Think Big! Lead Now! Young Women’s National Leadership Program

YWCA Think Big! Lead Now! Young Women’s Leadership Program 2018

Think Big Lead Now Young Women’s National Leadership Program is a comprehensive bilingual leadership program that includes online learning sessions and talks, self-study, peer mentorship and support, and civic engagement activities along with a three-day immersive training and networking summit.

Grounded in intersectional feminism and social justice, this program has been designed to equip young women with the knowledge and skills to lead and be change-makers in their communities and beyond.

YWCA Canada works on the belief that the best method for strengthening young women’s leadership is to provide participants with new experiences that allow them to stretch beyond their comfort level, enhance their skills through practice and enable them to reflect on the experience. Young leaders will develop an understanding of the nature of social change and their capacity to effect change through their actions and work ahead to achieve through the program components described below.


Summit Keynote Speaker: Laurin Liu

Laurin Liu was elected a Member of Parliament representing the riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, serving from 2011-2015. She is the youngest woman to be elected Member of Parliament in Canada, and served as Official Opposition deputy critic for the Environment, deputy critic for Science and Technology and deputy critic for International Trade. She tabled multiple bills and a motion on subjects including precarious work, poverty, consumer protections and women’s health.

Program Presenters, Facilitators & Mentors

Alicia Gill, Advocate & Researcher (YWCA USA)
Tieja Medicine Crane, Activist
Nydia Dauphin, Self-love Coach & Advocate
Jessie Steinberg, Outdoor Educator & Animator (LEAP Adventures)
Marva Wisdom, Civic Engagement Expert (Wisdom Consulting)
Crystal Fraser & Sara Komarnisky, Scholars & Creators of "150 Acts of Reconciliation for the last 150 days of Canada 150"
Simona Ramkisson, Youth Facilitator & Community-Builder (Mozilla Foundation)
Karine Myrgianie Jean-François, Jurist & Community Organizer (DAWN Canada)

December 2017 to June 2018

Through online live and pre-recorded sessions, participants will have the opportunity to build skills, connect inspirational women leaders and network with one another. Program participants will reflect on strengths, abilities, values and identify the leader they want to become.

E-learning & Self-study topics include:
Program Orientation Session
Strengths-based Assessment & Reflection
Building Your Personal Brand
Financial Literacy: 8 Reasons to Measure
Let’s Talk About Power: Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression Practice
The Revolutionary Art of Self-Love
Leadership Journey Mentor Sessions: interactive conversations with Women of Distinction, women leaders from a range of sectors

February to June 2018

“If I don’t shine, you don’t shine” is the foundation of this aspect of the program. Working in small groups supported by a community leader or group mentor, participants will motivate and support one another in further advancing leadership skills and career opportunities while developing a group project, event or initiative together. Participants will be matched into groups by a committee of program peers, based on geography and/or area of interest.

YWCA will facilitate group meetings in advance of the training summit either in person or by teleconference, and the groups will have time throughout the 3-day training summit to debrief, connect, and plan with their groups. Following the summit, groups will continue to meet to take on an action, event or initiative in the community or online, and to continue to support one another.

March 8 to 11, 2018 in Muskoka, Ontario

Young leaders will mark International Women’s Day in an amazing way! Connect with over 100 other young women from every province and territory in an idyllic and secluded lakefront camp retreat north of Toronto.
During the immersive, experiential, three-day training, participants will meet and work with their Peer Mentor and Support Groups. A roster of incredible women from a range of sectors will be on hand for skills-building workshops, presentations, outdoor activities, and group discussions about leadership and overcoming barriers.

"The summit not only made me connections from all over Canada but it made me connect with myself, my goals, skills and assets."

Celebrate women and reflect on the contributions women have made to the fabric of Canada. Participants will be invited to share your own feminist heritage minute or poster featuring a Canadian woman role model, leader or activist, or on a historic moment or a unique aspect of Canada that inspires them.

Plenary sessions include:
Finding and keeping your voice
What makes you a good leader
Techniques to overcoming conflict, common challenges
Participants will be invited to select from a range of skills-based workshops that correspond to their strengths-based assessment and leadership skills. Workshops are informed by the interest and skills level of the participants, and could include:
Advocacy & lobbying
Arts-based social justice
Board governance
Communications strategies
Event planning & accessibility
Feminism & social justice
Grant writing & Fundraising
Intersectional feminism, anti-racism & anti-oppression
Leading to the beat of your own drum
Political leadership
Project management
Public speaking


Peer Mentor and Support Groups take what they’ve learned and put it into action by planning an event, action or initiative in the community or online that moves the needle forward on an issue that they care about. The purpose of these YWCA Days activities is to encourage civic engagement and community-building on an issue of interest to each group.

Participants will be asked to catalog their actions and share key moments with YWCA Canada and their fellow participants through project’s web platforms to inspire their peers in other communities and across the country.
As a woman from a remote community, it was really great to meet such a wide variety of ladies from across Canada all in one place. I made new friends that I hope to keep in touch with, and heard perspectives I had never thought of before. I would say, rather than an increased attachment to Canada, I have a new resolve to improve Canada. Canada isn't perfect and has never been, but I look forward to finding new ways to improve life for everyone living on this landscape.


Registration costs for the full leadership program include access to the e-learning webinars, group mentoring and support, and travel, shared accommodation and meals to attend the training summit at YMCA Geneva Park in March 2018.

Registration costs for the full leadership program include access to the e-learning webinars, group mentoring and support, and travel, private accommodation and meals to attend the training summit at YMCA Geneva Park in March 2018.


If you are between 18 and 25 years old, and you live anywhere in Canada, you may apply for bursaries to cover program registration costs and travel expenses, including accommodations and meals.

How are participants selected?
• Have committed to participate in all program components and in developing a personal action plan.
• Those who are leading or show leadership potential through participation in formal or informal roles in academic projects, community or extracurricular activities, internships or work.
• Express an interest in the program and commitment to learning from other young women and also supporting and motivating their growth.
• Show why women’s leadership, social justice is important to them.


YWCA Canada is committed to ensuring a fully accessible program. As such the following considerations have been made:

All program components and materials are offered in English and French
E-learning modules will be available for download
The training venue is accessible for those with facing mobility challenges
Childcare will be available at the training summit for those with young children
A local Elder will be onsite and available throughout the summit
A designated quiet space and counsellors will be onsite for the training summit
Further information regarding available accessibility measures will be shared with participants once selected.

"Having counsellors there took away my anxiety. Thank you for letting me be a part of something so great! I'm giving my first speech on Monday about educators with mental health. I would have never had the courage to do this without the support of the other women I met there."

Thank you to our sponsors: