On Saturday April 13, 2019 a Women’s Talk conference was held at the Best Western Mountain Lodge in Fernie. What is Women’s Talk you might ask?
The organizers say its “Ordinary women sharing extraordinary stories and by sharing their stories they make their communities stronger and empower themselves”.
After attending from ten in the morning to past six in the evening, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the speakers. Each had a different story, all compelling and moving and although for some it may have been a first they were amazingly expressive in conveying their words. Some, like Fernie’s own Andrea Brennan were also very witty in how their speech was presented despite the seriousness of the topic.
It’s understandable then why this has become a popular movement holding monthly events as well as a podcast and convention and with chapters from Vancouver to Ottawa.
For some busy women attending such a gathering might seem a waste of time. Yet regardless of how demanding a woman’s life is with work and home when women come together in a safe and comfortable environment to share life stories there is hope in that it will comfort, inspire, entertain and motivate those attending to make the changes they inwardly desire to achieve in their own lives.
Many of the Women Talk events are held in the evenings with each presenter speaking for about twenty minutes and though in Fernie it was a full day conference the organizers say they are planning an evening event this coming October.
Brigitte Lessard-Deyell is the principal mind of this movement, conceiving Women Talk because she wanted “a place where women could feel the unconditional love of the divine feminine.” She realized that when first time speakers share they most often make the most impact on listeners.
Brigitte says that for a long time her life was all about sports. She owned a sports store and gym and co-owned a Womens Sports and Fitness Show. Many of the leadership skills and confidence came about through her involvement with sports. At a certain point she wanted to give back and so she began by teaching women to play hockey, a sport she was prolific in and became involved in starting a semi- pro Women’s hockey team so that she could teach women to “push past their beliefs”. Brigitte is a mother of two, a best a best-selling author who spends much time supporting and empowering women through her Women Talk and sports bra business. “sportsbras.ca” is a female owned and operated Canadian company successful in selling thousands of bras to women especially those involved in professional sports. She is a Certified Sacred Gifts Guide and has studied and practiced the Law of Attraction’s principals for two decades. This law simply says that you attract into your life whatever you think about and those prevalent thoughts will find a way to manifest into reality. She is a very effective motivational speaker that inspires women to celebrate their “feminine energy, to speak their truth and stand fully in their power.”
The Fernie event had thirteen speakers plus a Keynote speech and several smaller talks by Brigitte. Sue Deyell, Morning Host on Calgary’s AM 770 CHQR radio was master of ceremonies for the day.
To begin Sue welcomed everyone stating “you are guaranteed a ride” adding that they would be sitting on the edge of their seats. She thanked sponsors and volunteers and mentioned upcoming across Canada events.
Brigitte was next and showed a short video depicting some history on Women Talk. She then spoke about the many ski trips she has made to Fernie and how the concept of the Talk came about. She said she enjoyed the 18 minute video TED Talk and thought why not Women talk? The name was available and after a year of monthly events within Calgary decided to take it to other cities. She said over the years she has been told how this movement has changed and saved lives. Personally she is grateful for this “calling, this mission” as she is passionate about women having the opportunity to share in a positive and uplifting environment.
Brigitte has been successful in bringing women from all social classes, religion, sexual orientation, and race together and she encourages all to respect and celebrate their differences. When speaking she is animated, presenting infectious enthusiasm that makes people smile.
Other speakers were informative and sometimes uncomfortably personal baring souls that had listeners blinking back tears.
Nancy Seeger of Seeger Consulting spoke of being the youngest of seven kids, lots of sharing of clothing and food but how at age eighteen she held a Norman Rockwell picture of how life could be. She became a life insurance salesman and thought this was the key to her desired life only to find herself held hostage for hours by a man who had just escaped from a penitentiary. Local woman Jessica Teeple spoke of her experience in foster care, struggles with mental health, about Challenge day at the high school and the impact questions had on her, embracing healing and how the kindness of a foster mother who showered her with love made a positive impact on her life.
Sheree Agerskov spoke about moving from self- loathing to self- loving,her story utterly compelling as she recounted how she and her brother were traumatized as children by their stepmother and being nearly killed by an abusive husband. She said she eventually came to the realization that she was responsible for choices made that brought her to these conditions. “ Be careful of the picture and words you make in your heard and what you say to yourself” she says emphatically.
Other speakers included Giuliana Melo, Irma Goosen, Bryn Gunning, Janine Brisebois, Eileen C Head, Andrea Brennan,Monica Kunzekweguta, Jennie Ogilvie, Kelly Falardeau, Jessica Lowes and Linda Pelletier. Each speaker’s story held attention as each was powerful in its own way.
Brigitte says that when “Ordinary women share their extraordinary stories and it’s in a place where often women who have never spoken publicly can actually come up in front of an audience, some smaller, some larger and share their stories, which are really varied it’s very powerful. I truly believe that when women share their stories, they make their communities stronger because often people think that they’re the only one that this ever happened to and they don’t know how to process it, then all of a sudden somebody comes up to the mic, an ordinary woman that often is somebody they know in their community and share a story and they go ‘oh my God, somebody else has this issue’ and it makes great connections. It also empowers the woman that is at the mic because many of us these days, we’re isolated a little bit, everybody is on social media and communication in a group often doesn’t happen, so this really gives the opportunity to give the spotlight to somebody in the community. It really makes stronger connections in the community.”
In Fernie some were professional speakers but many were sharing their story for the first time with four Andrea Brennan, Giuliana Melo, Jessica Teeple and Lynda Pelletier having local connections.
Brigitte says it well, “We’re all cheerleaders for you in the audience, so there’s no judging, there’s no expectation of you being a professional speaker, it’s truly you are sharing a story that has affected you or your family, your life, and we just want to know about your story,” she said.
After spending a day listening to the stories I came away with the knowledge that Brigitte is very right, Women Talk is an opportunity for women to share stories, feel valued and empowered. But what is really noticeable is the honesty and deep feeling expressed by the speaker and most of all the immense support and encouragement and yes the cheerleading from the audience and from Brigitte, Sue and all of the speakers for each other.