News

Hey Allies

Hey allies, Thanks for your support!

We’re pleased that the conversation about getting more women involved in local government has continued on past the Leadership Summit at the end of October. With two elections coming up next year, it’s a great opportunity to make change and see more women involved and elected. We’re even more pleased that new voices have joined the conversation and brought this to the attention of elected officials at council tables in Niagara.

As women, we know very well that the under-representation of women in local government is a problem and we are doing something about it. Thankfully, there are many women-led groups in Niagara, both formal and informally-organized, who have been working on this priority for some time now. Collectively, we appreciate your support and we invite you to work together with us to make it better. Male allies are an important part of the movement but male voices are not and should not be the primary ingredient.

As elected officials, citizens and advocates, here are some ways you can support and amplify the work we’re doing to get more women involved in politics and community leadership:

  • Be a mentor. If you’ve run for office, or held a position of leadership, share your learning and your experiences with someone new. As our friend Kim Milan would say, “Share everything you learn.”
  • Make connections and help to build networks by introducing women to people who might be interested in mentoring or chatting with them.
  • Connect with and share the latest news from women’s groups and organizations who are on the ground and doing this kind of important work, groups like Women In Niagara (WIN), the Niagara Women in Politics Group that presented at the Leadership Summit, or individuals you know.
  • Pass the mic! If you’ve got a public platform, share that with someone. Pass the mic or use your seat to give someone new the opportunity to participate in community conversations.
  • Look around and start asking questions.  When you’re at a meeting, a presentation, or on a board, look around and ask, where is the diversity? Do the attendees and participants represent my community? Are there women at the table? Does this group represent my community? And ask these questions out loud.
  • Avoid “manels” – all-male panels of “experts”. As recent media articles pointed out, there are plenty of qualified, dynamic and talented women in Niagara who would make a fantastic addition to panel discussions. If you’re organizing or participating in a forum, summit or conference in our community, demand balance and strive for parity within the speaker lineup, even if it means giving up your own seat to make way for a woman who brings a new face and a new voice to add to the conversation.
  • Get loud. Call out sexism when you see or experience it.
  • Recognize women in leadership of all varieties. Recognize leaders who may not be at the front of the line or on the podium, yet are doing great work in their communities.
  • Seek out and encourage diverse voices in community conversations.
  • Listen! You don’t have all of the answers, and don’t have to. Welcome input from all sides of an issue, and be open to hearing new voices.
  • When it comes to issues of gender equity, women are experts with lived experiences to learn from.
  • Show compassion through belief and acceptance for individuals who wish to share their lived experiences.
  • Be a good ally and compassionate leader by listening, showing your support, and being open to always learning.

We look forward to working together with all of the individuals, groups and allies to make real progress and get more women involved and elected in 2018, and future years.

 

Start Somewhere

Originally Posted: YWCA Niagara Region Blog

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Sana Shah (Brock University)

On Saturday October 28th, YWCA Niagara Region hosted the fourth Annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women. Since October is Women’s History Month, it seemed to be fitting to end the month on such a positive note. It was great to see a few men present in the crowd, who supported women’s rights and ability to lead in a rather male dominated community. I hope to see more men in the future at the summit because gender inequality does not only concern women; it is a larger problem concerning the Canadian community as a whole.

Ashley Callingbull was the keynote speaker for the summit, who became the first First Nations and Canadian woman to win the Mrs. Universe title in 2015. She is devoted to supporting the community. She shared with the audience her struggling childhood, and how she as a First Nations woman has to work extra hard to make achievements. Shining light on this issue, she further explained how she experienced racism from a young age. She brought attention to cases of missing and murdered indigenous women. However, most importantly she reminded the crowd that you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be, and that the only person holding you down is yourself. So let us hold on to that and try to change the gender divide one-step at a time.

Once Ashley wrapped up her address, we had an opportunity to attend a workshop from a choice four, which included; Leadership in parenting, Women in politics, Breaking barriers in mental health, and Business and entrepreneurship.

