Nimaskawizii: I am Strong- Women’s Empowerment & Leadership Program

The Marymound Cultural Department is offering a 16-week training program led by Gert Johnson and Chantal St. Germaine for girls and young women.

Made possible by a generous grant from Justice Canada, the 16-week training program is based on the seven sacred teachings of love, humility, honesty, wisdom, courage, truth, and respect, as well as the seven pipe law teachings of generation/relation, quietness, happiness, compassion, health, respect, and generosity.

The Indigenous teachings are the foundation that helps to build self-esteem and develop positive relationships for different age groups in two different programs. The Empowerment Group is for Indigenous girls ages 12-16 from any Marymound program, as well as within the community. The program has been running on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. since September 30, 2019 and concludes with a graduation day on January 27, 2020.

“I wish I had programs like these when I was younger to help me through all the abuse and trying family times that I went through,” says Youth Mentor and presenter Chantel St. Germaine. “Now these kids have resources and a better chance to find their way on their healing journey.”

“I want to come here every year, even after the program finishes,” added one recent younger participant. Her experience is a testimony to the safe place that has been created, where youth can learn and share their experiences. Indigenous young women ages 17-21 from Marymound (past or present) as well as members of the community partake in the Leadership Group on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The program started Thursday, October 3 and winds up January 27, 2020 with a special graduation day.

In a traditional sharing circle, over 20 young women in each session have been learning about Indigenous history and worldview, healthy versus non-healthy relationships with self and others, self-care and self-esteem.

“A discussion on family violence triggered some raw emotions for a younger girl, and an older girl hugged her and they cried together,” says Gert Johnson, Youth Mentor and presenter. “We also have attending Elder Louise to sooth spirits and be a calming influence for the youth at very emotional times.”

The program’s objective is to break the cycles of exploitation and violence through an Indigenous lens by building capacity and empowering girls. As a result, participants start to believe in themselves, care for each another, and ultimately become mentors and leaders in the community.

All sessions take place at Marymound in the Gathering Room, with dinner as well as activities included. Both girls and young women completing the program will receive a certificate and a gift at a graduation ceremony. Those in the leadership group will also have the opportunity to become junior mentors within the Marymound Cultural team as paid summer positions in 2020.