Iqaluit, Nunavut. February 28th, 2017.
The Northern Lights Girls Club is a project through the YWCA Agvvik in Iqaluit focused on encouraging girls ages 9-13 to develop leadership skills and cultivate valuable friendships while employing their own voices, skills, and cultural identity. Given the high rates of violence and other social issues concerning women and children in Iqaluit, there is a pressing need to help the younger generations overcome barriers in order to gain the self-confidence to have a greater voice within the community.
This week, the girls will be introduced to the Squag technology platform to help them explore their interests, reflect on their thoughts and feelings, and socialize online in a safe and respectful community. Squag was created as a visual communication tool for kids with neurodevelopmental and mental heath conditions and recently received funding from the Ontario Brain Institute.
Dhivya Shastri, Program Coordinator, of the YWCA Agvvik, Nunavut believes the technology is a great way for the girls to develop their concepts of self:
“Squag allows the girls to explore all kinds of art and video content while being mindful about how they communicate. They can create their own content and cultivate their identity in a positive way. We’re excited to have our facilitators use it with the girls to self reflect, and build confidence.”
‘We built Squag for all kids who are isolated or underestimated because of the way they communicate,” says Squag Founder, Sara Winter. “Squag encourages kids to develop their thoughts and feelings, own them, and be able to use them to advocate for themselves wherever they go. It also allows kids and their parents to use data to track their social/emotional growth over time. I’m super excited that the Girls Club will be able to use it and make it meaningful for their community.”
The Zoned Comic Contest donated iPads to the program so that multiple girls can “Squag” every week at the girls club. ZCC was created to give children a safe forum to think and write about the causes and effects of bullying, and strategies for dealing with it. Young people share their stories through the contest, and one story is elected to be printed as an original comic book. The 1st official winner of the contest had their story drawn by Marvel Entertainment.
“Taking steps to reflect on one’s identity and build self-esteem are critical for people looking to heal from past bullying experiences.” Douglas Allen, Volunteer Creative Director of the Zoned Comic Contest adds, “Bullied people need to learn how to feel safe again in the world. They need to learn that they are acceptable people who have something to offer other people, and that if they set their mind to something that they can hope to accomplish it.”
ABOUT YWCA NORTHERN LIGHTS GIRLS CLUB:
YWCA Agvvik Nunavut started the “Northern Lights Girls” program with the support of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and other community resources in Iqaluit. The program caters to girls between the ages of 9-13 helping them to develop leadership skills, increase awareness about violence and its root causes, and build positive self-esteem. Elders from the community speak to the girls about healthy life choices and model Inuit values and beliefs. Girls are also provided with traditional knowledge and history concerning gender roles, and the impact of residential schools. The program has been involved with organizing workshops and conferences, building partnerships with other community organizations, and prevention and intervention of family violence in Iqaluit.
Squag Inc created a technology platform specifically for kids with neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions (autism, ADHD, anxiety etc.) with the goal of encouraging them to explore their sense of self through art, photography, video, and journaling, and to build connections to everything (and everyone!) that they love. Through visual communication and data, parents learn new things about their kids, and kids learn new things about themselves in a secure, social and creative online environment. Squag was a founding B Corporation in Canada, and received funding from the Ontario Brain Institute. Squag Inc hires neurodiverse freelance artists, writers and curators to contribute to the platform, and recently launched The Squag Kids Foundation to empower marginalized youth through technology.
ABOUT THE ZONED COMIC CONTEST (ZCC),
The Zoned Comic Contest, In partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children (Canada), reaches out to children, teenagers, schools, and indeed, the whole community to foster tolerant, inclusive, safe spaces wherein bullying has no place. The purpose of ZCC is to give children a welcoming forum to think and write about the causes and effects of bullying, and strategies for dealing with it. They also encourage the writing on ideas of difference and sameness, which have historically tended to divide individuals and represent an underlying cause of bullying. It is their vision that tolerance and inclusivity flow from understanding. Shared Ventures Inc., the creators of the ZCC is forging relationships with entertainment heavyweights such as Marvel Entertainment to support their growth into a full-fledged entertainment company. www.zonedcomics.com