Since moving onwards from my former position as co-editor of McClung’s magazine and graduating from Ryerson University, I’ve continued to find ways to integrate the issue of women’s rights into my every day life. The way I do this is through my organization, Youth Challenge International (YCI).
I first got involved with YCI during my second year at Ryerson—I wanted to do something different during my summer break, so chose to volunteer with YCI in Vanuatu, where I was involved in constructing a school and facilitating environmental awareness workshops.
Returning to work for YCI after graduating from j-school seemed like a natural progression. (After all, it was my experience with YCI in Vanuatu that really made me want to get involved with McClung’s. I felt like I had the potential to harness the energy and enthusiasm that I had for my project in Vanuatu and transform it into positive civic action here in Canada. Immediately after returning from my overseas project, I started volunteering for McClung’s.) Although I’d have to lay my pen to rest for now, I’d have the opportunity to work in two focus areas that I identified as being important to my career goals: youth and gender equality.
YCI mainstreams gender programming throughout all our projects in a number of ways—including ensuring that women have an equal opportunity to participate in workshops and conferences (which may be as basic as ensuring that onsite childcare is provided for women during workshops), tracking gender-disaggregated data and ensuring at least 50 per cent participation of women in all programs. And when it’s appropriate, we’ll break women and men into gender-specific groups to ensure that both genders are comfortable expressing themselves in a supportive environment.
Apart from mainstreaming gender equity into all of our programming, there are other ways that we work specifically to address equality between men and women. In our programming locations in Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya, we have been hosting Girls’ Clubs in each community for a number of years. These clubs provide young women with the opportunity to develop self-confidence, learn new skills and discuss self-identified issues of importance, whether it’s sexual reproductive health or gender roles.
However, local boys in YCI’s programming areas had also began to identify the need for their own club. Boys’ Clubs allows YCI a unique way to implement gender programming—rather than focusing on just women, we also work to develop self-confidence in young men by creating an environment for them to examine gender roles, as well as the issues of substance abuse and domestic abuse.
I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to put the skills and knowledge that I developed at McClung’s into use in an international capacity. YCI incorporates youth development, volunteerism, partnership, equity and advocacy into all that we do. If you’re interested in volunteering with YCI, either in Canada or overseas, please visit our website.