Yearly Archives: 2013

Recipe for Hope – Breath and Gratitude by Christina Antonick

The past month we have been working with Grade 9’s with our Respectful Relationships (R+R) Program and also in classroom sessions of our Peace Kids project with Grade 4 and 5 kids at Salt Spring Elementary. Kevin Vowles (co-facilitator) and I wrote 12 new workshops over the summer and we are very excited by the depth and possibility of the sessions and working with younger kids!

These days I am deepening my own personal practice of daily gratitude as well as a somatic practice of Integrated Breath Work. With my personal partner Ishmael, I have come to realize the significance of breath, of slowing down and really feeling.  After 20 years of education and service work, I believe the fertile roots of social justice work weave themselves strong and deep and powerfully through breath.

So my personal, professional and community recipe for nourishment these days includes big measures of gratitude and breath!

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Gratitude in my circles for these moments:

 A Grade 4 boy sharing “I think it’s good for people to be around each other because we are social creatures and our electro magnetic fields help each other.”

 For a group of Grade 9 young men- I ask them to understand that bleeding (mensing) young women are powerful and to be a powerful young man means respecting and honouring this- and that it would be appreciated if they would refrain from using PMS as a put down towards women. They listen and get it.

 After watching Miss Representation one Grade 9 young man says, “There’s nothing we can do to change media representation of women.” Another young man speaks up and says, “Maybe there is – and maybe that’s what we need to be talking about as guys.”

 When we asked Grade 4 kids to explain what we would practice in our check-in round and a girl says, “Whole body listening” and the majority of kids knew what that meant!

In all these moments I found myself breathing deeper and felt my heart blossom wider. Moments such as these nourish me in trusting that life is about growing, evolving and generational change.

 Christina Antonick, R+R Adult Facilitator

Universal Children’s Day – by Lynda Laushway

Bali, 2010

Bali, 2010

Universal Children’s Day is on November 20, 2013, a day to annually celebrate childhood worldwide. First proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, it was established to encourage all countries to institute a day to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world’s children and this year the focus is on ending violence. Nov 20th also marks the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). This is the most widely ratified Convention in the world, of which all but 3 nations have not ratified (US, Somalia, and South Sudan).

A new data report, produced by UNICEF partner Child Helpline International (CHI), shows that violence and abuse, neglect, depression, suicide, child trafficking and commercial exploitation are issues faced by millions of children on a daily basis.

Child Helpline International has analysed a decade of global data from over 126 million contacts made by children and young people with child helplines in 141 countries. This forms the basis of a global data publication and five regional data publications.

In The Voices of Children and Young People in Africa, data shows that over 18 million contacts were made with child helplines in Africa. This number likely underrepresents levels of violence as many children don’t have access to phones, and much violence occurs in the home and is not discussed outside.

The majority of these contacts related to abuse and violence (29%). Specifically, physical abuse is noted as the number one reason why children and young people contact child helplines. Among other alarming frightening issues is that children have had difficulties accessing healthcare and education services because they don’t have a birth certificate (almost 5,000 contacts in 2012). This continues to be a child protection concern around the globe, and is the focus of many child protection interventions. Data also shows a horrifying rise in contacts on themes concerning corporal punishment, child marriage and commercial or sexual exploitation.

Kosovo, 2000

Kosovo, 2000

In The Voices of Children in Europe, we see that over the past decade rapid advancement in technology has shrunk the world in terms of connectivity and access to information, opening up new avenues for children and young people to grow into productive citizens. It has also exposed them to new threats and dangers in the on-line environment. The European economic crisis has had a severe impact on their lives resulting in an increasing number of contacts on depression, fear, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. Disturbing issues such as child abandonment, calls for food and basic needs, financial assistance and commercial exploitation have emerged since 2007.

In The Voices of Children in the Americas and Caribbean, the highest numbers of contacts were about abuse and violence (13%), peer relationships (20%), family relations (15%), and psycho-social and mental issues (27%). Abuse and violence against children and young people has spiralled since the onset of the economic crisis. Family members are responsible for a substantial number of abuse and violence cases. Girls and boys report sexual, emotional, and physical abuse. Boys suffer from physical abuse, while girls report more on sexual abuse.

