Tagged: Leadership

Respectful Relationships National Grantee Meeting in Calgary by Christina Antonick

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“Together we can face any challenges as deep as the ocean and as high as the sky.”
– Sonia Gandhi-

In early October, I was blessed to travel to Calgary for a national meeting of Canadian Women’s Foundation’s 17 Teen Healthy Relationships Grantees – of which our Respectful Relationships is one. CWF are working to stop violence, end poverty, and empower girls in every province and territory in Canada. For 15 years they have been investing in teen healthy relationship programs; the last five of which have been multi-year investments. These grants focus on school-based healthy relationship programs and were developed as a key strategy to prevent violence against women and girls.

During our two days together, I had the great pleasure of meeting over 30 educators, activists and community mobilizers from across the country. From my hometown province, Nova Scotia’s Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE) with programs in Indian Brook and Membertou First Nations, in Montreal, Building Healthy Relationships at Bureau de la Communauté Haïtienne de Montreal, TAG-V: Teens Against Gender Violence Abrigo Centre doing amazing work with youth in Toronto. Newcomer Youth & Healthy Relationships a co-ed, school-based healthy relationships program targeted to newcomer refugee youth (aged 12-17). These are only a few of the many national programs that are offering exceptional youth violence prevention programs and our 2 days together left me full of inspiration, hope and pride! I am also really grateful that SWOVA’s Respectful Relationship’s Program joins together with communities across Canada to create a network of national education models aimed at eliminating violence and fostering health, safety and well being for youth.

by Christina Antonick, R+R Facilitator

 

Photo: Megan Manning

 

Australian’s research on best-practice respectful relationships programs includes SWOVA – by Ellen Poyner

Ellyn with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

Ellen with Lynda Laushway, Christina Antonick, and Sharyn Carroll

I’m an Australian Social Worker, who had the privilege of visiting SWOVA as part of my Churchill Fellowship – a scholarship supporting me to travel to Canada and the USA to investigate Family Violence and Sexual Assault prevention programs, approaches and evaluations.

As I travel around, my intention is to learn about unique and promising practice, to then share when I return home. I was inspired by Lynda, Christina and Sharyn who shared details about SWOVA’s Respectful Relationships program, training and youth engagement. I was particularly interested to learn about the Youth Team as I’ve not heard of such an established youth-leadership component in any program back home. I loved that the focus was on providing further enrichment and opportunity for the participants, as much as supporting them to co-facilitate future programs.

I was also interested to hear about the strengths and challenges of SWOVA’s online, module style training which allows the program to reach more young people in more parts of Canada. This is perhaps something for Australian’s to consider, given our equally large and expansive country.

Given that Salt Spring Island is relatively isolated, I was amazed that the SWOVA team has achieved so much.

Thanks for having me!

by Ellen Poyner

If you would like, you can follow my Fellowship blog – ellenpoyner.wordpress.com

 

Ellyn with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Ellen with Cynthia Gillis (Chair of SWOVA board)

Re-defining Feminism by Elise Pearson

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I find that definitions can be limiting and problematic, and I’d like to see if I can encourage you to think for yourselves about what this word, or movement, or ideology might mean to you. Instead I’ll start by providing a few different definitions I’ve come across that I like, and try to give evidence as to why I think that feminism is a topic vital of covering here.

Bell Hooks describes feminism as the movement to end sexism.

Others say it is a collective effort to dismantle patriarchy.

A common definition is the aim to strive towards political, economic, cultural and social equality for women.

I say “for women” because throughout history (at least in the Western world) feminism has largely been coined as a “women’s” fight or movement. I’ll talk mainly about the West because that is the world that many of us find ourselves situated in. I think that when we discuss any kind of social justice work, it is vital that we start with ourselves.

We have the first wave and the second wave and the third waves of feminism, and I am not going to deny that there have been pivotal moments throughout our history that have largely influenced where we are today in terms of equality. We’ve made some huge leaps. However, I am curious about the spaces between these moments – what has and still is falling through the cracks, and how each and every one of us participates in ways that allow us to be complicit in systems that work to recreate and maintain social inequality.

I have come across a lot of people that shy away from the word feminism. I believe that this word is misunderstood. For myself, feminism has never been an attack on men, but people ask all the time, why not humanism?

I’ll give you the short version of my response: many of the systems we live in here, are patriarchal. Unfortunately, gender-based discrimination is still pervasive in our culture; unequal pay for the same work, sexual harassment and abuse, sexist comments, and still the constant message that one half of our worlds’ population is worth less than their male counterparts.

