(Originally published on shamelessmag.com)
Outside my work with Shameless, I run an activist design studio called The Public. This March, I was proud to be a co-facilitator of the Fight Like a Girl Activist Training Job, hosted by Newcomer Women Services Toronto. Fight Like a Girl was a two-week paid job in which twenty-four young women came together to talk about racism, forced marriage, gender-based violence and bullying, learn about media literacy and creation, and kick some serious ass with newfound Wendo skills.
The program was the brainchild of Maya Roy, Executive Director of Newcomer Women’s Services. Every morning, the girls had Wendo training, and in the afternoons, I had the privilege of working with them to develop their own campaign, Use Your Voice, designed to combat gender-based-violence and build self-esteem. On our last day together, I was joined by Ronak Ghorbani, Sarah Feldbloom, Natalia Saavedra, Sidra Mahmood, Victoria Barnett and Sarah Mangle who each facilitated hands-on sessions in social media, podcasting, poster-making, web design and zine-making, bringing the campaign to life. The results were pretty amazing.
The week was a fantastic one for me — I ended up learning so much from the girls who participated in the group and felt lucky to get to work with each and every one of them. One of the participants, Mehad Taha, 15, shares her experience:
Our Experience at Fight like A Girl By Mehad Taha
Hi my name is Mehad Taha and I am 15 years old and I applied for the Fight Like a Girl activist training and job because I wanted to understand my rights.
During the week of March break, I had the opportunity to meet different girls from around Toronto, with different cultures, and beliefs. On the first day of our job we had icebreakers so we could get to know each other.
The girls and I spent our mornings with Wendo instructor Deb, so she could teach us how to defend ourselves from people who try to harm us. She taught us self-defense moves like the Wendo Fist, theEagles Claw, the Hello and Goodbye and many more. We also learned we can walk outside with confidence, and if anybody tries to harm us, we know how to break their noses. Nobody can take our confidence away from us.
In the afternoons, we spent time with Sheila Sampath, who is the editor of Shameless magazine and works at The Public. We had conversations about ways we can feel good about our gender, our personal choices and our identities, so we can feel more comfortable and confident about ourselves. The girls and I talked about how it feels to see people talking about us in a bad way and how it can hurt us, we also talked about how we can avoid that problem and just ignore it. Sheila had asked us how we want to be seen, for example, a confident, independent girl/woman/lady/person that wont take crap from people!
Sheila gave us some of the tools to help us make our own campaign we called “Use Your Voice.” We wanted to encourage others around the world use their voices to defend themselves and never let others judge them. One of the great things about our job was that we were able to express ourselves to each other and be open about our feelings knowing that no one would judge us for who we are. We recorded podcasts, we made zines, some pretty posters, a website for others, and a social media campaign as well.
The person who organized the Fight Like a Girl Activist Training Job was Maya Roy from Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto. Before I joined the program, I thought about what the job was going to be like and how many girls where going to join. I thought I was just going to learn how to do yoga, that men can’t control us and would have to blog about what I did after. It was more then that. We got to do different workshops and make new things around our environment and make a website for younger girls.
Highlights included learning how we can build our strength and confidence. I learned Wendo moves from Deb who taught us how to defend ourselves and how to act when some one makes us feel uncomfortable. The one important thing I learned was that every girl is strong in her own way and we are all independent and we don’t need people to take care of us or call us different names. With my next job, I am hoping to be an independent person who can solve problems and protect myself and others.
I hope the program will find a way to continue so all of us girls who joined could teach a new generation of girls how to defend themselves and use their voices. I want all young people to know not to allow others to abuse you or tell you what to do or become. Because you control your own lives and know that you have the power to protect yourselves and have your rights.
Click here for photos and media links.