Girl using tabletWhen Somaya Amiri thinks of role models, she thinks of her mom.

“I picked up all her habits, whether it’s the way she talks, or the way she tucks her hair behind her ears. I learned how to strive and fight for life like her.”

The McGill University student, who is originally from Afghanistan, credits her mother with being the most influential person in her life. But, in her blog post Learning to Love Myself, she also reflects on how social expectations can make it difficult for mothers to model self-love.

“How do you learn to love yourself when you’re raised by a mother who thinks of everyone before herself?” she asks. “Are women in my community like candles that light their surroundings while melting away?”

Amiri’s is one of the unique perspectives featured in the 2016 Girls Action Foundation (GAF) blogging carnival. The annual carnival offers young feminists a platform to share experiences and opinions, prompt discussions, and be part of an online community.

It is one of the many ways the Montreal-based GAF empowers girls and young women as agents of social change. During the 2016 edition of the carnival, young bloggers from across the country contributed posts on three themes: self-care, the importance of allies, and reclaiming their bodies and voices.

When the blogging carnival kicks off next year – with some exciting new plans – it will do so as the winner of the 2016 Michele Landsberg Community Award!

The $5,000 award, named after renowned Canadian journalist Michele Landsberg, recognizes organizations doing exceptional work in encouraging girls and young women to raise awareness of issues related to equality through media.

“We were excited by the reach of the blogging carnival and the platform it provides to amplify the voices of young women and girls,” says Beth Malcolm, Director of the Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation. “It is truly a game changer.”

“We’re very happy to win because we know this is such a competitive award,” says Myriam Zaidi, Communications and National Network Coordinator of the Girls Action Foundation.

“The goal of the carnival is to build the capacity for more young women bloggers and encourage them to talk about issues relevant to young women,” she says. To do this, GAF offers coaching and support to help participants build their skills and find their voices. “We strive to offer an inclusive and safe space so that many young women can be heard.”

Zaidi says one indicator of the carnival’s success is the increasingly diverse range of bloggers involved. Organizers have also received positive feedback from participants, many of whom are first-time bloggers.

As the carnival enters its 10th year, the Michele Landsberg Community Award will help GAF hire someone to coordinate the carnival and develop a Feminist Blogging Toolkit. The toolkit will help first-timers get started, by addressing issues such as how to approach storytelling, whether to write anonymously, and how to deal with trolls.

In the meantime, Zaidi encourages girls and young women to think about blogging.

“Your story matters. You are the best-placed person to share your story and your reality.”

Visit the Girls Action Foundation blog carnival to read stories from young feminists and learn more about the event.

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