Promoting Healthy Equal Relationships Graduation
Nkonsonkonson (chain link) is a West African symbol (adinkra) meaning unity and human relations. It is a reminder to contribute to the community and that there is strength in unity.
This was the symbol chosen by the youth who participated in the Promoting Healthy Equal Relationships Program to represent them. Chosen as a brand of sorts, to describe their shared values and the vision they have for their communities.
Promoting Healthy Equal Relationships was a program funded by the Ontario Women's Directorate. The program ran from July 2008 until April 2009 and ended with a graduation ceremony at the Lithuanian Hall on Friday April 24, 2009.
The core concept for this project was to create a space where young people between eight and 14 years of age, from Toronto Community Housing and the larger community could come together and develop skills to critically examine the world around them. Since July 2008, these young people have addressed topics such as identity, gender, sexism, dating and healthy relationships, and conflict resolution. The program provided the participants with an opportunity to create an educational tool on a topic covered in the program and become peer educators as they presented the knowledge and information they acquired to others.
Youth and their families, from 12 different Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods came out to a formal graduation ceremony, with buffet dinner, in recognition of their efforts over the nine-month period. Each of the evening's speakers, including keynote Paulette Senior, CEO of YWCA Canada, and Master of Ceremonies, Nathan Downer, Global Television, talked about the importance of community development and youth-led initiatives.
The graduation served as an opportunity to reflect upon, celebrate and highlight the efforts of the participants of the program, but also to encourage the participants to continue to strive for more; not only for themselves, but for their peers as well.
When Sisters Speak
On January 17, young women from Rowntree Manor and Humberline Drive who are members of Toronto Community Housing's Ontario Women's Directorate Program, attended the annual "When Sisters Speak" spoken word poetry show.The event showcased women artisits of colour and discussed issues such as empowerment, sexual health, dating, relationships, sisterhood, and community activism.
Since July 2008, these young women have addressed issues such as identity, sexual health, dating and healthy relationships, and conflict resolution. The program has given these young women a space to come together and talk about issues that affect their lives everyday and to be mentored by positive female role models who are leaders in their community.
The "When Sisters Speak" event has inspired the group to put on its own poetry showcase in April as part of the final presentation component to complete the program.
Young female tenants celebrate International Women's Day
"DARE!" chanted a smiling group of young women from Operating Unit Etobicoke South High Park who organized a delicious and entertaining International Women's Day-inspired breakfast at 931Yonge Street on Friday, March 6.
Dream. Aspire. Rise. Empower. These are the words emblazoned on the T-shirts of several young women from Cooper Mills, Dundas/Mabelle, and Swansea communities. They are part of the Promoting Healthy Relationships Program, implemented by Toronto Community Housing and Pelham Park Youth Resource Centre.
These brave young women took the stage to read short stories about their experiences while members of the Johannesburg Social Housing Company, Chair David Mitchell and Toronto Community Housing staff listened and cheered them on. They reminded us that the choices we make everyday are important to the people around us and to our personal development in becoming strong, independent and involved in our communities. Since September, these young women have been learning about issues of identity, gender, sexism, stereotypes, dating, social skills and etiquette.
"We get together, discuss and act things out - they make it really fun," agreed Destiny, Cheyenne and Joscelyn who are in Grade Seven at Swansea Public School. As participants, these young women become peer educators, they take the knowledge they have acquired back to their communities.
Guests, who were greeted with long stem roses, a breakfast buffet and surrounded by information about female accomplishments throughout history, also had an opportunity to share their own success stories. They wrote what they were celebrating on International Women's Day on a "Wall of Women's Greatest Personal Achievements":
"Being the only woman on an all-male hockey team
"Being a mentor to young women"
"Owning my own home"
"Finishing my Masters"
Not in the program however, was Chair David Mitchell's attempt to break the ice prior to having the young women take the stage. He succumbed to the crowd's pleas and sang the first few lines of "For You" by Kenny Latimore.