Schools should be an environment for learning, free from abuse and violence. For many children and young people in the Americas and Caribbean region this is not the case. Children and young people struggle with issues such as homework, the attitude of the teachers and increasingly bullying. Child helplines have received many contacts on violence and abuse perpetrated by teachers and bullying by peers. Children and young people are becoming increasingly distressed and some are contemplating suicide. Contacts on depression are growing rapidly. Self-harm has registered an increase as children and young people are trying to cope with distress and depression. Girls in the region are taking part in self-harm more than boys. The number of missing children is rising. More children and young people are asking for shelter.

Also in the Americas and Caribbean region substance abuse amongst young people has increased. Reports on denial of access to services, healthcare and education have increased. Child trafficking has significantly increased in the past 5 years. Commercial sexual exploitation is rising dramatically. Most contacts on sexual exploitation are made by girls. Increasing reports on cyber-bullying are emerging. Cyber-bullying extends the harm of bullying into children and young people’s private space.

Universal Children`s Day is a time for us to contemplate the state of the world for our children, celebrate them and consider what more we can do to make the world a safe place for all children.

It is also a time to value the role children play in addressing violence, and engaging them as active participants in creating sustainable solutions.

Despite an increase in laws and legislation, programs and services, and general awareness about how violence affects children, violence continues to pervade the lives of children and their communities. To address issues of violence requires a greater shift towards prevention and early intervention programs, and active engagement with children themselves to identify solutions.

 Lynda Laushway – Executive Director, SWOVA

(Photos by Lynda Laushway, and Megan Manning)


Ayize and Aiyana Ma’at Demonstrate How Commitment in Relationships Can Change the World – By Christina Antonick R+R Facilitator


Ayize and Aiyana Ma’at

When I sit in circles with young people to talk about respect, healthy communication and relationships, I find it useful to have names and faces in my own mind and heart of what we’re talking about as it relates to real life couples rather than the Hollywood celebrity culture. Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at are a couple that come to mind. They were high school sweethearts who have been together for 18 years and married for 10 of these years. I’ve started following their weekly You Tube videos over the past year and am constantly amazed by their work and partnership. Their love and devotion is really inspiring as they demonstrate their commitment to increasing the quality of relationships throughout the world.

  “We believe everything – from one’s perception of a problem to the solution – begins with a willingness to look within, tell the truth and commit to change.”

Last week I watched “ That Makes No Damn Sense” with my partner and we shared laughter as we watched the honesty, truth and wisdom in Ayize’s offerings about partnership, acceptance and true intimacy. These are the real parts of a relationship that are so very important for youth to learn about in preparation for intimate relationships. I love the Ma’at’s playfulness and authenticity. They remind me of the grounded quality that marriage and partnership can be. In the past few years, I have come to believe that all great social change is rooted in families in which there is a partnership that is based on truth, loyalty and commitment.

Recently, Jean Oelwang conducted a study of some of the greatest leaders on the planet today – Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter to name a few. She wanted to study and interview these giants (all of whom have incredible self- esteem) and discover what they all had in common. She could only find one common trait among them: A supportive, committed romantic relationship.

Bruce Muzik explains, “If our sense of self is sculpted by our interactions with others, then the one person who has the most influence over our sense of self over time is the person we spend the most time with. And that person is usually our romantic partner.”

I express gratitude to the Ma’at’s for their dedication to couple and community health and well being and how they support others to continue to grow, love and foster meaningful relationships. You can check out their website at:


“It Makes No Damn Sense” at:

Grand Theft Auto – by Christina Antonick



In one of our Grade 10 Respectful Relationships workshops this past week, we spoke with youth about our 5-month social justice youth facilitator training that we do on Monday evenings after school. Our R+R Youth Team co- facilitate sessions with the Adult Facilitators when we deliver workshops at the middle school with Grade 7 and 8’s.

In this particular Grade 10 class, several young men had agreed to show up for our orientation meeting. One of the young men didn’t come and in our session with him the following day we asked where he had been. Several young men piped up, “Yesterday was the release of Grand Theft Auto 5!” The young man shared that in making the choice between R+R Youth Team and Grand Theft Auto- he had chosen the latter.

