Monthly Archives: March 2011

It Is So Emotional To See These Girls Shine

The Pass It On Project – Phase II is occurring simultaneously in 5 communities throughout British Columbia – Salt Spring Island, Uclulet, Valemount/McBride, Prince George and Kamloops.

Kamloops is in the Southern Interior of the province with a population of 85,000. The major industries are agriculture, forestry/wood products and mining. There is a major university in the community. As with any city that size, there is a mix of income levels in the population. SWOVA’s violence prevention program for youth – Respectful + Relationships program has been delivered consistently in Kamloops over the past 4 years. It has been primarily delivered in one of the lowest demographic communities of the city. The Pass It On Project is also being implemented within the same demographic base. It is a community that is dealing with severe poverty, hygiene issues, little or no communication skills and bullying issues.

Tracy Bergman is the Mentor Supervisor and Coordinator for the project and recently shared the following:

“So far I adore my Mentors. It hasn’t been perfect, but they were amazing at the mixer (the matching event between potential buddies and mentors). I was very emotional after (at home!) to see these girls shine. Several of them have had 4 years of Respectful + Relationships, and it shows.”

Tracy also shared that one of the younger buddies was going to back out when she heard her ‘bully’ was also coming to the mixer.  After Tracy spent time speaking with the young buddy’s mother as well as the young buddy herself, “she agreed to stay on and is actually excited to learn some communication skills and build a rapport with her Mentor – face her ‘bully’.”

Finally, Tracy agrees that it is a whole comprehensive wraparound approach that makes a project of this nature work.

“My contact at the middle school is really keen and that has made a huge difference. She is incredibly invested, especially considering her workload.”

Regardless of the community and regardless of the issues, a project like Pass It On can work. All it takes are inspired youth, invested partners and a champion like Tracy Bergman. Thanks to her commitment to and passion for the health, safety and leadership potential of young women, young females and girls in Kamloops are finding their voice and growing together. Thanks Tracy.

Chris Gay – Pass It On Phase II Coordinator

The Pass It On Project Goes on the Road in British Columbia

This winter, I had the privilege of traveling around British Columbia delivering workshops with rural girls and young women as part of Phase 2 of the Pass it On project. These workshops were originally written for youth here on Salt Spring Island and thanks to the support of Status of Women Canada, SWOVA was able to facilitate weekends with girls and young women in Ucluelet, Prince George, McBride and Kamloops. Over the course of two days we created safe spaces for participants to both share and learn around topics including Body Image and Self Esteem, Depression and Expression, Party Safety and Girl Friendships. The conversations were lively, vulnerable, wise and engaging.

The weekends confirmed two important pieces for me as a social justice activist. There is an essential need for workshops such as these to address and offer support for the challenges and difficulties that girls and young women face, specifically as it relates to living in geographically-isolated communities.

During my time with girls and young women around the province, I was inspired by both the social and emotional intelligence of those I sat with.  Given many of the pressures they face in regards to self- esteem, body image, partying and friendship, these girls and young women showed immense courage and conviction as they worked together.

In all communities, girls and young women spoke authentically about wishing that workshops such as these would be offered to their peers around the province.

Christina Antonick   – Pass it On/ R+R Facilitator

Exciting News at SWOVA

We recently found out that the Department of Justice Canada is funding us to work in partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band.  As part of their Justice Partnership and Innovation Program – Access to Justice for Aboriginal Women, we will look at existing data from Aboriginal youth who have taken our Respectful Relationships (R+R) program to determine the issues specific to Aboriginal youth and safety and make recommendations for the best ways to engage them in healthy relationships education.

Five Aboriginal women will review our R+R curricula and recommend changes to make the materials culturally relevant for Aboriginal youth, thus creating an Aboriginal R+R program.  We will also create an E-learning training program for R+R facilitators that we hope to pilot test with the Musquean people in the fall.

We are all very excited about our new partnership and the great opportunity that this holds.

