More than 200 girls from eighth through 12th grade gathered at the Embassy Suites hotel in San Rafael on Sunday, March 25 to kick off the ninth annual Marin Teen Girl Conference (MTGC). The program featured a variety of workshops designed to empower teenage girls to “be their own superhero” and included a keynote speech by former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Pamela Hamamoto.
Hamamoto spoke about several of her initiatives, such as The Future She Deserves. The program revolves around combating gender-based violence and making sure adolescent girls have access to good healthcare. The initiative also allows for more leadership and economic opportunities for women by pushing for gender equality through the UN.
Among the attendees were 13 Redwood students, including five teen ambassadors who organized the conference over an eight-month period. The ambassadors were freshmen Sophia Rocha and Safiyya Beauchamp, sophomores Lily Carbullido and Nicole Fuches and junior Francesca McLaughlin.
McLaughlin explained what being an ambassador means to her.
“To me, [being an ambassador] means doing everything I can in my community to make sure that women and girls are feeling supported and feeling like they matter and that they’re equal,” McLaughlin said.
The MTGC falls under the auspices of the Marin Women’s Commission. The commision is dedicated to ensuring women have adequate political, economic and social rights in Marin. Funding for the conference comes partly from taxpayer money, and sponsors such as Three Twins, Nothing Bundt Cake, and Red Dragon Yoga also donated coupons to participants.
Ann Morrison, the Vice Chair of the Marin Women’s Commission, and chair for the conference, explained the goal of the MTGC.
“We wanted girls to know they’re capable of doing and pursuing anything they want. The world is their oyster,” Morrison said.
Sisters Damian and Diana McDermott, former highway patrol officers, presented one of the workshops called “Teen Talk in the Midst of Social Media.” Their presentation consisted of various elements such as the importance of consent and a healthy romantic relationship, how change can help one discover oneself and how the #MeToo movement is moving to schools.
Another workshop presented was “Fight Back: Prevent Sexual Assault with Self-Defense.” The instructor, Liliana Gonzalez, demonstrated self-defense techniques such as getting out of bear hugs, choke holds and attacking aggressors the right way. Each attendee took turns practicing the techniques on a dummy.
Teen Ambassador Liza Posylkin, a junior at San Marin High School, explained how the skills she learned in the workshop will be useful to her outside the conference.
“I think [the workshop] will just make me more secure and safe with my surroundings and just be more aware and know how to protect myself,” Posylkin said.
As part of the closing ceremony, the attendees participated in a “cross the line” activity, where Teen Ambassadors posed questions on topics surrounding the welfare of the attendees, such as alcohol consumption and substance abuse.
According to sophomore Claire Fogarty, the conference was an empowering experience worth repeating.
“I went to the conference last year and I had a really good experience. I met a lot of cool people and I learned a lot, so I just definitely knew that I was going to come back,” Fogarty said.