Because They Are Girls!

2014 Discovery Girl Marika helps start the "Because I Am A Girl" club at her school . 

BROOKFIELD - Some girls are taking a stand in their school and community with the formation of a new club.     

The ‘Because I Am A Girl' club started at the South Colchester Academy in May and has roughly two dozen members now.

"I noticed there was a lack in support for girls, how they are misrepresented in the media, and the struggle of women in Third World countries" said Marika Schenkels, who founded the group through the national initiative of the same name.

Through the national initiative, the club is able to gather a lot of its resources, such as statistics, and register their club. The local teens have an in-school mentor through Jane Layden, and try to host bi-weekly meetings.

"We want to support girls in Third World countries while raising awareness and letting people know what feminists are," said Laura Graham.

During their meetings, club members learn about how women and girls in other parts of Canada or the world are still subjected to inequally. One of the first countries they learned about was Afghanistan, which Schenkels said is the worst for inequality.

"The average life for women in Afghanistan is 45 years, the female suicide rate outweighs the rate for men, and 87 per cent have experienced domestic violence," she said, adding that half of the brides in Afghanistan are under the age of 16.

"The biggest thing is to appreciate what we have," she said.

The meetings will sometimes focus on the story of particular girls or women, and how they've overcome obstacles they were faced with.

But while the club focuses on women's rights, members said anyone can join. When asked if any male students have expressed interest, the answer was, yes.

"But we don't now if they're serious about it," said Graham.

"There are some male teachers here that are interested in knowing about it," added Schenkels.

The students have been getting the word out at their school about the club, with hopes of doing some fundraising for the national initiative. They recently raised $400 that will go directly to funding underprivileged girls around the world, and did some fundraising for the Christmas Index Program.

They're hoping to find a local sponsor so they can sell hot chocolate as a fundraiser this winter, and have a ‘wedding dress tea party extravaganza' in the works for Mother's Day.

"I'd like to see a culture change," said Schenkels about the outcome of the club, adding she wants to see girls making decisions "based on what they love, not what society thinks is proper."

For Clarissa Pasion, a newcomer to the area, she joined the group as a way to meet new friends.

"I want the stereotypes to stop," she said. "I don't want people to say, ‘you can't do this because you're a girl.'"

While Layden is the in-school mentor, she said she doesn't really have a hand in the group other than to be there to support them.

"It's an all-student initiative and it's really important to support students when they show that leadership because they don't always have that opportunity," she said. "It's invaluable learning for anyone that can be involved with that and it's very worthwhile."

The teacher said the cause is an important one for the girls, and everyone, to be aware of.

"There are still those inequalities that do exist and it's a great eye-opener, not just within Nova Scotia and Canada, but introducing them to other countries. The discrimination and discrepancies are just unreal."

To learn more about the initiative and to learn about girl's rights, visit becauseiamagirl.ca.

rtetanish@trurodaily.com

Twitter: @TDNRaissa

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