Tagged: youth led events

Re-defining Feminism by Elise Pearson

redefine feminism photo2

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

SparkFest – Sparkling Inspiration

Noel, Kai, and Andrea @ Sparkfest 2015

Noel, Kai, and Andrea @ Sparkfest 2015

Sparkfest is the annual SWOVA fundraiser that the youth from Pass It On organize. This year on April 30, they really outdid themselves: Music by Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean, Tara Maclean & Suzanne Little, spoken word from Morgan Klassen, and the GISS imrov team. Not only did the Pass It On youth organise the show and silent auction, but some also shared wonderful music and stories with us. The room was packed with all ages and the atmosphere was sparkling.

The event raised $3,000 which will go directly towards running the Pass In On program next year.

Thanks to all the generous silent auction donors and to those who bought the wonderful items. Thanks to all the wonderful performers. Thanks to the fabulous team at the Harbour House. Thanks to our Pass It On funders this year: BC Gaming and Island Savings.

And a huge thanks to Kate Nash and the wonderful girls from Pass It On who organized and put on a fabulous, fun evening for all of us to enjoy!

Suzzane Little and Tara MacLean at Sparkfest 2015

Suzzane Little and Tara MacLean at Sparkfest 2015

GISS Improv Team at Sparkfest 2015

GISS Improv Team at Sparkfest 2015

SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

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




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

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


SWOVAEmpowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow

Be Inspired! Sparkle at Sparkfest



Good News! Sparkfest is weeks away, and we are all getting very excited for our 5th annual Pass It On benefit.

Sparkfest will be held on April 30th at the Harbour House Hotel.




This year’s generous performers are Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean; the Brony documentary; Tara Maclean;  Suzanne Little; spoken word from Morgan Klassen;  improv from the ladies only GISS imrov team; and Pass It On youth participants will share their stories and talents. To top it all off we will have our amazingly stacked silent auction. Every penny goes towards running the Pass It On program.  Pass It On is one of several programs for youth operated by SWOVA.  Please come out to support this intimate and amazing night.

 Thursday, April 30th 7:30pm

Harbour House Hotel, Orchard Room

Doors open at 7:30, show starts at 8:00.

Tickets are $20 in advance at the SWOVA office, 344 Lower Ganges Rd, SSI Mon – Weds 9-5 (250-537-1336) and Salt Spring Books, 104 McPhillips Ave,
or $25 at the door


Previous artists who have performed at Sparkfest:-

2013-05-09 Kinnie Starr













Nominate an Emerging Changemaker for International Women’s Day


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


“Less Guilt, More Joy!” – Valdi – By Kate Maurice


Pass It On Meeting

Pass It On Meeting

Working as a mentor supervisor I enjoy a position with the unique perspective of 28 young women ranging in age from 13-18 years old. I see many sides of these young women as we grow to know each other. Where often their insecurity is what drives their character, soon, with time and trust their true selves shine through. Putting words to their insecurities in a safe environment with belief and support for their emerging selves. Needless to say I care deeply about fostering true and positive growth into self and often find myself searching for the qualities which encourage confidence and those which take it away. The last two weekends were an amazingly clear example of the conflicting messages from our society and the hypocrisy in which our young women live.

I was empowered, engaged, and impressed by the women in my community at the celebrations for International Women’s Day that SWOVA and IWAV organized that took place on March 7th and 8th. A fundraiser for Pass it On, Sparkfest showcased amazing female talent and began the weekend events, followed by inspiring changemaker workshops held during the following day, concluding with an award dinner for community-nominated female changemakers from the Southern Gulf Islands. So many people came to support and celebrate women and their achievements. The young women who participated were engaged and positive. Emulating confidence and hope, surrounded by role models of achievement, insight, openness and the diverse reality of what it is to be a woman.


Spark Fest 2014

On this positive note I went to visit my sister in Vancouver. It was lovely to be with her and reconnect. Unfortunately or interestingly, I ended up watching some television with her which is incredibly uncommon in my life on Salt Spring. Although I have watched a lot of T.V. in my past (I last regularly watched 10 odd years ago) I was unprepared for the bombardment of commercials. They ran after only 5-7 minutes of programming and contained at least 60% of ads for hair and make up, 15% for cleaning products, 20% food ads and 5% random sales. The hair, makeup and cleaning ads all contained women. The hair and makeup were a barrage of pulsing images of women’s manicured and enhanced eyes, lips, skin, slight frames and glossy hair. The cleaning ads were of thin attractive “moms” who were stressed about dirt and satiated with sparkles. When I commented, my sister said she didn’t pay any attention to the ads. I agreed that logically and literally she probably knew they were nonsense and ignored them. I wonder though, how completely can we ignore something we are staring right at? How critical can our minds be of what we are subconsciously absorbing? Are we better off when we are young and impressionable? Or are we better at discerning as adults? Do we ever lose our impressionability? And does time wear down our judgments or strengthen them?

