#sister2sister

I just got home from the 7th annual sister2sister conference in Toronto and I am energized and inspired by the girls and womyn I met today.  (note - this spelling is not a typo but rather a homage to the organizers who use this version to denote feminism)

This is an event put on by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for grade 8 girls from 9 different schools in the Regent Park area of Toronto with the help of teachers and volunteers.   The dedicated teachers, social workers, principals and volunteers that made today possible were all very helpful, friendly and engaged .  The students were open to ideas and sharing their thoughts and were also respectful and attentive to myself and each other.

Each year there is a different theme. Last year's was United Girls Change the World. This years theme was DreamOutLoud.  The goal is to have the girls dream big about their lives and take steps in the direction of their dreams by learning about themselves and the world they live in

An assortment of workshops are held during the day with such meaningful topics such as The Power of Words which is a  workshop discussing, creating and sharing poetry on topics facing girls today; Gender Jeopardy during which participants test and expand their knowledge on gender; F.L.Y. - Forever Love Yourself whose goal is to help create emotional awareness, self-care and promote self-expression among the participants. Then there was me in the Menstrual Management Made Easy workshop with my DivaCups and Feby bracelets. 

I love nothing better than informing and empowering girls as they begin their menstrual journey about the many products available to them. The girls only knew about traditional sanitary napkins and tampons so this is where I began our conversation. I share various packages and products I have brought including traditional pads and tampons and those of the organic variety. We discuss the merits and drawbacks and applications of them. We look at packaging to decipher the ingredients and question why some are ambiguous in their labelling with contents that "may or may not contain" "and/or" such ingredients as rayon or chlorine.  I then showed them some homemade and purchased reusable sanitary pads and discuss the beauty and the care of them. We discuss Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) and the cause and effect. Then I bring out the DivaCup and offer them this wonderful alternative that is good for them, their wallets and the environment. What ensued was the normal big eyes and wrinkling of noses at the thought but by the end of our discussion and many questions and answers later, the girls were appreciative of their own DivaCup and DivaWash courtesy of the company DivaCup. 

I ask them "How long is the menstrual cycle? Is it the time of your period or is it all month long?" The entire group said it was the time of their period and I told them they were mistaken, that the menstrual cycle is all month long and that many changes go on in our bodies throughout the month. 

Then I bring out a Female Empowerment Bracelet for each girl and explain the nuances and meanings of all the phases throughout the month including ovulation and PMS. 

Before the girls left my classroom I asked them to fill out an evaluation of the workshop and having just read the answers and I find myself overjoyed by some of the answers. 

One of the questions was: Will you wear your bracelet and why? and some of my favourite replies are: 

 

Yes, I will definitely wear it. It’s fun and secretive.
— Abirna, age 13
Of course I will wear it because it will help me as a woman.
— Madina, age 13
Yes I will wear it because it looks awesome.
— Fernanda, age 13

The last question on the evaluation provided me with the most uplifting replies. The question was What do you think is the most important thing you learned in this workshop? 

and the replies were: 

I think the most important thing I learned is to understand your body and respect it.
— Azusa, age 14
I feel more confident about being a woman.
— Madina, age 13
To never feel uncomfortable about being female and having periods.
— Suad, age 13
The most important thing I learned was that the menstrual cycle is all month long and the different things happening in my body and why.
— Chantal, age 13
To embrace my inner woman!
— Halima, age 13
I feel more comfortable with myself.
— Alexis, age 13

The organizers of sister2sister stated in their letter of greeting  "It is our firm belief that when you help one girl, you send ripple effects into the future." and I can honestly say I felt that energy and power today. I feel content knowing these girls are now better equipped to handle this particular aspect of being a woman with confidence.  I can't think of a better or more fulfilling way to spend a frozen Friday in February. 

Posted on February 27, 2015 .