We are often bombarded with media and messages about what a “feminist” is. I see a disconnection between what feminist ideologies have sought to uncover or achieve, and common perceptions or stereotypes of what feminism is or should be. The self-identified feminists I know are curious about social inequality. I have witnessed many, across any gender category, who do “feminist work” that have often been silenced in sometimes disturbing ways, because to question the systems and social norms we exist within means questioning the ways in which we ourselves perpetuate them.

What I have come to learn about feminist theory is that many feminist academics don’t believe in an end goal of perfect equality for all. They seek to find ways in which to address how or why we live in a socially unjust world, and provide insight into ways that we might seek to do better. Let’s take an oversimplified example and contrast a child living in the Western world, say Canada, who never goes without, and is surrounded by TV screens with a child living in Sub-Saharan Africa, who has a plastic bottle to play with. How do we compare their happiness? I think that many feminists I know would agree that “equality” across the board is not necessarily going to be the answer. Better quality of life is going to look different across different contexts. One of the things that I admire about feminism is that it tends to cherish complexity.

The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project seeks to develop leadership skills in young women. This work has provided me with a window into the ramifications of living in what I call, a wounded world. It has forced me to look at myself, and listen to how my peers suffer from the same fears that I did and still do – feelings of inadequacy, barriers keeping them from stating how they truly feel, loving whom they truly want to love, striving for what they truly want, and caring for their bodies amidst the pressures of an unattainable ideal of beauty. Despite having been handed immense amounts privilege, too many of us are hurting. In the Girl’s Leadership project, I have been witness to the power of what I call feminism. We speak honestly, curiously, and approach conversations with open minds and hearts.

What really hurts is that we live in a world where men and women are expected to BE certain ways.  A world where men are dominant and women subordinate and anyone in between doesn’t even fit inside the frame — a world without a Salish Sea Boys’ Leadership Project. I grieve for that world, and I’m sad for men. In the past, feminism has targeted and been exclusive and sometimes it has had good reason to be. It’s 2015 and we live and exist in this world together. No one benefits from oppression. No one benefits from a world where men are told not to care and not to cry and women are told be quiet and comply. What I see is feminism bringing light to the tangled mess that we’ve made of our society.

I don’t think that it is the word Feminism that scares us, or even it’s connotations. What scares us is the the potential that if we could be honest with ourselves and the way things are going in our world, we’d see that they are pretty messed up. That would call into question a lot of truths we (often somewhat unconsciously) hold about others and ourselves. I am a woman. I am cisgenderd. I am white. But what do those categories do for me? Why am I allowed to participate in spaces where I can be emotional, open and honest with my heart? What are the kinds of barriers I may or may not face as I move through the world as a result of both my privileges and oppressions? I think there is value in asking questions about the way the world works, and noticing how that directly impacts who we are. Only then can we forge a path towards the kind of world we want to live in. Feminism has allowed me to find agency in awareness, both open-mindedness and critique, and curiosity.

I wish I could somehow make feminism more accessible, because I think that the world could be a better, more socially just, place if we were all a little bit more curious, and a little bit more honest. I think the best place to start is with ourselves. So I boldly encourage you to ask more questions and to be more honest, whatever that looks like for you – also, unabashedly, to promote feminism.

Elise Pearson, Outreach Coordinator for the Salish Sea Girl’s Leadership project

 

 

 

SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

The Process of Consent by Elise Pearson

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On May 25th girls from the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project and recruits from grade 12 at GISS (Gulf Islands Secondary School) entered the high school to talk to the grade 11 students about sexual health and consent. In my own experience, and in speaking with young people in my community, the process of negotiating consent seems to be conflated with a multitude of pressures. R+R has definitely helped to create dialogue amongst youth.  However, aspects of negotiation that are rarely discussed are the roles that power, privilege and stereotypes play within everyday expectations of what it means to be a sexual being. Rejection came up as another challenge when talking about consent, and consumption of drugs and alcohol also complicate any form of negotiation.

I believe that any time a pair of people negotiate consent, they bring expectations about gender identity, sexuality and experience. We opened our workshops with conversations about stereotypes with the hope that students and our facilitators might address some dynamics of power/disempowerment that exist in our day-to-day lives. I felt we only skimmed the surface; still, our object was to invoke conversation about how we identify, and how this might influence the way that we treat one another. In discussions after our role-play on consent, we questioned why certain stereotypes came up, where they came from, and how they might be debunked.

