(Go here for an introduction to our work on the Say No to Violence challenge)
For the final part of the challenge, we attended the Dec. 6th Vigil at the University.
Now, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Dec. 6th, has a special meaning for us Guiders with the 19th Pathfinders. Both of us are Scientists – we actually met while doing our undergraduate degrees in Physics. In addition, for years we both volunteered and I worked for an organization called Women in Science and Engineering, Newfoundland and Labrador (WISE-NL). While we were both quite young when the Massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique happened, as female scientists, it hits close to home to know that something so horrendous happened, and during our lifetime no less! We constantly tell ourselves, our friends, our daughters and young people in our lives that there are no limits to what they can do. And it’s true. However, explaining to these girls that there are people out there in the world who don’t agree that women can and should do anything they want is a difficult thing to do.
We prepared the girls ahead of time for what to expect – we told them about the massacre, we had a discussion about why it happened, and the girls had a lot of questions (some that we didn’t have the answers to!). One thing I think the girls really appreciated was getting open and honest answers to their questions and concerns. I think in our society, we try so hard to shield kids from scary/upsetting things, but the reality is they hear about it and see it on TV, without getting the information they crave. Personally I think it’s worse and scarier when we don’t address it, talk to them about it, answer their questions and help them to try and understand.
But I don’t think any of the girls knew what to really expect.
Our vigil involves a candlelight procession, comments from special guests, live music from a string quartet and time for community dedications, all followed by a reception with booths from community and university organizations. We prepared a community dedication in advance, dedicating our work on the Girls for Safer Communities and Say No to Violence challenges. Two girls were chosen to give the dedication at the microphone.
The girls were definitely the only “kids” at the event, and it was clear from the start that the other attendees really appreciated them being there. Beforehand, I was nervous that a group of 12 and 13 year olds, rustling, asking to go to the bathroom, etc. would be disruptive, but it was not the case. Many people came up to us afterwards to say that the girls’ dedication made them cry, and that it was great seeing young women learning about Violence against Women and working towards a society free of violence.
Fast forward to 2012.
At the start of the year, we had a brainstorming meeting where we asked the girls what they wanted to do this year in Pathfinders.
We were surprised when one of the girls said “Can we go to that vigil thing at the university again?” and all of the other returning pathfinders chimed in saying they also wanted to go again! When the discussion is focusing around things like rock climbing, ziplining, art classes and sleepovers, and the Dec. 6th Vigil came up as something they really wanted to do, well we just about bubbled over with pride!
Since many of the girls had already done them, we didn’t re-do the challenges that we had done the year before. Instead, we showed the girls a video interview of a girl their age. This video –
This, of course, is Malala Yousafzai. We talked about how many girls around the world do not have access to education and that Malala was an activist working to secure access to education for girls in her region. We then told them that she had been shot in the head earlier that week for standing up for her right to go to school. We told them the whole story, how brave she was to stand up and about how there were people campaigning to get her nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The girls were entranced. I think knowing that Malala is their age made her story really click with them. We now keep up to date on Malala, her progress, and her nobel nomination, and she’s become a sort of inspiration to the girls in our unit.
So on the night of the vigil, our dedication was about Malala. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
The organizer of the event also asked our Pathfinders to help by passing out purple ribbon pins and programs! (Community Service hours!)
Overall, this was a great experience for the girls, and I’m so impressed that they have taken the issues to heart and are giving it thought. They are growing up to be wonderful young ladies with great heads on their shoulders.