I attended the Women in politics workshop, which focused greatly on the Niagara region. It was led by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Mishka Balsom, Debbie Zimmerman, Joyce Morroco, Carol Stewart-Kirkby, and Shirley Cordiner. We discussed as a group about Niagara’s democratic deficit in women’s representation in local politics. There is a link between low female voter turnout and low female representation in politics. After the workshop we took a short break and had a choice of attending another workshop from the following options; Aboriginal community justice, Conquering barriers to success, Decolonizing language, Disability leadership, Fair trade, Race and racism, Self-care for caregivers, Success in a male dominated industry, Women in STEM, and Volunteerism

I chose to attend the workshop on Aboriginal Justice, let by Celeste Smith. She spoke about the over-representation of Aboriginal youth as incarcerated individuals, regardless of Aboriginal people making up only 4% of the Canadian population. Smith is the director of Three Fires Community Justice Program, which is a diversion program that provides healing for Aboriginal youth and adults charged with criminal offence. It focuses on the community taking responsibility of the individuals that is at fault. The program begins with the belief that everyone is worth something.

Based on the two workshops I attended, I only wish I could have attended all of them, as they were quite insightful. The summit came to a closing with a discussion panel about women in politics; with a focus on voting, and closing remarks from Elisabeth Zimmerman (Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region).

This summit was a Call to Action, a call to show up, take action and support one another. In order to make a large impact we need to start small, we need to start somewhere. Even the women’s rights movement started with only a handful of likeminded people who eventually got women the status of being ‘people’ in Canada and the right to vote. It may not be as bad as back then, but we are still far from being on the same playing field and having the same representation. As I end this piece, I encourage, just like most of the presenters at the summit, to save the date OCTOBER 22ND 2018 to go out and vote in the municipal elections. Have your voice heard. We can do anything we want; we just need to start somewhere.

Niagara’s Leaders Rise Up – The Standard

By Damian Goulbourne, special to Postmedia News

It feels like so many people in Niagara are again rising up.

Our region has a storied past of courageous leaders who rose up to make a difference in the lives of their neighbours, friends and family.

Harriet Tubman is part of Niagara’s story and we should be immensely proud of her efforts to protect and rescue those who escaped slavery. The Underground Railroad was built by the sacrifices of many who came before her but she was the conductor. It is written that Tubman told Benjamin Drew in St. Catharines in 1855, “I grew up like a neglected weed — ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it. Then I was not happy or contented.”

Niagara was seen as a gateway to freedom and the Freedom Trail ended at the British Methodist Episcopal Church/Salem Chapel in Fort Erie. Thousands of people escaped persecution on the trail and the citizens and leaders of the day stepped forward to support their cause.

This past weekend the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women was organized by the YWCA, and it was reported that the theme for the summit was breaking barriers. Three-hundred strong rose up to attend, exercised their liberty and explored how together they can make a difference in Niagara.

Social media over the weekend was inspirational as photos and quotes from the summit where shared, re-tweeted and reflected upon. I have learned that various issues were explored with action to be taken economically, socially and politically.

READ MORE

“My Culture Saved My Life” – The Standard

Originally Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2017 7:28:34 EDT PM The Standard

Love and live fearlessly. Those are the words that Ashley Callingbull has said to herself since she was a child.

 

Callingbull, actress, model, motivational speaker and First Nations activist, was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.

As a Cree First Nations woman who was the first First Nations woman to win the title of Miss Universe, she used her crown to bring attention to the struggles and injustices facing First Nations peoples. She also has a lengthy resume of charity work, has also appeared on the Gemini-winning TV show Blackstone and participated (and came third) with her dad Joel in The Amazing Race Canada last year.

Growing up at Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, she had many struggles early on in her life and turned to her culture as a way of healing. She spoke about her story and her struggles to get where she is now.

“In all honesty it’s very difficult growing up a First Nations girl and it’s still really difficult for me to live life as a First Nations woman today,” said Callingbull. “I feel like I have to work extra hard to become the person that I want to be because we are so stereotyped and so judged on the colour of our skin, because of our background and because of where we come from, and it’s sad because I come from this country. We are the first peoples of this country and the fact that I have to work extra hard to be standing here and doing the things that I do, it shouldn’t be that way.”

Callingbull faced racism at school beginning on her first day when she was five years old, facing rocks and dirt being flung at her as she and the other First Nations children got off the bus as other children yelled racial insults at them. She also suffered from years of abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend before her mother left him. A court case that followed saw Callingbull take the stand as a child and recount all of the physical and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend and his brothers.

