This post is submitted by Erum Hasan from the YWCA Girls Centre. Erum is an active member of the YWCA Girls Council, a long-time member of Hive Toronto.
Through funding we received from CIRA.ca, our Girls’ Centre offered summer and March Break programs to young girls to learn about technology and the many opportunities offered in this field. My peers and I wanted to use the skills and what we learned from volunteering in these digital literacy programs to create awareness on cyber safety. We were in touch with Simona Ramkisson from Hive Toronto, to work on a project together. We wanted to celebrate the International Women’s Day, which fell on March 8th. The Council collaborated with Hive Toronto to run a workshop that focused on cyber safety for the Girls Club at Sir Samuel Steele Elementary School.
In preparation for the event, our Girls’ Council gathered to discuss and review “Combating Cyber-violence for Women and Girls: Reading the Web”. This document gave us important information we used including statistics about cyber violence and helpful ways to create a safe space online.Each member of the Girls’ Council was given a specific part to deliver on the day of the presentation. We wanted feedback from our peers, so we practiced running the workshop a few times. The fun part of the rehearsal was how my peers pretended to be the younger audience to simulate the experience of delivering the actual presentation. We were able to come up with different ways to manage their behaviours and keep them focused on task. We developed group guidelines at the beginning of the workshop; we gave our participants a chance to to suggest rules. Our rehearsal made us feel prepared, we used our teamwork skills to work together to ensure the presentation would be well delivered.
Simona Ramkisson from Hive Toronto came to the YWCA Girls Centre to provide support before the presentation. She also wanted to know what our level of knowledge was in the topic. We reviewed our lesson plan together and answered the questions we would ask our participants at our workshop. Our answers were written on sticky notes which allowed us to better organize our ideas to see any similarities and differences.
It was an amazing experience for us to have this opportunity to collaborate with another agency. Through this connection, our Council has participated in several activities and events at Mozilla. We always appreciate learning new things and doing more together.
In the morning, I learned that there were several school closures and TDSB buses were cancelled. Even though the road conditions were terrible, we were able to safely travel with our group to the school on time. Walking through the hallways and seeing the artwork for International Women’s Day made by the younger girls gave me hope. I thought to myself that this would be a great opportunity to share our message and purpose with the community. Looking at their artwork which was made up of smaller drawings for International Women’s Day showed me what a bright group of girls we would be working with.
As approximately 30 girls came and sat down in circle, I was very nervous and unsure of what to expect at first. However, as I started presenting, I gradually become calmer as I felt more connected hearing from the girls about their stories and experiences. I proceeded with more confidence. First, we introduced ourselves as members of YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Council. I was thrilled that our Council received this opportunity to inform young girls about cyber safety and have discussions about this topic. From this experience, I was able to strengthen my leadership skills, work with a team, and learn how to collaborate. Our presentation came together and I saw how the pieces fit in the end. Our different parts were combined into a solid, well-thought, as well as cohesive piece presented by many. Often it’s challenging to work with so many people dividing up a workshop into several parts. I came to realization that we can work successfully together despite everyone’s various styles and be able to include the voices of every member in our project.
It was such a joy to hear the girls share information they learned, what surprised them, and what they appreciated about the workshop. For instance, the girls were able to recall that “73% of women are abused online” and another shared “women are 27% more likely to be abused online than men”. They recalled this information 3 hours after hearing it!
I hope we can bring this workshop to more schools across the GTA. I feel it would benefit young girls to have a space for these kinds of discussions, especially since they are growing up in a world where media has a vast influence.
My message for those who are supporting young people impacted by cyber violence is to be non-judgemental, compassionate, patient, and most importantly, listen with their heart. Our experience at Sir Samuel Steele has been inspirational for me and our Council to continue our work in advocating for more positive digital spaces and more ambitiously, a safer world for all.