Hear Their Words

A unique NYWC Youth Gender-Based Violence Education project included a poetry program in which women and gender-diverse youth wrote and talked about topics such as consent, gender and positive relationships.

“I am starved / And you are hungry / So I allow you to consume whatever you wish…”

These haunting lines come from one of many powerful poems written by youth, as part of a unique NYWC Youth Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Education project recently conducted in partnership with Weston Collegiate Institute (WCI) and co-facilitated by Canvas Programs.*

A weekly, spoken-word poetry program hosted at WCI invited young women and gender-diverse youth to write and talk about topics such as consent, gender and positive relationships. CLICK HERE TO READ THEIR BOOKLET NOW.

“Sharing and expression are so important for young or racialized women, 2SLGBTQQIA+ people and women living with disabilities, especially because they’re at higher risk of GBV,” says Diamond Antwi-Mansah, NYWC’s Manager of Programs & Services.

“When young women can talk openly about abuse, sexism, racism and romantic or sexual stereotypes, it can expand how they see themselves and their futures,” she adds.

Robyn Sidhu, one of the facilitators and the Youth and Community Programs Team Lead at Canvas Programs, agrees.

“It can be so taboo to talk about consent and sexual violence,” says Sidhu. “This program offered a brave space, and it was beautiful to see the students become engaged and validate each other.”

You can experience their moving words below, in a sampling of the finished work shared with participants’ permission and identifying details removed.

Ultimately, the goal of this project—funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation through a Slaight Family Foundation Ending Gender-based Violence in Critical Communities Grant—is to help reduce gender-based violence by shifting young women and girls’ perceptions of their value and future, and how they expect to be treated by peers, family, community and intimate partners.

It also promotes empowerment and artistic expression. As one participant said, “Being able to share my poetry like this officially marked the start of my career as a writer.”

* NYWC is grateful for the cofacilitation from Canvas Arts Action Programs. They (Canvas) are a registered charity founded in 2014 to prevent gender-based and sexual violence, homophobia and transphobia. Based out of Tkaronto, Canvas uses interactive, arts-inspired training programs to educate young people, and the adults who work with them, on gender equity, consent, and 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion. Together, we can work towards a more empathetic, equitable and kinder worldview. Visit canvasprograms.com to learn more.

M // gluttony  

I am starved 

And you are hungry 

So I allow you to consume whatever you wish 

Even if it means serving my heart to you on a silver platter 

So I feed you  

I continue to be starved 

Yet you crave more 

You indulge in what I offer 

Biting off more than you can chew 

I wither in hunger 

There is nothing left of me to starve 

So you become angry  

Claiming its my fault that I can not provide 

When all you ever did was feed off me 

Now its my turn to take  

And what i’ll take is time 

Now you are the one starving 

And I am finally fed 

Koraleigh // I am beautiful   

“I am beautiful” I say as I feel my pudgy thighs. I squeeze my stomach and smile at how it pokes out. It makes me look healthy. “I am beautiful” I say, trying to sound as obnoxious as possible. My boobs are half out and I’m wearing a short skirt. I see a guy watching me and I know that he thinks I’m easy. If I pretend to be dumb, I’ll be ready for him to act. “I am beautiful” I say whispering to myself as I stare into my mirror. My mascara is running down my face and my lipstick is smudged. I look at my body in the mirror as I weep as quietly as I can. “I am beautiful” I think as I get the attention of those around me. They look at me with amazed eyes and I smile at them. “You are beautiful” She says smiling at me. I smile back, knowing that this is a dream that will never come true. “I am beautiful” 

Sabrina // Dear Brown and Black 

You’re the soil from which we plant our crops to which we eat for energy and survival 

You’re the ground from which we dig for gold and other minerals 

You’re the surface from which great mountains lay on. 

You’re the coffee beans from which we use to make coffee 

You’re the cocoa seeds from which we make chocolate 

You’re the deepest part of our earth from which we live on. 

You’re the shea butter from which we use to moisturize our skin and hair  

You’re the history and ancestry of the greats and unknown 

You’re the resilience to which we need for all that encounter and overcome. 

You’re the colour of my skin which makes me proud. 

M.R.N // Love I Desire 

I want to be loved for who I am 

My imperfections, the steps I 

Take towards perfection. 

I want people to pour into me 

As I do unto them. 

I don’t want to be taken for granted 

I want to feel seen and heard  

I want a hug, that will leave me feeling peace 

I want to be protected, like a King fights for his Queen 

I want to be understood 

I want to be loved freely 

Anonymous // Life in another  

If given a chance to be reborn. I will love to be given freedom, be given right of choices, what to do, when to do it, what to wear and so on. I know advice will be best but don’t force it on someone, I need the freedom, just like a caged bird who want to fly while not let it fly than caging it. I know they will be regrets, but if there is no regrets and obstacles then your choices is not right. 

M // Untitled  

My eyes are a fountain with a broken handle 

It is worn out and tired 

I cannot communicate with words 

Instead I communicate with tears 

When unable to express happiness 

I will laugh so hard the fountain is turned on once more 

And I allow this to be seen 

I do not allow others to witness me rock back-and-forth 

Or to see me pull at my hair 

Instead I will break-down and cry in front of them 

For it is much easier to explain sadness than discomfort. 

Angel // exodus  

I can’t afford to miss because my eyes are closed  

Dreaming vividly of a pain nobody else knows  

Bring me forth before I swim away  

in the waters of lukewarm  

Torn between true love and passion 

Out of body type of experience where I see where I crashed in  

Figure 8, i’m livid in a warped perception  

Arriving at the the kingdom gates  

no room left for negotiation  

Twisting’ turn restless, lost in addiction  

Would’ve thought twice if I heard that there’s no sleep for the wicked 

Let me know when it’s time to let go  

It may be too late  

when I come to seek consolidation  

And not validation  

For all my wrongs ( I’m such an ingrate) 

In a time I offer dishonesty  

Radiation of warmth entails me  

I don’t know why the scales fall from my eyes  

and tears flow never ending  

Frail and weak I’m disintegrating 

Dragging myself across the floor wailing in a pool of blood under the street light  

but there’s a light  

marking my exodus as the rain scalds my skin 

Then I am no longer my own  

When you call the prodigal son home. 

Stacy // The truths we ignore    

I’d tell you to read harder 

Because even though you read, 

It won’t be enough. 

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