Activism and advocacy have always been roots of St. Thomas University’s educational platform, both inside and outside the classroom. Recently, fourth-year human rights and political science student Rachel Slipp took her growth and learning all the way to Toronto, where she got first-hand experience of being a leader and found a spark to help other young women do the same.
“I want to inspire and empower other people,” said Slipp.
Slipp was one of only 17 women in Canada, and the only one from the east coast, to participate in Girls Belong Here, an initiative associated with International Day of the Girl, which is Oct. 11. The day highlights and addresses the needs and challenges girls face, promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
This year, young women from 60 countries flocked to Canada’s largest major city to step into the spotlight of roles of power and influence.
This is exactly what Slipp experienced, and it all started with her curiosity about non-profit work, which lead to her involvement with the Youth Speakers Bureau of Plan International Canada.
“I opened up my computer [and] started Googling,” said Slipp, describing how she first got the ball rolling on her non-profit work.
For Slipp’s day in leadership, she was the acting provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, a role that significantly struck what she is passionate about. She says that this was a mutual sentiment for all involved in the initiative due to the structuring of the program.
“Everyone had diverse experiences because the roles aligned with what they are interested in,” said Slipp.
She said other participants this year had roles such as business development at Snapchat and working with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Irwin Elman, the current provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, showed Slipp the ropes of his position by letting her lead a meeting and participate in a conference call, discussing the programs they operate and how they are active in youth engagement throughout the day.
“I wanted to pack as much in as I could and also let myself experience the role as it is,” said Slipp.
Slipp also gave a speech at Osgoode Hall Law School to a room of professionals receiving certificates in youth mental health.
Elman was guest speaking at the event and gave up some of his time to let Slipp speak on her role in her initiative. The highlight of her day, however, was receiving a call from Ontario’s minister of children and youth services, Michael Coteau, who offered his support of her work with Girls Belong Here.
Now back to every day life in New Brunswick, Slipp is motivated to act on the momentum of her experience.
She plans to try and gather people to form a division of Champions of Change, a club for schools and universities associated with Plan International Canada. She wants to teach others how the organization contributes to international development, putting a permanent onus on herself to make a difference.
“As the only girl who participated from the east coast, I think it’s important for me now that I’m back home in New Brunswick to share the message on this side of the country,” she said.
Slipp also wants other young women to take advantage and apply to experience the same things she did.
“As a young woman who is 21-years-old, this opportunity let me do something I never thought I’d be able to do … So if that sounds exciting then definitely apply.”