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"Seeing my baby girl in my arms made me realize I had to do something – to make sure she would have opportunities in her life."

Passion for girls’ empowerment shines bright in the eyes of Andrea Canales-Figueroa.

Earlier in her life, at age 18, Andrea had emigrated from Costa Rica. “I always dreamed about going to a place where equality was a given. But when I arrived in Canada, because I didn’t speak the language, many people thought I was stupid and I didn’t get many chances.”

Andrea became determined to not only stay in Canada but to build a different future - for her daughter and for all girls. It was the first-ever national conference on girls – organized by Girls Action Foundation in 2003 – that catapulted Andrea into action.

Back home in Vancouver, she created the GoGirls Leadership Program for racialized and Indigenous girls and young women. She also joined the all-Aboriginal Girlz Group on the Vancouver Eastside as a coordinator.  A self-professed “mama bear,” she now mentors girls to think for themselves and stand up for justice.

"I listen to what the girls want and work with them to figure out action plans to achieve their goals. It’s not just lip service. We make sure the girls know they have full ownership of their dreams and the right to ask for help from mentors."

"Girls have an innate ability to be change-makers. They just need a strong support system, willing and respectful adults to work with, and the freedom to take space to be seen and heard."

Girls growing up in Andrea’s programs are a force for a better world. Now young women, they are becoming nurses, teachers, lawyers, artists and, like Nasra and Hawa Mire, up-and-coming social entrepreneurs...