These are the moments that I enjoy in our circle. Entering into a deeper conversation about these young men’s choices and reflections on pop culture, video games, masculinity and self awareness are always a great opportunity for me as a facilitator to balance deep listening with respectfully encouraging critical thinking amongst my students. And of course, moving in these conversations from a place of believing that as an adult and a creative edge walker, I must moment to moment create questions that do not create further divide between us, but rather support learning on all fronts.

I had heard on CBC just before arriving to class that the makers of Grand Theft Auto had spent $125 million dollars on the creation of version five. One of my students offered that in the first day of release over $500,000 in sales were made. I asked youth to think about what demographic would be making the purchase on the first day of it’s release and we explored topics including internet addiction, sexualized violence against women, how we might enter into a conversation with the CEO of Grand Theft Auto about the profits, and how they might be distributed in support of peace and violence prevention work.

As always, the conversation was lively and provocative. Youth wanted us to hear that just because someone plays a violent video game that it does not mean they will then move out into the world and use violence against others. Kevin and I asked youth if they were willing to consider that while that may be a possibility, the media representation of violence against women creates a culture where people become desensitized to real life incidents of violence. We also explored technology’s impact on individual and family health and well-being.

I left the conversation feeling confident that some great questions has been posed and that we all got to practice reflective listening. By engaging in these conversations around respect, healthy masculinity and how individual actions effect the collective culture, we continue to foster peace in the making.

Christina Antonick, R+R Adult Facilitator 

Rape Culture Reflected in Canadian Universities – By Kevin Vowles

The feeling of returning to SWOVA for yet a third year of R+R delivery is a great one.  I’m honoured to be a part of the violence prevention movement, and grateful to the women whose efforts have ensured that I can do this work.  As we enter into another school year it is apparent that working with youth to talk about gender based violence is needed just as much now as it is has ever been.  Over the summer I’ve been struggling to digest media critiques about “rape culture.”  This is a tough one because sometimes people do not want to admit that we live in a rape culture.  As one student noted in one of our first R+R sessions, cultures of violence are not just here or there affecting some people, they are everywhere and affect us all.   I spoke about rape culture in a previous blog (!writing/cnec) about the Canadian television show Arctic Air, and now I’m going to write about it again, because of the twenty-year old frosh chants glorifying the rape of young women at the University of British Columbia, and Saint Mary’s University. I feel deeply disturbed that young Canadian University students arrive at university ready to expound rape culture.  YOUNG is the chant that could be heard on frosh buses and was filmed in other more open venues at the start of this school year on two campuses.

Y is for your sister

O is for oh so tight

U is for underage

N is for no consent

G is for Go to Jail

I feel nauseated that young men could arrive at university with objectionable views that objectify.  I feel deeply concerned for the more than one in three women whose lives will be turned upside down by experiencing sexualized violence—rape.  I feel charged to keep doing what we do.  I feel certain that young men and women can stand up and not be by-standers to rape culture.

As the Globe and Mail noted five days ago in an article on rape culture, the proportions are endemic:

“According to statistics commonly cited by campus sexual-assault centres, no fewer than one in five women will be the victim of rape or attempted rape by graduation. At UBC, which has about 27,000 female students, that would amount to 5,400 women – well over 1,000 per year, if distributed over four years of schooling.”

UBC says it will address the issue with education.  I applaud the response from the University that the behaviour will not be tolerated.  I’m pleased that they will address individual behaviour with action, but will they address the larger rape culture that caused this to happen (for the last twenty years apparently?).  To address the culture at play is to hit the bulls eye.  This is not the fault of young men.  Of course young men must be held accountable, but we have to recognize that this is a socially learned behaviour just like other forms of violence.  Our culture is propagating rape culture, and young men are soaking it up.  The explosion of open source free online pornography is affecting young men as early as elementary school.  Young women are objectified, and assaulted.  But the rape culture goes deeper and is in the mainstream of the Canadian television industry, as well as the American media system.  To somehow move away from this violence, which eats at the very fabric—the emotional health and well-being of both men and women—we must talk.  We must talk about how we feel and how we can change the rape culture, because it’s getting worse instead of better.  Let’s talk.

