Empowering girls

Why I’ve Spent my Life Dedicated to Women and Girls – and Why You Should do the Same

I was 11 years old when I lost my self-esteem.

I had just moved to Canada from Jamaica. Struggling with culture shock and a new school – not to mention the uncertainty of pre-teen girlhood – I desperately needed a mentor, a strong role model who believed in me. Instead, my teacher at the time decided that I was neither bright, nor capable. 

The damage to my self-esteem from that judgment has taken a lifetime to overcome – to remember who I am, and what I can do.

Yet I’m thankful for that experience because it ignited a life-long passion for social justice and advocating for the rights of women and girls.

When Have You Defied A Stereotype?

This story was originally published in the Fall 2014 issue of SHE Magazine.

Noushy Tavassoli

I am an architect and defied the stereotype that an immigrant woman can’t be successful in this male dominated world. It was hard to gain credibility and respect. I only would get jobs that used half my skills, so I worked to get accreditations that only a few people have in Canada. Today I work with the same men that openly said I wouldn’t make it. But I did—because I always believed in myself!

Rebecca Hare

People assume I am a ‘girly girl’ because I usually wear dresses or skirts to the office. In reality, I play soccer, run half-marathons, and watch way too much sports on TV. The highlight of my year is my annual March Madness trip. I wear skirts because I HATE shopping and can never find pants that fit. I always enjoy that moment when people finally get to know me and say “Oh, wow, you’re not at all who I thought you would be.” Exactly.

A Message to High School Students: Ignore Gender Stereotypes and Do What You Love

As a grade 12 student, I can clearly remember the stress of having to decide where I was going to apply to university. Would I apply to schools close to home, or to schools far away? Maybe even outside of Canada? It was a busy time, but one area in which I didn’t have any stress was what major I was going to apply for. I knew very clearly that I was going to study engineering.

You see, I had been told since I was young that I’m good at math and science, and therefore, I should go into a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related field. I took great pride in the fact that I planned to study engineering. However, there was a negative side to this STEM encouragement. The praise for my early success with math and science courses often went so far as to mock those who excelled in English, sociology, or art.

5 Back to School Self-Esteem Tips from Award-Winning Songwriter and Producer Anjulie

Yes, Anjulie is a Juno-award-winning, platinum-selling songwriter and producer. It’s true that she’s worked with stars like Nicki Minaj, Icona Pop, Kelly Clarkson, Diplo, Zedd, Boombox Cartel and Benny Benassi. But when she was younger, she went through back to school jitters just like many other young girls may be experiencing this month. Now she wants to share what helped her in the hopes that it helps another young girl feel confident inside and outside the classroom!

Make Friends with People in Different Groups and Grades

One thing that was good about not being a popular girl in high school was that I had to be more creative with my friendships. Instead of trying to fit in with people who weren’t awesome enough to want to hang out with me, I found people that had common interests in other areas like the chess club, drill practice, and student council. The more motley your crew, the better you’ll be at making friends as you grow.

This October, Celebrate Body Confidence

It’s back to school season! The thought of a new grade or even a new school may be a little daunting for many children, but there’s the usual excitement to see that old friend again, say hi to their favourite teacher, or go shopping for that cool back to school item with parents or guardians. However, for far too many of our children, back to school means back to body shaming and size- and appearance-based discrimination on a daily basis – and that’s not including cyberbullying which never takes summer break.

According to PREVNet, Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention, 75% of people say they’ve been affected by bullying and 78% of Canadians say not enough is being done to stop bullying in their community. And unfortunately, when it comes to cyberbullying, we know from a recent Canadian Women’s Foundation study that Canadians aren’t optimistic about the future: 87% of Canadians believe the next generation of women in Canada will be just as or more likely to experience online harassment. The effects of bullying online and offline can include lowered self-esteem, habitual school absenteeism, poor academic performance, and heightened risks for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, engaging in unhealthy relationships, criminal activities, and even suicide.

Inspiring Girls to be Amazing: Circles of Care-Circles of Courage

Each Thursday night, Jennifer, a Malahat Nation Elder, has an important job to do. As a facilitator of the Circles of Care-Circles of Courage girls’ group, she’s in charge of the carpool.

Before each session, she makes the drive to pick up girls from her community and the neighbouring Cowichan Nation. When the program first launched in 2016, the girls didn’t say much during carpool. Now, when they see Jennifer’s car pull up, they come bounding out of their homes, full of excitement. The girls’ group has become one of the best parts of their week.

Lending a Hand and Making a Difference

Research shows that girls as young as 6 have gendered ideas about intelligence, and who is best suited to careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

TechGyrls is a program that gives girls ages 9 to 13 the opportunity to explore, create, design, and share in all things STEM.  Funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation’s Girls’ Fund, this YWCA Cambridge program is empowering girls to engage in STEM when society tells them they can’t.

The program doesn’t have a curriculum. Instead it’s led by the girls’ interests and ideas, making each program as unique as the girls who participate. Naturally, when the program received funding to purchase a 3D printer, the TechGyrls were excited to learn how to use it.

After spending some time learning about how the printer worked and designing their own products to print, one TechGyrls group at a Cambridge Public School decided they could to do more. They looked to eNABLING the future, an online community that openly shares the files and instructions needed to print and produce prosthetic hands.

Where Have all the Women Engineers Gone?

This post has been edited and was originally published on CarlyFriesen.com

I was, as Britney Spears would put it, not a girl, not yet a woman, when I excitedly started my first year of Engineering at the University of Guelph. I thought I was going to become an engineer, change the world, and bust through the glass ceiling Wonder Woman style. I had absolutely no doubts in my mind that I could and would do it.

As time passed, I started to wonder how thick this glass ceiling really was. With each year I began to see gender come into play more and more.

How to Talk to your Child about Gender

This story was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of SHE Magazine. 

“Are you having a boy or a girl?”

I wonder how much longer we’ll ask expectant parents this question. Maybe instead we should start asking ourselves why assigning a gender at birth is so important to us.

More and more young people in Canada are starting to express their gender in unique ways that go beyond the masculine/feminine binary.  As parents, it is critical that we respond with love, curiosity, and an open mind.

Effective Empowerment: Strategies for Young Girls with Disabilities

The word ‘empowerment’ has been popular for many years.  In Effective Empowerment: Strategies for Accessible Education, I note that empowerment is “…based on the idea that giving people skills, resources, opportunities, and strategies will enable them to be accountable for their own actions, and will contribute to their independence, competence, and satisfaction.”

When it comes to disabled girls ages 8-12, the challenges they face in reaching empowerment are often the same issues that their non-disabled peers face. However, they also face their own specific hurdles.