Today we celebrate International Women’s Day. This year the theme is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender-equal future.’ While innovation has the power to transform lives, there are still many barriers to equality.
The ability of women to innovate, cultivate and adapt is remarkable. At CityCare, we believe in empowering women by equipping them with the tools to flourish, lead and impact in their world. One of our CityCare Community Workers, Amelia, shares about her experience with the girls and women she works with in Reiby Juvenile Detention Centre.
Amelia runs a SHINEGirl program with a group of girls and women aged 12-20 at Reiby. This program challenges participants to find the strength and courage within themselves to love who they are, make healthy choices and reach their full potential.
Upon launching SHINEGirl with this particular group, Amelia encountered immediate resistance and a lack of engagement. Our community workers are accustomed to adapting programs for their target audience, but creating connection with this group was a real struggle.
“Their attention span was next to nothing,” Amelia tells. “They were very unsettled and difficult to sit and talk with. We began brainstorming different ways to engage.”
Amelia decided to solve the problem with an innovative idea about how to create connection. By focusing on a different creative medium each week – including nail painting, flower planting, baking, colouring, painting, volleyball, collage making, bracelet making, and even running the program in the garden – Amelia immediately noticed how much more easily they all interacted, helped by a change from their normal routine. Without forcing content on the participants, Amelia covered the SHINEGirl topics through constructive conversations over different activities.
“One week we talked about potential, saying it’s a bit like a seed. We discussed what potential needs to grow and develop, and we gave them a visual by planting the seeds together. They kept talking about this activity for weeks afterward, and would get excited to show us the flowers growing.”
The participants shared with Amelia how much they appreciated the change in approach. “It’s much less intimidating for them, allowing conversations to flow more freely.”
Changing the approach to the SHINE curriculum hasn’t been without its challenges. Whatever Amelia brings in is strictly monitored. She isn’t allowed to bring in pens or pencils, only crayons as they can break easily (and therefore can’t be used to cause harm).
But the power of innovation extends beyond the way Amelia has been able to create connection – it’s also empowered these women and girls to imagine something different for their future.
“A lot of what these girls and women have seen modelled is learned behaviour,” Amelia reflected on the background of a number of the participants. “For some of them, their whole life goal was to get locked up in jail. That’s the only thing they’ve seen happen to their family, with no role models to show anything else. It’s been so cool to encourage and inspire them to something different.”
When asked what motivates her to persevere in the face of challenges, Amelia’s response is inspiring: “These girls and women are seen as the least of society. Bringing beauty to a place that’s lacking it has been special. God sees them as valuable, so we teach them from the SHINEGirl program about their value. It’s created such big hope for them.”