I believe humans are easily influenced, especially as teens. We learn from our families and peers and from those things we see and do the most. We are creatures of habit easily falling into patterns or judgments based on what we see and experience. It can be incredibly hard to go against what we are told we are and how we should look and act. Television is only one piece of the social media that all of us are up against. The Internet, billboards, radio, music and movies all actively promote these stereotypes of women young and old. How do we protect one another from these obsessive and constant messages we are all absorbing about how we should look and feel. How do the effects of a weekend with approximately 200 hundred people combat hour by hour pulses of messages that none of us are enough and none of us are the norm?

By Kate Maurice, Coordinator of SWOVA’s Pass It On program




Poster - Teenage Boy11x17PRESS Poster - Little Girl EditPoster - Wife11x17


 A Salt Spring Island campaign taking place with the aim to address stereotypes and silence regarding crime and victims of crime in our community.  SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project secured the funding from the Federal Ministry of Justice to run the campaign as part of National Victims of Crime Awareness Week April 6-12, 2014.

We wanted to do something that would be meaningful in our community.  Our goal was to provide accessible information that would generate thought provoking discussion and awareness.  Although we enjoy a high degree of perceived safety here on SSI, crime does affect our community in profound ways. Particularly disturbing are the disproportionate number of children, youth and women who are victims of crime as a result of family violence, sexual abuse and elder abuse.  The first level of support for many victims of crime is family and friends.  We wanted to illuminate that as well as the resources that are available in our community.

The collective (SWOVA, IWAV, Connecting Generations) has put together three initiatives which will take place over the week.  Firstly, a thought provoking public media campaign aimed to generate community awareness, dialogue and education regarding victims of crime in our community.  Secondly a youth led social media campaign.  The Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project have developed an online contest.  Gift Certificates valued at $50 each for local businesses including (Country Grocer, Uptown Pizza, Barb’s Buns, Treehouse and SS Roasting Company) will be awarded to those who get the most “shares” and “likes” for promoting the information/education materials we have produced.  Anyone can participate in the contest.  Check out the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ssglp) for contest rules.  Thirdly, a Resource Fair will be held in the Gazebo at Centennial Park on Saturday, April 12.  Virtually all of the on island organizations that provide resources and supports to victims of crime and their families will be there.  SSGLP members will be conducting a brief needs assessment, asking islanders what is working on the island, as well as what is missing in our community.  Treats will be provided courtesy of Country Grocer!  Everyone is invited.

The Yes it Happens Here campaign is a collective effort.  Led by SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project, another great program from SWOVA – Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow partnered with IWAV (Island Women Against Violence) and Connecting Generations to make this all happen.  Support provided through a grant from the Department of Justice Canada.


Andria Scanlan – Coordinator, Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project



swovaEmpowering Youth For a Better Tomorrow

Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project

iwav tlogo






Weekend of Entertainment, Workshops, Recognition and Celebration

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014


For over one hundred years, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been a day of celebration and recognition to mark exceptional achievements of women and to build on inequities still to be addressed.  This year SWOVA, IWAV, Victim Services – with the generous support of the Harbour House Hotel – have teamed up to present a weekend of exciting events for all members of our community in honour of the exceptional contributions women make to life in the Southern Gulf Islands.

Weekend activities kick off Friday evening with the annual Sparkfest Evening of Entertainment.  Saturday will include a full day of Inspiring and Energizing Workshops and skill training sessions.  Saturday evening will culminate with a fabulous dinner and recognition ceremony hosted by Elizabeth May.

Members of the public have nominated over twenty women from the Southern Gulf Islands for their ‘change making’ contributions to our communities.  We will honour these women’s achievements from all aspects of community life including; environmental, political, social, science, the arts, education and economic.  Elizabeth May will present awards for these “Community Change Makers” at “An Evening of Celebration & Inspiration” at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm on 8th March.

Friday 7th March, 7:30pm –   SparkFest   ($20 or $25 at the door)
Saturday 8th March, 9am -5pm  –  Workshops  ($10 for the whole day, $5 for youth)
Saturday 8th March, 5:00 pm –  Social & Cash Bar
6:30 pm    –    Dinner    ($35 or $250 for a table of 8, youth, $30.00)

Tickets are available from:  SWOVA, 344 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island. BC, V8K 2V3

For more information please contact SWOVA    e-mail: info@swova.org   Phone: 250-537-1336


All events will take place at the Harbour House Hotel and Organic Farm,

HHLogoBanner2_Print 2
121 Upper Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island,
who have made the event possible through their generosity.

