One of SWOVA’s newest initiatives, the Salish Sea Girls Leadership Project (SSGLP), aims to build leadership capacity and opportunities for girls and young women in the Gulf Islands.
SSGLP’s first major undertaking has been to conduct a needs assessment survey among young women aged 15 to 24 living in the Gulf Islands. “We plan to survey 25 per cent of the total eligible population, which will result in a statistically powerful representation of our young female population,” says project coordinator Andria Scanlan about the process. The survey asks about the barriers and opportunities girls experience growing up in our communities. So far, survey participants have been enthusiastic about sharing their voices and given thoughtful responses exploring subjects from body image to bullying.
In June, the 10 Salt Spring girls on the project’s Youth Advisory Council rode the early morning water taxis, distributing the survey to students travelling to GISS (Gulf Islands Secondary School) from Galiano, Mayne, Pender and Saturna islands. Listening to the voices of girls who live in the outer islands, not only Salt Spring, is important to the project’s success.
Nikky Varlis Love, one of the Youth Advisory Council members, spoke positively about this chance to connect with her peers, “Physically travelling to the outer islands is the best way to take change into our own hands.”
The team is also distributing the survey through many channels on Salt Spring, and it is available online as well (see link below).
Some of the survey subjects covered are: young women’s access to leadership opportunities; sense of connection to others in their community; and making their voices heard. The survey also addresses transportation, safety, physical and emotional health, and the availability of quality places to hang out. Young women are asked to share their experiences in these areas and give input on possible improvements. Existing national research indicates those issues are commonly faced by girls in rural areas of Canada – more so than their urban or male peers. A 2012 Girls Action Foundation report finds that leadership opportunities and supports, along with mentorship and community engagement are key elements to rural young women’s success. The Girls Action Foundation’s belief that “every girl is an expert in her own life” reflects SSGLP’s decision to ask young women directly what obstacles they would like to see addressed and how.
All young women aged 15 to 24 who live in the Gulf Islands are encouraged to help out and share their thoughts by completing the survey online at https://www.esurveycreator.com/s/93d2a72. Even those who no longer live here can take part, as long as they grew up in the Gulf Islands. Paper copies of the survey can also be picked up at the SWOVA office (344 Lower Ganges Road).
SSGLP urgently needs about 50 more surveys to be filled out by the end of this week, so they are asking anyone eligible to participate as soon as possible.
The results of the needs assessment survey will be made available in mid-August. By the fall, SSGLP will be taking steps to create change based on the issues the islands’ young women identify as most important.
You can help support SSGLP by donating your grocery receipts to the project’s new Save-a-Tape box, #137, at Country Grocer.
Chloe Sjuberg
Communications Coordinator
SWOVA – Salish Sea Girls Leadership Project

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