Participants of the teenage club “Girls* can” meet at the lectures on eco-activism, paint vegan Easter eggs, analyze movies, and learn to counter gender-based violence. Let’s find out what has happened in the club since the beginning of the year.
According to the results of the recent research conducted by the NGO “Girls”, Ukrainian teens don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents or teachers about reproductive health and sexuality. Moreover, due to the full-scale invasion, teenagers are feeling more anxious and frightened. In order to help the teenagers to cope with their feelings “Feminist Workshop” keeps bringing them together at the club “Girls* can”. That’s a club for girls* and nonbinary people where they can share their experiences with each other or with their mentors, get and provide support, and find new friends. Each meeting in the club focuses on a certain topic related to gender, be it movie night, a vegan Easter eggs workshop, a lecture on countering gender-based violence, or playing a board game about street protests, etc.
Why do teenagers need a club?
Activist of the “Feminist workshop” Anastasia-Lubov coordinates the activities of the teen club. According to her observations, participants mostly join the club while searching for a comfortable community with no stereotypes imposed. The wartime conditions such as fear for the lives of your loved ones, possible air attacks or power outages, and uncertainty of the future – all these factors contribute to making already vulnerable group even more fragile. “Some of the club members fled abroad, we were instead joined by internally displaced teens. When organizing the events now, we need to be prepared for the air raid alarms going off”, – the coordinator shares.
What happens at the club
March marked the second anniversary of the teenage club. Since the beginning of the year activists of the “Feminist workshop” already organized 9 events. From the beginning of the full-scale invasion 35 events were held, and 58 events were made during the entire existence of the club. Some club events are educational and focus on a certain topic, such as lectures on ecoactivism or the screenings of contemporary Ukrainian movies. Other events are meant to widen the teenagers’ worldview and offer them role models. Among these latter events were the board game about street protests “Activation” made by the Mariupol platform “TU” and the opportunity to become the first players of the board game about sustainable fashion made by the organization PUS. Sometimes the members try out the projects at the launching stage. Teens evaluate them and talk to their creators.
Countering gender stereotypes remains the focal point of the teenage club “Girls* can”. Research proves that one of the factors negatively affecting women’s careers is the absence of role models. That’s why the club organized the screening of the series “Women scientists”, several documentaries on Ukrainian women in science. Teens also get to watch Ukrainian films. “We watched the movies of Nadia Parfan, Nariman Aliev, Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk and discussed the role of women in the script, talked about historical retrospect” – Lubov says.
On April 2 our vigorous activist Nastya Zhabka held a workshop on painting vegan Easter eggs. “We listened to Ukrainian bands like DakhaBrakha and Folknery, spoke about «polyphonyproject» and discussed maintaining the balance between feminist ideas and love for Ukrainian customs. This topic often becomes the subject of controversies”, – Lubov says. In April we also pondered over study procrastination: how to study when you don’t want to, about guilt, and about transforming these emotions into constructive actions.
What impact has the club had on girls*?
The participants aspire to immediately put the newly acquired knowledge and skills into practice. For instance, two club members moderated students’ chat in their high school, explaining what is hate speech, and drawing attention to the comments containing it. Teens also participate in other events and campaigns of Feminist Workshop, and the member of the club Arson became a cyber volunteer of Feminist Workshop.
Club members are identifying their stances as citizens and activists, and aim to profoundly understand world trends. That is one of their primary motivations to learn English. To help teens with that, Feminist Workshop occasionally organizes English-speaking meetings and tea parties that teenagers are welcome to join.
What makes the club important?
Member of the club Daryna says that for her, solidarization and self-actualization are the main values of the club: “It is crucial for me to have an opportunity to implement the ideas together with like-minded people or simply meet with them to discuss what happens in our lives”. The first event of the teenage club Daryna visited was the lecture on ecoactivism. The girl learned about it from Instagram. “I loved the friendly atmosphere at the club, I always leave the meetings in a good mood”, – she says.
Teenagers are going through physical, social, and emotional changes, and wartime conditions make them all the more vulnerable. That is why a warm friendly community that can be used to discuss taboo topics, share your emotions, and get information about health, relationship, and safety becomes the safe haven supporting teens during tough times. The teen platform “Girls* can” aims to support the participants in their coming-of-age experiences. “When girls receive support not only from their closest friends but also from the broader community which enables them to feel safe, that empowers them. It is like they empower each other”, – says Lubov.
Text: Iryna Sokolovska Photo: Tania Dzhafarova Translate (Ukrainian-English): Kira Leonova