READ MORE

Leadership summit for women all about ‘Breaking Barriers’ – NTW

Originally Posted: Oct 25, 2017 by Scott Rosts  Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

NIAGARA — When Julie Rorison reflects on the theme of this year’s Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, she thinks about a future where more women are in engaged in leadership roles across Niagara, whether that be in business, in politics or elsewhere.

“Breaking Barriers” is the theme of the fourth-annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Brock University from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Rorison, chair of the planning committee, said the focus is empowering women and girls to realize their full potential.

“It’s important we take the opportunity to recognize we have a platform where we can encourage women to get involved in all areas of public life, whether in business, in politics, or elsewhere,” she said. “It’s about creating more gender diversity and equal representation across all platforms.”

Rorison said engaging women is a key piece of the day, and that’s why they’ve organized a special panel to end the event with. Dubbed “Getting Women Involved,” Ruth Unrau will lead the panel featuring Robin McPherson, Tami Jeanneret and Clare Cameron.

“We want to amplify the voices in the room and continue the conversation beyond,” said Rorison.

Unrau is excited to lead the discussion at the event, which attracts hundreds of participants each year. “It’s about education, participation and taking action,” said Unrau. “We want more opportunities for women in leadership.”

A particular emphasis, Unrau said, will be put on next fall’s municipal election. With a year to go, she said she wants to create dialogue on everything from women stepping forward to be candidates, to voter turnout. Studying statistics for St. Catharines, virtually every age demographic has more men going to the polls than women, she said.

“It’s about having a voice in the election. It doesn’t have to be putting your name on the ballot. It’s about having a voice, getting involved and educating yourself,” said Unrau. “If we all get engaged at some level, then I think that’s really breaking barriers and making an impact.”

Beyond politics, she said, it’s also about encouraging participants to find their spark and to get involved in some way, whether it be political, charitable, or in other forms. “Find your passion, learn more about it and find a way in,” said Unrau. “There are so many ways to get engaged.”

Other panel discussion topics include entrepreneurship, mental health, parenting and politics, while workshop topics include Aboriginal community justice, conquering barriers to success, decolonizing language, disability leadership, fair trade, race and racism, self care for caregivers and more.

Niagara This Week – Registration Open

Registration open for Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Fourth annual event takes place Oct. 28 at Brock University

NEWS Sep 26, 2017 Niagara This Week – St. Catharines

NIAGARA — “Breaking barriers” is the theme of the fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women.

From the keynote speaker to the workshops and discussions, the Saturday, Oct. 28 event, to be held at Brock University, will shine the spotlight on breaking barriers and celebrating women and girls in leadership. Registration opened up this week for the summit.

Hosted by YWCA Niagara Region in partnership with Brock University, the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is a day designed for women, girls, and allies to inspire each other, build community connections, and celebrate women’s leadership in Niagara. The day consists of the keynote, to be conducted by First Nations right activist, actress, and international motivational speaker Ashley Callingbull, and workshops to help identify and break barriers for women and girls in leadership.

“We are looking forward to breaking more barriers for women and girls to recognize the leaders they are at home, at school, and in the community,” said Julie Rorison, chair of the planning committee, adding keynote speaker Callingbull is “a young woman who is breaking barriers through her leadership and activism every day”.

Panel discussions will cover topics including entrepreneurs, mental health, parenting, and politics, while workshops include Aboriginal community justice, conquering barriers to success, decolonizing language, disability leadership, fair trade, race and racism, self care for caregivers, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), success in a male-dominated industry, and volunteerism.

YWCA Niagara Region executive director Elisabeth Zimmermann says the summit plays an important part in the YWCA’s role in the community.

“Part of the YW’s mission is to support and promote women to break through their own barriers in leadership and create positive change for themselves and our communities,” said Zimmermann. “The Leadership Summit celebrates and empowers women and girls to recognize their roles as leaders and reach their full potential.”

For the full lineup of local leaders involved in this year’s Leadership Summit, and to register, visit www.niagaralsw.ca. Tickets are $20.

You can also follow along on Twitter @NiagaraLSW and Facebook.com/NiagaraLSW for more news and updates about the conference.

The 4th annual Leadership Summit is breaking barriers for women in leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The 4th annual Leadership Summit is breaking barriers
for women in leadership

Sept. 25, 2017 – The fourth annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women is breaking barriers and celebrating women and girls in leadership on Saturday, Oct. 28 at Brock University.

