Flourish Girl is giving girls in high school the space they need to become our future leaders

by Women’s Agenda
Tuesday 11 October 2022

Mandy Dante and another girl facing each other and smiling

Looking back at her high school years, Mandy Dante, the CEO and founder of Flourish Girl, says she experienced a lot of insecurity that she didn’t necessarily have the skills, or the space, to talk about.

“I looked like I was the happy, friendly girl that got along with everyone, but what people didn’t see was how constantly stressed out I was with academics, I was also very insecure about my body,” she says.

“And what saddens me is that I was too scared to be honest or authentic with my friends.”

After spending her early career years as a paediatric speech pathologist, Mandy launched Flourish Girl because she wanted to empower young women and create safe spaces for them to flourish.

“Teenage girls and gender-diverse young people are trying to become what society tells them and quite often, it can leave them feeling broken. I feel like that happened to me – I got really hurt and had a lot of friendship breakdowns in high school,” Dante explains

“It’s because there was no safe space to come and be yourself.”

So, that’s what Flourish Girls endeavours to do - allow teenage girls and gender diverse young people to connect with themselves, with their peers, and with the wider community. It’s imperative because, as Dante notes, girls in high school can often fly under the radar

“Girls are so good at covering up, putting on a smile and ticking all the boxes. And a lot of young women turn inward and engage in internal dialogue. So it’s often easy to miss it, if they are struggling,” Dante says.

Conducting workshops in schools has shown Dante first hand just how powerful it can be when girls are given the opportunity to address the issues that are affecting their lives.

Whether it be mental health, body image, academic performance, family pressures, friendship breakdowns, bullying, or loneliness – every girl and young gender diverse person in high school is facing something unique.

“Girls are also really struggling to create connections with friends post-lockdowns,” Dante says. “For some of them, it’s been so long since they’ve had that face-to-face connection.”

Having the space to think, talk about, and do some deep, evidence-based behavioural work can be a real game-changer on the journey to womanhood.

Lisa Keenan, Executive Director of Mecca M-POWER, says Dante’s organisation is helping shape the leaders of tomorrow. 

“Being a teenage girl can be a scary, lonely, confusing experience. Thanks to Mandy and her team of brilliant facilitators at Flourish Girl, teenage girls can now feel part of something bigger and learn how to be confident, authentic, connected young women. These are the women of our future, and they could not be in better hands.,” Keenan says.

At Flourish Girl, full-day immersive workshops are delivered in schools in three levels, each with a different area of focus.

“Level one is around flourishing with self – building that base plate of self-awareness, self-confidence, creating connection,” Dante says.

“Level two is about flourishing with others – we have a focus on healthy relationships, consent, what can you do to create boundaries and a healthy environment. Level three is about flourishing within the community - showing that no matter who you are, you can be a leader and be your true self.”

Flourish Girl is also interested in the idea of rites of passage, and what that means for young women in Australia today. As Dante explains, do any of us really have a clear idea of what it means to become a young person?

“For me, reflecting back, I remember trying to create my own rites of passages from what society had told me, so I thought I had to be out there talking to boys and looking a certain way on social media,” Dante says.

“At the moment, the only rite of passage many young people have is going to Schoolies once they graduate, which potentially involves excessive drinking, drug-taking or having sex.

“So that’s what Flourish Girl wants to do, give young women the space to explore and create other options.”