepreneurship (day 2, Saturday 10th August)
We had secured a wonderful and inspirational guest speaker on both days, Meesha Naidoo, who was a breast cancer survivor and warrior, who began her diagnosis and journey in the public sector at Albert Luthuli hospital just 3 years ago – Unfortunately, she passed away on Sunday 7 April 2019. Her story will still be told at our summit and her doctors will be present for Q and A and to honour her brave fight, her life and her legacy.
She worked with The Pink Phoenix Foundation in Umhlanga Rocks and has recently developed, and was in the process of patenting, a “waterproof shower jacket” for mastectomy patients, chest surgery patients and chest radiation patients. She selflessly donated more than 40 jackets she had self-funded and manufactured to the Albert Luthuli oncology ward after her treatment there and she plans to reach more public sector patients through various sponsorships and campaigns that she is involved in. She was a truly remarkable woman!
Through our 2019 girls only leadership summit, we would like to see her product distributed to cancer and radiation patients in the private and public sector in our region. The estimated 170 girls from approximately 40 schools who will attend girl.talk@dgc2019 will raise well over R50 000.00 towards Meesha’s project through their registration fee – and so each one of them will be able to change the life of one woman (or man) who has undergone the treatment and who experiences the limitations of being a breast cancer survivor, by donating a jacket so that she (or he) can shower comfortably even if she (or he) still has ports, drains and other tubes attached to her (or him), post-operatively.
Many of the girls who will attend, ages 14 to 18, have mums who are in their 40’s and so this would definitely be a good place to start in terms of at least having a conversation about breast cancer and early detection.
We will also talk about HPV, STI’s and cervical cancer screening etc and so also hope to host an interactive panel-type discussion with health professionals where the delegates can engage and ask questions.
And so girl.talk@dgc2019 is aimed at girls from all over our country, including some from low, or even no fee, schools. I have previously secured sponsorship from investors to allow many underprivileged girls the opportunity to attend girl.talk, where they ordinarily would not be able to afford to register.
My wish for all these girls is that they see that this kind of opportunity is rare, as is the interaction and connection that it offers, encourages and feeds.
Thank you for your interest in our event!