Hosted by YWCA Niagara Region in partnership with Brock University, the Leadership Summit is a day designed for women, girls and allies to inspire each other, build community connections and celebrate women’s leadership in Niagara. The theme of this year’s Summit is “breaking barriers.” The program includes workshops, discussions and a keynote address to help identify and break barriers for women and girls in leadership. Registration is open at www.niagaralsw.ca and tickets will sell quickly for only $20.

Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region spoke about the importance of the Leadership Summit to the YWCA’s role in the community.

“Part of the YW’s mission is to support and promote women to break through their own barriers in leadership and create positive change for themselves and our communities,” said Elisabeth Zimmermann, Executive Director of the YWCA Niagara Region. “The Leadership Summit celebrates and empowers women and girls to recognize their roles as leaders and reach their full potential.”

The day will begin with a keynote address by Ashley Callingbull, an international motivational speaker, actress and First Nations rights activist.

“We are very excited to host Ashley Callingbull – a young woman who is breaking barriers through her leadership and activism every day,” said Julie Rorison, chair of the planning committee. “We are looking forward to breaking more barriers for women and girls to recognize the leaders they are at home, at school, and in the community.”

For the full line up of local leaders involved in this year’s Leadership Summit and to register visit www.niagaralsw.ca. Follow along on Twitter @NiagaraLSW and Facebook.com/NiagaraLSW for more news and updates about the conference.

About the Leadership Summit and the YWCA Niagara Region

Organized by a team of community leaders, the Leadership Summit is an initiative of YWCA Niagara Region. The YW is committed to social change through supporting women living in poverty by providing shelter, food and assistance to homeless women and their families in the Niagara region. On any given night 150 women, children, and families can be found sleeping under the roof of one of the housing programs offered by the YW.

-30-

For media inquiries, please contact Arienne Good:
Phone: 905 988 3528 ext. 3246
E-Mail: agood@ywcaniagararegion.ca

Niagara Leadership Summit for Women highlights importance of leadership, activism and advocacy

The recent Niagara Leadership Summit for Women brought a crowd of 300 together on a Saturday afternoon to talk about women’s leadership and open the conversation surrounding women’s issues in Niagara. The theme of the day was Innovating Leadership and highlighted the fact that there are leaders all around us (including ourselves) who make a difference every day.

Through many structured talks sought to connect, engage and inspire women leaders, and many impromptu opportunities to connect with fellow attendees, the mostly female crowd discussed leadership from several perspectives. Issue-specific workshops tackled everything from Strategic Culture Shaping and work/life balance & being an intentional leader to open sharing of data in Niagara, tips for caregivers, masculinity, women in motorsports, activism and advocacy, women and leadership through an indigenous perspective and leadership through financial independence.

Here are my five takeaways from the day:

1)    Shared, open dialogue presents opportunity for understanding

By sharing our experiences and making an effort to understand one another’s views,

from keynote speaker Shirley Cheechoo’s story of her family’s life and struggles as members of the Cree Nation to the interactive and enlightening Speak Out: Become an Advocate in our Community workshop and Greg Miller’s Power Talk on Fatherhood and Feminism, we explored the importance and necessity of diverse perspectives in defining what feminism and leadership look like in the 21st century.

Cheechoo, an award winning artist, actor and filmmaker recognized for her work in the Indigenous community over 40 years, encouraged us not to fear failure, to ask for help, and to “think big, choose what you want to do, and just do it.”

As 19-year-old Allison Ives highlighted, we’re all learning alongside one another. Ives offered an honest, insightful and humourous view of her experience as a young woman leader. She encouraged us to bring our authentic selves to every situation and lend our unique talents to helping each other.

Conversely, said Cheechoo, “the least effective strategy is anger…you are creators, the rock and the birth of our nation.”

2)    Everyone has value. Treat them accordingly.

In her talk that incorporated soft skills and stories from her experiences at Sunday school, Anne Miner encouraged aspiring leaders to apply our soft skills to achieve our goals, lift each other up and bring our personal brilliance to the table. She reminded us of the power of the platinum rule in leadership: that we should treat others the way they would like to be treated.

There are many different types of people, including relaters, socializers, thinkers, and directors, and while these types can clash if not managed well, all of these perspectives are useful when heard, seen and valued for their insights.