We had several conversations in our group about vulnerability, confidence, empowerment, and specifically, how we tend to attribute rejection to a lack of self-worth. The process of rejecting some one else who might be pursuing you was seen as more challenging than being rejected. Our consent scenarios only showed glimpses of what it looks like to experience this “letting down.” I am curious about how youth, or anyone, can communicate in ways that allow for rejection to be a positive process. Instead of immediately attributing rejection to personal inadequacy, can we thank each other for being clear about our boundaries?  Our hope with these workshops was to get students thinking about alternative, healthier processes of agreement or consensus. For whoever is initiating, is it possible not to pressure the other person if they seem unsure? Can we use our personal power to be receptive to rejection? Another question was raised in our group –

“why would you want to try and have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you?”

While Canadian law clearly states that you cannot receive consent from someone who is intoxicated, the reality is that youth are negotiating sexual activity in the same moment that they are dealing with substance use. Our team of facilitators decided collectively that the best message to promote was a sober, enthusiastic yes, but conversations about these issues need to keep happening, because there is clearly no hard and fast solution.

First and foremost, the process of negotiating consent is dependent on those involved. Regardless of social pressures, they decide how those interactions play out. As much as we could all encourage vulnerability, open communication, safety and consent, I believe it will take a lot more than an afternoon of conversation to instigate consenting sexual activity across the board. There is a deeply gendered history of non-consenting sexual interactions. Still, the fact that conversations are even happening with youth today might mean that we are moving forward in a positive direction. I returned home after our workshops and talked with my family and friends about consent, and perhaps students in grade 11 and our team of facilitators did the same.

Elise Pearson, Outreach Coordinator for the Salish Sea Girl’s Leadership project

 

Nurture Commitment – By Kate Nash

Pass It On members with Coordinator/Facilitator Kate Nash

Pass It On members with Coordinator/Facilitator Kate Nash

As the last months of Pass it On pass by, I am confronted with the word commitment. We all practice commitment in our lives, more often unconsciously.  We are the most committed to our lovers, children, friends and habits, following through in our support without thought or question.

Pass it on is a program that relies on commitment. Enthusiastic and optimistic young woman join the program in September, committing themselves to weekly meetings and phone calls with younger buddies. Overly confident, they make bold promises and form expectations of their commitment and engagement. We all do it. When something excites us we promise commitment, in whatever form. The actuality of that commitment over the test of time can often break us. Are we taught in life how to follow through?

What keeps us committed? Love, engagement, necessity, devotion, ego? In these bustling days of high expectations, we often over-commit ourselves, but under-commit ourselves in all the little ways. As an overly empathetic person, I often find myself seeing all the gaps and roles I should fill and neglecting the most necessary commitments like quiet days with my family working on projects solely for us. By April, young women in Pass it On who had made big expectations of commitment in the beginning are often left floundering, overly committed and on the brink of graduation or summer, creating new expectations, and new commitment.

Do we breed this in our society? Do we support and nurture commitment? What significance does commitment hold? Does it nurture us? I am beginning to believe that one’s commitment to another makes or breaks them. I believe that when we demonstrate commitment to one another and follow through with it, we excel. When we speak with someone and commit to the conversation, with eye contact and our full attention, a trust is developed. When we trust, we relax, we open up, we show more, feel more and give more back. I am beginning to believe that we need to make more small simple commitments to one another so that we can begin to discern more clearly the larger, broader commitments we can truly make and truly fulfill. When we commit ourselves to a conversation, a moment, an action, we are giving genuine support. When we are genuinely supported we begin to grow and thrive.

Every year I see the mentor buddy relationships develop healthier, happier and more confident young women. Imagine a world where young women and men experienced regular dedicated commitment to the moments of their lives. Not just from family, but from friends, teachers and community members. I challenge you to be more committed to the moment – to those you are sharing it with and to yourself. If you are moved, show your support. A supportive community is committed to our advancement, and advance is what we do every day.

If feel so inspired, please join us in Pass it On this Thursday evening at Sparkfest. Come and celebrate a small group of young women all practicing the art of commitment and support. A program making small steps in confidence and character building for young women here on Salt Spring.

By Kate Nash, Mentor Supervisor & Pass It On Coordinator

 

 

Sparkfest

A benifit for SWOVA’s Pass It On program

Thursday April 30th
Harbour House Hotel, Orchard Room
7:30 doors, 8:00pm start.
$20 advance tickets at Salt Spring Books $25 at the door

Presenting:
Ashleigh Ball (from Hey Ocean and voice artist for My Little Ponies and Care Bears)
Tara Maclean
Suzanne Little
Morgan Klassen (spoken word)
GISS ladies only improv

and much more

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SWOVAEmpowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Nominate an Emerging Changemaker for International Women’s Day

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Since 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been an opportunity to recognise exceptional achievements of women.  To celebrate IWD this year SWOVA will be honouring Emerging Leaders – young women who are already making exceptional contributions to life in the Southern Gulf Islands.

