Woman smilingAlmost four years ago our lives changed for the better when we decided to create the Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs) – and we haven’t looked back!

Inspired by outstanding body image awareness initiatives taking place in the United Kingdom, namely their Campaign for Body Confidence (2009) and the inaugural Body Confidence Awards (2012), my partner Aisha Fairclough and I decided it was time to create a likeminded platform in Canada. We created the BCCAs to acknowledge and celebrate people for whom their personal and professional lives embodied and inspired body confidence, body positivity, and body diversity in our communities.

This year, on October 6 we will host the 4th annual BCCAs in Toronto. To say we are excited about the public reception of the awards thus far is an understatement. Since our inaugural year in 2013, we have awarded 16 phenomenal recipients from many walks of life who are enhancing the lives of others. From diverse fashion models, merchants, and bloggers inspiring people of varying sizes and ethnicities to love the skin they’re in, entrepreneurs placing physical wellness and mental health squarely at the center of their work, to internationally recognized scholars, authors and artists shaping the body politic of current and future generations, the BCCAs have added to the body acceptance movement in Canada.

As two Black women we are no stranger to the ways in which bodies—usually women’s bodies—are heavily policed and measured in our society. Once you consider race, ability, sexuality, gender expression and all the other ways in which bodies are seen as mattering (or sadly not mattering) it becomes poignant just how important the dialogue BCCAs encourages is. We have both experienced our share of verbal abuse in public spaces: being called fat violently, the classic “B” word and of course sprinkled, in most cases, with racist epithets.

Feeling “great” about our bodies as a collective society doesn’t happen as often as we’d like. The BCCAs aim to highlight not only our bodies beauty in diversity, but it’s utility. It’s ability to literally usher us into the world, influence our relationships, help us fight inequities, and its capacity to hold on to our many memories and aspirations. While it was always our hope for the BCCAs to become a source of inspiration for our audience, what we didn’t plan on was just how much of a source of strength it would become for us both.

On days when we get frustrated with our bodies or how others may treat us, we remember what we’re trying to achieve with the BCCAs. We remember the annual awards evening when everyone arrives excited, smiles abound awaiting the acceptance speeches of our recipients and mingling with new and old friends. We’ve thought about the girls (and boys!) who have sent us emails asking if youth can apply to win a BCCA. In fact, last year we created two new award opportunities, thanks to a generous donation, for youth in response to the amazing body positivity work taking place in secondary and post-secondary schools.

Overall, when we get angry at body discrimination of any form, contrary to the old adage of “good girls being seen and not heard,” the BCCAs have given us an opportunity to be seen AND heard. We want to tell as many of our body stories to anyone who will listen. The BCCAs helps find and showcase these stories through our recipients.

The BCCAs are free to attend. This is deliberate on our part. It’s our desire that everyone in the room, regardless of their economic reality, should be able to have at least this one night out on the town to celebrate excellence and hopefully leave with at least a little reminder of their own resilience.

Maintaining our model of inclusivity requires dedicated presenting sponsors and donors. If you are interested in supporting the Body Confidence Canada Awards we deeply thank you in advance! Please contact us at info@BodyConfidenceCanadaAwards.com with the subject line: Sponsorship Inquiry.

We also invite you to nominate a champion of body confidence, body positivity and body diversity!  Everybody has a story. Help us tell yours or someone you know. Nominations close June 8, 2016, and are opened to residents of Canada only.

For more information, visit www.BodyConfidenceCanadaAwards.com and follow on Twitter @BCCAwards.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a community partner to the BCCAs.

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