A quick summary:

We need to approach situations with intention and share our leadership roles. Engage thinkers and reach a consensus within a timeframe. Relaters need to know what the objective is (they can also be frightened by directors, so remain cognizant of how you speak to them), while socializers are cheerleaders and will do well in roles that require them to promote and raise awareness of issues.

3)    Advocacy and activism can be loud and disruptive, quiet and calm, and everything in between

In their workshop on community advocacy and activism, presenters Laura Ip of YWCA Niagara Region and Nicole Davidson of TruBore Contracting Ltd. discussed different types of activism and advocacy, and how they translate into taking impactful action. Personal safety, empowering women and girls and rape culture were common themes.

Attendees learned that activism “does not have to be aggressive…activism can be quiet, calm and measured,” said Ip.

While the word “activism” immediately brings to mind protests, letter writing and media events for many, it can range from having kitchen table conversations with your children about sexual consent issues to large-scale activism such as the Truckers against Trafficking Campaign, which informs members of the trucking industry and other travelers of basic issues involved in human trafficking and how they can help save lives.

The upcoming 101 Men event was mentioned. Happening on November 18, it’s headed by Dr. Jackson Katz, an educator, author, filmmaker and internationally renowned gender violence activist whose TED talk, Violence against Women is a Men’s Issue, has gone viral.

4)    Follow your internal compass  

To lead with intention and drive impactful change, we have to be able to shut out external noise, tune into our own emotions and what our bodies are telling us, then act on that motivation, said Griffiths.

“We’re all good at doing. Where we need to focus on is how do we be intentional?” she asked, encouraging her audience to “listen, listen, listen. Listen to what’s inside of you.”

In doing so, we can commit to shedding victimhood, define our values, truly live them and purposefully decide to spend our time in a way that honours who we are.

“I could be the author of my own story. It is possible. Anything is possible. We don’t have to be a product of our stories – the stories we tell ourselves,” she said, adding that when we’re not living our values, our lives start to feel “out of control….(committing to work-life integration is) about taking back our power…the only way to be creative and do great work is to put yourself back in control.”

To demonstrate, we completed an exercise asking us to assess our existing work-life balance and how we could improve by using five strategies, including:

  •      Take five quiet minutes each day to breathe.
  •      Get clear on what’s important to you, whether it’s family, finances, volunteering, career or other areas.
  •      Do work you love.
  •      Use your time wisely – we all have 24 hours.
  •      Create a plan and take action.

During her workshop, Griffiths reminded us of how important it is to “take time for ourselves to refuel, re-energize and live that balanced life.”

And when we’re at work, it’s imperative to make sure we’re doing work we love. One of the most profound questions was, “What one thing, if you focused on it, would make the greatest difference in your life?”

5)    Fathers have an integral role to play in shaping their children’s views

We concluded the day with power talks Miller’s talk presented an illuminating look into life with his wife and young daughter. In an honest, candid account, he talked about his own gradual feminist awakening, the tension feminists often face, and his dream for his daughter to grow up in a world where gender would not be used to socially, politically and economically oppress women. Unfortunately, “she’ll live in a world that was created for men and by men.”

 

But he emphasized the important role he hopes to play in raising his daughter to be a confident patriarchy smasher. That job starts with the commitment to support her goals.

“It’s not my job to instill my thoughts and beliefs in her. It’s my job to support her,” he said, adding he understands the impact his actions and attitudes will have on her outlook. He pledged to “empower her to be bold…(and) consider as a person, first and always.”

His many takeaways for the audience included his commitments to his own family and advice to other fathers, such as modeling respect for women and gender equality in their relationships, while being aware of the sexism and harassment their daughters may experience. He also highlighted the importance of supporting our children’s rights to express their own opinions and challenge others on their sexist behaviour.

About the Authour: Allison Smith is a community-minded content developer and a member of Cowork Niagara’s board of directors.

Youth are Leading

I’ve struggled writing this piece. In fact, I started it about five times. Each time, my intro sounded lame. Then I would try a different approach. And then that would feel disingenuous or half-cocked, or again, lame. Realizing I wasn’t going to whip this off, I decided to examine why the subject of youth leadership was difficult for me to write about. The only thing I could come up with was that I wasn’t as in tune with youth as I thought I was. It’s like I suddenly realized I was kind of, well, old-er-ish. Or if not that, I realized that I’d turned the corner from “everyone is my contemporary or older”, to “my god, the young folk have taken over…and it is a good thing indeed.”