For more on the university situation this fall here in Canada, check out:

By Kevin Vowles, Respectful Relationships (R+R) Facilitator

Peace Kids – SWOVA’s Exciting New Project

“If we are to create peace in our world, we must begin with our children.” – 
Mahatma Gandhi

Peace Kids is SWOVA’s exciting new pilot project to take Respectful Relationships education into the elementary school.  The Peace Kids curricula will provide engaging skill building sessions that increase dialogue about peace and conflict at the personal and community level.  Peace Kids is both culturally relevant and has the capacity to empower youth to think critically about social responsibilities.

SWOVA has received repeated concerns from youth, teachers, parents and school administrators, of a need to provide education and resources for children at the elementary school level to address bullying and systemic violence occurring with younger students. We know that peace based education is integral to the healthy development of youth and now we are bringing that education to students in grades 4, 5, and 6.

Topics covered in the sessions include:

  • Empathy
  • Accepting difference
  • Belonging and connectedness
  • Care, kindness, tolerance and appreciation of self and others
  • Qualities of leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking
  • Actively listening
  • Self-expression/dealing with emotions
  • Cooperation
  • Awareness of gender equality
  • Awareness about violence and the various forms of bullying


 Thanks to the generous support of The Salt Spring Island Foundation and Vancouver Foundation, the Peace Kids curricula is being developed as we speak and sessions are due to begin later in the school year.


Young Women Speak Up – By Chloe Sjuberg


Youth Advisory Members distributed the surveys on the early morning water taxi.

Youth Advisory Members distributed the surveys on the early morning water taxi.

SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project (SSGLP) is paving the way for young women to share their voices. Over the spring and summer, we carried out a Needs Assessment Survey asking young women about the issues they face living in the Gulf Islands. We received a fantastic response; 17% of all the Gulf Islands women aged 15-24 completed our survey, giving us a great representation of this group.

The young women who participated went above and beyond in their engagement with the survey material, seizing the opportunity to share their thoughts. Many responded with plenty of detail to the survey’s open-ended questions, giving thoughtful commentary and great suggestions for change. Some told very personal stories about their struggles with the issues the survey brought up, from body image to bullying.

A strength of this project is the instrumental role the young women on the SSGLP’s Youth Advisory Council had in creating this survey. Rather than being a process external to the lives of young women in our community, administered to youth by adults, the YAC girls designed the survey, created its questions and worked hard to distribute it and gather responses.

In one part of the survey, participants were asked to list what they thought were the most important issues facing girls and young women living in the Gulf Islands today.


It was eye-opening and saddening to see the prevalence of body image concerns. A host of related challenges to girls’ well-being came up as well, including self-confidence, peer pressure, depression and sexual health. Youth do not feel their transportation needs are being met; although they appreciate and use Salt Spring’s public bus system. It remains difficult for them to get home safely late at night or access activities and jobs at convenient times. Other major issues included: bullying and cyber-bullying in particular; the prominent “party culture” and drug and alcohol use among youth (in part a result of the lack of alternative activities available for youth at night or on weekends); and a lack of quality spaces to get together and talk. Research says that this is one of the most important supports for fostering girls’ leadership.

On a brighter note, young women also listed the best things about living in the Gulf Islands. Over eighty percent of the survey participants described the overall positive atmosphere our communities provide. Safe, caring, supportive and accepting were just a few of the most common terms used. The high school also embodied this caring environment. It was thrilling to see so many responses about the impact SWOVA’s programs, like Respectful Relationships and Pass It On, have had on youth’s experiences. Also ranking high were the rich natural environment and the existing activities, from sports and arts to peer mentoring, that youth can get involved in.

With our survey period over, we have read the insightful responses, analyzed them to produce some fascinating results – but the action does not stop there. Our next steps are to meet and discuss the issues with community stakeholders and the members of SSGLP’s Youth Advisory Council. We hope that our community’s open and supportive nature, which was acknowledged by so many survey participants, will help us make strides towards our goals. We will develop feasible ways to take action on these issues and enrich the experiences of our islands’ youth!