We are seeking nominations from the community of girls and young women (up to 39 years old) who have been an inspiration to other women, changed their community or world, challenged barriers, or demonstrated leadership in other ways that have impressed you.

These young women will be celebrated at the second annual Changemaker Awards dinner on Saturday, March 7, 2015, at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm.   Our MP, Elizabeth May, will present the awards to the nominees.

Tickets for the dinner last year sold out early and Islanders were clamouring for more. The event was so inspiring and well-received that SWOVA has decided to make the event an annual celebration and fund raiser.  Dinner tickets will go on sale on February 7, 2015 and can be purchased at Salt Spring Books for $35 each.

 

To Nominate a Young Changemaker:

Please tell us in 450 words or less why you think your nominee should be honoured as an Emerging Leader.  Provide contact information for yourself and your nominee.  Due to the popularity of last year’s event and because there are many amazing emerging leaders in our community, we will only be celebrating the first 15 nominations received.  Nominations will close when 15 have been received or at 5pm on February 4th, 2015 – whichever comes first.

Send entries via email to: swovawomensdaydinner@gmail.com or snail mail to SWOVA, 344 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2V3.  For more information call: 250-537-1336 (Office hours:  Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 5 pm.)

 

SWOVA  empowering youth for a better tomorrow

 

An Invitation from Emma Watson to Join the ‘He for She Campaign’ in the Struggle for Gender Equality

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 “Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man hating.  If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.  For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.  It is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” – Emma Watson at the United Nations

Video of Emma Watson’s speech to the UN

 

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A Young People’s History of the United States – a book review by Megan Manning

 

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“Maybe our future can be found in the past’s moments of kindness and courage rather than its centuries of warfare.” – Howard Zinn

Most history books are written by the winners, but this book presents history from a different point of view.  The history of the United States from the perspective of the poor, slaves, women, Native Americans, and other oppressed populations is a sad story.   Regardless of whether you agree with Howard Zinn or not, it is good to hear a different perspective.

The most interesting parts of this book are the many quotes that Zinn uses to illustrate his points. Christopher Columbus who is usually portrayed as a hero and adventurer who ‘discovered’ America, says the following about his encounter with the native people:

“They (Arawak Indians) brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and Hawks’ bells.  They willingly traded everything they owned … They were well built, with good bodies and handsome features … They do not bear arms, and do not know them … They would make fine servants …With 50 men we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want.” 

It sounds pretty scary, but it only illustrates the prevailing attitude of a vast majority of Europeans at the time.

This quote from former slave, John Little, is a poignant description of what it was like to be a slave. “They say that slaves are happy, because they laugh, and are merry.  I myself and three or four others received 200 lashes in the day, and had our feet in fetters: yet, at night, we would sing and dance, and make others laugh at the rattling of our chains.  Happy men we must have been!  We did it to keep down trouble, and to keep our hearts from being completely broken: this is as true as the gospel!”

Zinn devotes a few chapters to industrialization and the unionist movement.  This could have been a recent quote off the internet, except that it’s from 1895!  “The issue is Socialism verses Capitalism.  I am for Socialism because I am for humanity.  We have been cursed with the reign of gold long enough.  Money constitutes no proper basis for civilization  The time has come to regenerate society. – we are on the eve of a universal Change.”  Eugene Debs, 1895.

In the chapters on recent history, Zinn focuses more on the positive. For instance, some of the families of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Centre victims traveled to Afghanistan to meet Afghan families who had lost loved ones in the American Bombing.  One of the Americans was Rita Lasar, whose brother had died in the attack.  Lasar said that she would devote the rest of her life to working for peace.

Another suggestion for how to change our  perception in the world:

“We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights.  We are hated because our government denies these things to people in third World countries whose resources are coveted by our multinational corporations.  That hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism. … Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children … In short, we should do good instead of evil.  Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us?  That is the truth the American people need to hear.” Robert Bowman, former US Air Force Officer, 1998.

A Young People’s History of the United States is written in a simple straightforward style that will appeal to the 12 – 18 age group, but I would also recommend it to anyone interested in reading a snapshot of history from a different perspective.

 

by Megan Manning – Librarian/Administrator, SWOVA

 

 

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