Following Breadcrumbs of the Young

I think I first realized this when I began following Instagram profiles of young people (I feel at times that I should be using the term “youngins” to point to my ignorance, and I also feel that I should put a disclaimer in here: I’m not quite sure if “profiles” is the right term…Instagram sites? Feeds? See how I am just reinforcing my old-er-ish status here?) What I mean to say is, I followed quite a few young people before realizing that they were young people. I followed because I was interested in what they had to say, the way I follow my contemporaries, or older writers, performers, and politicians because I was and am interested in what they have to say. I was following these feminist profiles/feeds, that had lovely, thoughtful, and brilliant posts. As is the way with social media, these profiles lead me to follow others. Before I knew it, I was reading, and feeling a wee bit like a creeper, the feed of a 15-year-old who is, quite frankly, my new role model. And the thing is, she is exceptional, but seemingly not so much beyond her contemporaries. Believe me, my natural suspicion made me try to find some fault (beyond her obvious class and race privilege, but crikey, she’s even aware and acknowledges those!) She’s part of a clever cohort of young leaders who are bringing their brands of feminist leadership to the fore. I feel this way about pretty much every young woman I know and meet nowadays.

A New, New Wave

By the way, the 15-year-old that I follow is actress Rowan Blanchard. But, I didn’t know she was an actress until I Googled her name for this piece (or 15 for that matter, although I knew she was young). I’d been reading her posts for a few years before learning she was a Disney star. Seriously. A Disney kid. A few weeks ago, she posted this on her definition of feminism (it isn’t her writing, but she borrowed it): “These days, I feel as though feminism must interrogate gender itself with an awareness of its myriad social intersections. What does it mean to be a woman, and why? Who gets to decide what a woman is? If one woman is different from another woman, then what unites them as women? White, cis gender women have an institutional history as so-called feminists—but their liberation has proven tenuous, irrelevant, or violent to millions of other women. When experience can vary so radically from woman to woman, is there any point in pursuing a single definition of feminism?”

Wow.

Dullard History

When I was 15, I’m pretty sure I had what could be described as a somewhat protofeminist consciousness, to coin a term for my own semi-conscious mind and circumstances. I had an insular Catholic upbringing, in a parish community with the most infamous sexual predator priest in 20th Century southwestern Ontario. I think those circumstances and others helped me follow the breadcrumbs to full-on feminism. But it took me years of epiphanies and banging my head against the wall to learn what Rowan Blanchard knows already. Earlier this month, she posted a photo of her holding a #girlpossible campaign poster that said: “Equality is possible when…we recognize our privileges and use them to help other people.”

Okay, minor aside here, the #girlpossible campaign is a Barneys NY, department store nod to the United Nations International Day of the Girl. And yes, Barneys is a place where those dripping with privilege do their conspicuous consumption (confession: I may have purchased a Le Labo body cream at Barneys at some point in my life) but hey, the campaign is a lot more of something than nothing. And Rowan’s post was a world more self-aware than some of the other posts ( the “Anything is possible when you…map a plan to achieve your goals” post, or billionaire daughter and entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman’s contribution: “Anything is possible when…you work hard enough.” Sigh, she means well.) I think awareness is one of the most impressive things about many young feminist leaders today. Most have a firm understanding of intersectionality and an equally firm commitment to using their positions and privilege to change the world and level the playing field.

Using Power to Change

I don’t remember this being a big thing when I was young. It’s likely that I was just oblivious and unaware. There were probably more of the smaller gestures of solidarity and leadership that made it possible to live life and not be suffocated. I thought about this recently while working on a children’s book on Jazz Jennings, the young transgender activist and reality television star. Holy crikey, here is a young person who has their head on straight (and loving, decent family supports). Her main focus for coming out in public was to help other trans kids who don’t have her supports and privilege. But she and Rowan are high profile examples. I’m also impressed by the young feminists who surround me who make the quieter gestures. They too are leaders, and they are in every community. They act as Big Sisters (or Little Sisters who teach far more than they learn), they join community groups with an intent to do something for someone else, they start school fundraisers, and they read books and spread ideas about feminist activism through small everyday gestures. They wow me, educate me, and make me proud.

Submitted by YWCA Niagara Region‘s blogger Ellen Rodger