The Only Openly Gay Family in Russia Flee for Children’s Safety – by Lynda Laushway

Author Masha Gessen is leaving her home in Russia and moving to the United States with her partner and three children.  Gessen is the courageous author of the book entitled The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin and has been the only openly gay family in Russia.  The recent Russian crackdown on the LGBT community and rumours of taking children away from homosexual families have led to this decision.  Up until a year ago, the outspoken Gessen had vowed to remain In Russia and was quoted as saying, “This is my home, Putin can leave. I’m staying.”  Now Gessen has decided that Russia has become a place without hope.  “I can do the work in Russia, and I would do the work in Russia, but I have three kids and it’s one thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s risky and difficult; I think in many ways it’s enriching them, and I’m glad my kids have that experience. It’s another thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s hopeless. Now that I’ve lost hope, I need to take them out.”

Author Masha Gessen
Author Masha Gessen

The Russia of today is extremely homophobic.  In addition to facing widespread animosity and frequent violence, gay Russians now fear that they will be stripped of their voice and public face.  The new federal law against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” was approved unanimously except for one abstention in June. It is another manifestation of a long-standing culture of homophobia that is fueled by the state-controlled media.

Under the new law, it is punishable by fine to speak openly about gays and lesbians among young people, which effectively outlaws gay-pride marches, speeches and the like.  Amid demonstrations to protest the controversial law, Moscow police came down hard on gay-rights activists who demonstrated in front of their parliament.

For long-time author, gay rights proponent, and openly Lesbian mother, Masha Gellen- Russia has now become a place without hope for social justice.

Gay rights activists under arrest in Russia
Gay rights activists under arrest in Moscow

The Fat Body Visible – by Megan Manning

fat body invisible

The SWOVA library recently added a film to its collection.  “Fat Body (In) Visible,” is a short film by Margitte Kristjansson and a fascinating insight into the lives of two fat activist women, Jessica and Keena.  The norm in our society is to believe that fat is bad, but there are many fat acceptance (FA) activists who are challenging that belief and who value and enjoy their bodies.

According to the women in the film, fat style is one of the best ways to be political as a fat woman.  People see them walking down the street, wearing clothes that show off rather than hide their shape, and this challenges stereotypes and makes some people uncomfortable.  It has garnered some negative reactions, including being called a ‘fat piggy bitch’.  Jessica and Keena won’t change themselves to make others comfortable and have developed a love and appreciation for their bodies.


“If I could say one thing to young fat people dealing with bullying and their body image … It’s not about you.  It’s about the bully.  It’s about their own issues, about what people are telling them they should feel.  Just don’t let anyone police your body.” Jessica, fat activist.


The idea of fat acceptance (FA) is that every body is a good body.  There is a strong supportive social media community out there for people to share ideas, express their feelings and network.

This film made me think about my own conditioning to judge and/or feel sorry for ‘fat’ women.   A few months ago, I saw a young woman wearing a crop-top which showed her belly, and tight, cut off shorts over large legs covered with fishnet tights.  I thought “oh, girl you are not doing yourself any favours.” After watching this film, I think, perhaps that young woman was not trying to hide her ‘fat’ bits.  Perhaps she was celebrating them.  Our conditioning to hide our lumps and bumps at all costs is pervasive.  Those of us who are not a size 10 or under must stick to dark colours and try to stay invisible.  I’m not saying that I’m going to rush out in a mini skirt and tube top, but I will look on those lumps and bumps (mine and other’s) in a different light.

This film encourages feeling good about your body no matter what size, shape or colour you are and for this reason, it’s a must see for anyone – especially teenage girls – who is struggling with their body image.  You don’t have to be ‘fat’ to appreciate this film.  Even if you don’t value everything these women say, their points are interesting and insightful and will give you some empathy for plus size people.

Social media resources:

SWOVA’s library is free and open to the public, Monday – Thursday 9am to 5pm.  If you would like to rent a film or a book, please come to our office at 344 Lower Ganges Road, (between the Golden Island Chinese restaurant and Dagwoods).  For more information please call: 250-537-1336