Lynda Laushway – (Executive Director)

It’s Like Being Matched with Themself at That Age

As Pass It On Phase II is being implemented across the province, young middle school girls are meeting up with their high school mentors.  When asked to respond to 3 questions, 2 mentor supervisors from our most Northern communities involved in the project and 1 from Salt Spring Island responded with the following:

1. What is one thing that surprised you about a match between a mentor and mentee?

The matches naturally made themselves. The mentors and the mentees basically had the same requests for pairings.

Everyone had a clear choice of whom they meshed with and it was fairly easy to match. Some of the mentors have said it is like being matched with themself at that age.

It was difficult for the girls to find the confidence to call their mentee the first time. It really is a huge practice of meeting and connecting with strangers and the resulting  generosity and friendship towards strangers.

2. What is one common concern that arises from the mentors?

Most mentors are unsure of what activities to do with their mentee. I think once they realize that they just have to spend time together in a natural way it will be fine.

Currently their timelines and other commitments like work are a challenge.

It’s hard for them to accept that it may just be an opportunity to meet and spend time with someone outside of their friend circle.

3. What is one creative way mentors and mentees are spending time together?

They have just begun, but one mentor/mentee spent 4 hours together on a Sunday! Next Tuesday the mentors will be taking the mentees on a tour of the high school “girl style” – the best lockers, teachers, washrooms, etc.

One mentor took her mentee up to a local mountain and then had her buddy answer some heartfelt questions. They then put the answers into a time capsule, which they will open together later.

With thanks to Jennifer Quam from McBride, Val Jordan from Prince George,
and Kate Maurice from Salt Spring Island for shepherding along the project
in their communities.

Chris Gay – (Pass It On Coordinator)

Internet Pornography Targets Youth

The Internet has brought pornography to a far bigger and more vulnerable audience than ever before.  Technology has made the multi-billion dollar porn industry more accessible, more secretive, and available to far younger people.  According to Chris Hedges, author of The Empire of Illusion, The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,

“the largest users of Internet porn are between the ages of twelve and seventeen.  And the porn industry producers increasingly target adolescents.”

Hedges goes on to say that “according to the Internet Filter Review, worldwide porn revenues…topped $97 billion in 2006.  That is more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, Netflix, and Earthlink combined. Annual sales in the United States are estimated at $10 billion or higher.”

According to Hedges, the media outlets owned by AT &T and General Motors companies rake in about 80% of all porn dollars spent by consumers.

Pornography has been taken to a more extreme level with heightened violence mixed with sex.  The new trend in the industry is called Gonzo pornography and it is a much cheaper way to produce pornographic materials. This is a filming style that attempts to place the viewer directly into the scene, and depicts real, violent sexual activity with no attempt at a storyline. Hedges says that, “Gonzo films push the boundaries of porn and often include a lot of violence, physical abuse, and a huge number of partners in succession.”

The name is a reference to gonzo journalism, in which the reporter is part of the event taking place. Gonzo pornography puts the camera right into the action – often with one or more of the participants  both filming and performing sexual acts – without the usual separation characteristic of conventional  porn and cinema; it blurs the line between real life and fiction and normalizes the behaviour.

Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology and American Studies, Wheelock College in the USA and author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked our Sexuality says that, “Porn is an industrial product.  I cannot believe how brutal it has become so quickly.”

This dehumanizing portrayal of primarily women affects all of us.  It affects how young men see women and girls in the world.  It sets up our daughters, mothers, and sisters as targets for a brutality that has become confused with entertainment.  Many young men are now getting their sex education from this highly accessible source – the porn industry.

In September 2010 a sixteen year-old young woman was allegedly drugged and raped by multiple individuals at a party in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia.  The assault was filmed, while bystanders stood by and watched.  A sixteen-year old young man posted his film of the assault on the Internet, further victimizing the young woman.  He has since been charged with distributing child pornography.

This event eerily mimics Gonzo porn.  The Internet has opened up a world of amazing possibilities for our society.  Unfortunately there is a large and disturbing price tag attached to it.

Lynda Laushway – Executive Director