Two Young Leaders That Give Us Hope

Kulsoom and Renolla, JUMP Scarborough summer students

Meet Kulsoom and Renolla. They are bright, dedicated and ready to take on the world.

Kulsoom is currently studying Human Biology at the University of Toronto – Scarborough and was a YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre participant for 11 years. She was co-chair of the Girls’ Council and is now an alumna of the Centre.  This summer she worked at JUMP Scarborough, YWCA Toronto’s settlement program for newcomer women and girls, as a Computer Trainer.

Renolla has been a participant at the Girls’ Centre since she arrived in Canada four years ago. Currently, she is a member of the Girls’ Council. This summer she worked as a Research and Administrative Assistant at JUMP Scarborough.

We sat down with them to talk about their experiences this summer, the Girls’ Centre, their work to create change in their communities and their hopes for the future.

Infographic: Click to enlarge

What has working with clients at JUMP taught you about the need for these services? 

Kulsoom (K): For my job, I am involved in creating a three-day workshop that is built to help newcomer women use Microsoft Word and Excel and gain job readiness skills – like how to use your email, how to send a resume and write cover letter to an employer. I was in charge of designing the workshop itself along with JUMP staff. I created all the exercises and handouts. Just seeing how much the women learned during the workshop was really encouraging. Today, it is a necessity to know how to use a computer and how to use Word and Excel in Canada to be able to get a job so just knowing that I helped in a small way is great.

What other initiatives were you involved in this summer?

K: Something that was really cool was that we got to be a part of a roundtable discussion on women’s economic empowerment that the Hon. Indira Naidoo-Harris, Minister of the Status of Women in Ontario, attended and spoke at. We attended as representatives of JUMP along with a few other women from the program. Just being a part of that discussion was so inspirational. We were in a room with other women we had never met and we shared ideas about how to get more women into fields that are not typically believed to be for women. Also, getting to meet the Minister was amazing and you could tell she was so passionate about the topic.

I mentioned the importance of having girls-only programs like the ones at the Girls’ Centre. All the opportunities that we got at the Girls’ Centre allowed us to be open to new things and understand our options and opportunities. We should have more of these programs across Canada.

Renolla (R): I got to run a full-day workshop with Kulsoom called the Girls’ Leadership Workshop. We talked about time management, stress management; the qualities you need to become a leader and the women voiced their opinions in discussion. The team work was amazing

Tell me about your experience on the Girls’ Council. What have you learned?

R: We get exposure to a lot of things. My favourite part about being on the Girls’ Council is that we get to travel a lot around the city. We have visited different companies like Mozilla, Facebook and companies in the fashion district. We even got to partner with George Brown College‘s entrepreneurship class.

I learned that I am very courageous. [A Girls’ Centre staff person] has helped me to see how I can transform and transition from one thing to the next and it helps me be stronger, be focused. For example, I have found out that I am creative. I thought I was horrible at art but when it is on paper it is pretty good.

How does going to the Girls’ Centre compare to your experience in school?

K: One reason the Girls’ Centre makes you feel comfortable enough to speak your mind is the environment itself. The whole Centre is filled with bright colours, there are couches everywhere and the girls’ art is on the walls. It is very different from school and the staff make sure you feel comfortable in the space and that you have a say in what the space looks like.

R: When I am in school I am not really as social as I am at the Girls’ Centre. There is no judgement at the Girls’ Centre. At school there are always people judging you, but at the Girls’ Centre there is confidentiality and you get to be open and be yourself.

Describe the Girls’ Centre in three words.

K: Supportive, fun, empowering.

R: A second home.

How can someone be an ally to another girl?

K: I think it relates to the whole bystander effect. If you see someone in trouble, rather than be a bystander and do nothing about it, help them. Making sure that you are nice to other people is important because it starts with yourself and you are setting an example for others to be nice as well.

What does a healthy relationship mean to you?

K: I think most people have negative thoughts about themselves and coming [to the Girls’ Centre] allows girls to turn that into a positive. I want to make sure girls have positive attitudes and are able to recognize when their thoughts about themselves become negative so they can stop themselves and say – I am strong, I am smart, I can do it.

R: To me, healthy relationships mean having a support team that motivates you. My family and the Girls’ Centre staff do that for me. Making sure you have a healthy mind, healthy body and positive self-talk is important too.

What do you think is the most important issue facing women and girls today?

K: Right now the wage gap is terrible. But speaking broadly, the stereotypes that women face are terrible because they limit girls from their potential and from recognizing that they can do a lot more than people think. This is terrible because it makes it so that we are not equal to men and, having these ideas instilled in us from a young age is what limits what we think we can do.

R: I feel like the fact that women’s opportunities are limited they are not going to get out there and pursue what they want to do. If we work to break down barriers then women will have a better chance of moving ahead.

YWCA Toronto works to empower girls and young women to become leaders for social change.  Learn more about our girls’ programming by clicking this link.