SWOVA New LOGO withTAG black

Youth Take the Lead in Needs Assessment for SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project – by Andria Scanlan, Project Coordinator

Youth Advisory Council with coordinator, Andria Scanlan

Youth Advisory Council with coordinator, Andria Scanlan

The eleven young women who make up the Youth Advisory Council for the Salish Sea Girls’ Leadership Project (SSGLP) will be joining the ranks of off island commuters over the next few weeks.  In order to explore what their peers from Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Saturna Islands believe might be standing in the way of them fully participating in their communities and reaching their full potential.  They will be riding the daily water taxis that bring students to GISS from the Outer Islands to carry out a needs assessment with girls and young women.

Canada’s Girls Action Foundation (March 2013) recently published reports identifying plenty of excellent data showing that girls and young women living in rural communities face significant barriers compared to their urban peers and same aged male counterparts.

Participants of SWOVA’s Salish Sea Girls Leadership Project (SSGLP) are between the ages of 15 – 24 years.  The team has been working towards finalizing the methodology details for the five-island needs assessment in conjunction with the Project Coordinator and UBC based research experts.  We will ask girls and young women to identify and explore issues and barriers that they experience living in our communities.  Once the issues are identified and prioritized, root causes can be identified and plans for change can begin.

Working on the needs assessment

Working on the needs assessment

The task at hand is extremely important.  SSGLP Youth Advisory Council members will survey girls and young women aged 15 – 24 years who have primarily grown up in the Southern Gulf Islands.  According to Statistics Canada  (2012) there are 615 females between the ages of 15 – 24 years living in our five island grouping, which coincides with School District # 64 (Salt Spring, Saturna, Galiano, Mayne and Pender Islands).

“We plan to survey 25 percent of the total eligible population living amongst the islands this summer which will result in a statistically powerful representation of our young female population”,  Andria Scanlan,  Project Coordinator.  Lisa Halstead, SD# 64 Superintendent and project supporter has given the go ahead for SSGL members to ride the school water taxis in order to access the Outer Islands population.

“It’s exciting to be able to connect with other youth from smaller islands.  Physically travelling to the Outer Islands is the best way to start taking change into our own hands.”  Nikky Varlis Love, Youth Advisory Council member.

Plans to collect data from the SSI population are also being finalized and will include posting SSGL members in different places throughout the community this spring and summer to collect the information.  According to Sarah Kyle, also from the Youth Advisory Council “I am looking forward to hearing what young women in our community have to say and seeing people’s reaction to the survey”.  Data Analysis will take place later this summer.  Stay tuned!

A truly inspiring evening – by Megan Manning

Kinnie Starr gets the crowd moving at Sparkfest 2013

Kinnie Starr gets the crowd moving at Sparkfest 2013


A clear vision, a number of passionate and engaged youth, inspiring performers, and many generous community donations, make up the Sparkfest recipe for success.

The vision comes from Kate Maurice – Mentor/Supervisor of SWOVA’s Pass It On program – and from amazing organizer, James Cowan.  The passionate and engaged youth are the participants in SWOVA’s Pass It On program.  The inspiration flows through the incredible performers.

The other ingredient in the Sparkfest recipe which made it such a success this year was the audience!  Over 100 members of our wonderful community came out to show support for youth on Salt Spring Island.

On the bill for this year’s event were music from Kinnie Starr, T.Nile, and Julia Beattie, dance from Naomi Jason & Advanced Dancers, poetry from Cat Paquette, and yoga from Shannon Cowan. The performers honoured the mentors in their lives and shared stories about their journeys.

Sparkfest raised funds which will make a big difference to youth in the Pass It On program. This year, 15 young women from the high school mentored 15 grade 8 girls, helping them to make the transition to high school.  The concept of Pass it On is to pass on wisdom, information, inspiration, understanding, and support from adults to young women, and young women to girls, thus strengthening our community ties and connecting youth – who often feel isolated from their community.  Sparkfest was a perfect example of passing on creativity, inspiration and generosity of spirit.

The list of people to thank is long and we value the incredible support from our community.  Businesses gave prizes for the silent auction, Harbour House donated the Orchard room and accommodation for off island performers, Rawsome Living Foods fed them while they were here, and all the performers donated their time and creativity. In addition, to all the businesses and parents who donated time goods, services and support – a huge THANK YOU!

In gratitude…




Julia Beattie at Sparkfest 2013

Julia Beattie at Sparkfest 2013

T. Nile at Sparkfest 2013

T. Nile at Sparkfest 2013

Kinnie Starr at Sparkfest 2013
Kinnie Starr at Sparkfest 2013