Leadership féminin Prescott-Russell (LFPR) and its Leadership jeunesse au féminin committee have unveiled the conclusions of their consultations with the participants of the ‘Ma Voix, Mon Futur!’ project.

Held in February and March 2021, the consultations shed light on the issues experienced by young Francophone women living in the rural region of Prescott-Russell. The consultations offered young women the opportunity to speak out to talk about their challenges and their needs, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The young women consulted spoke of their desire to make a difference in society, inspire other girls and transform the system. They were also frank and honest in talking about their fears of failure, the judgment of others, societal pressure and conformism.

The project – which was started in January 2021 and completed at the end of March – looked at the impact of COVID on this vulnerable population. The project fit within the scope of LFPR, which aims to encourage and nurture leadership among girls and young women in Prescott and Russell.

According to the Canadian study Always Confidence and Puberty Wave V (2017), more than 8 in 10 girls (85 per cent) attribute the fear of failure in girls during puberty to societal pressure to satisfy others and to be perfect. The LFPR felt it was necessary, during the pandemic period, to better understand the experiences of the young women of Prescott-Russell and identify possible solutions.

Here are the main points that emerged from the discussions with the young women:

– Community and support: Participants experience many constraints in their search for opportunities to exercise, develop and discover their leadership skills: volunteering, jobs, workshops, groups.

– Accessibility in rural areas: Resources and opportunities are limited or little known in addition to not being adapted to their rural and Francophone reality.

– Communication: The participants are motivated and have ideas but do not know how to communicate effectively in order to transmit them and apply them. They seek opportunities to acquire communication skills in a supportive environment other than the classroom, in a context similar to that which they would face in the public space.

– Well-being and Self-Confidence: When young girls enter adolescence they face negative definitions of their skills and competences which they value: empathy, social justice, respect, listening and non-judgment. These are leadership qualities that are increasingly sought after in all spheres of society.

Personal Learnings: Exposure to successful female role models in various fields is essential for developing a sense of confidence in one’s own abilities, knowledge and aiming high.

Here are two quotes from participants expressing their opinions and the impact they felt:

“The influence of social media causes us to compare our physical appearance a lot to what others share on their accounts, especially during the pandemic, when we have much less in-person contact.” (Participant from Embrun).

“Leadership is important for us because we want to be inspiring, we want to show others that even if we are girls we can accomplish whatever we want and we want to continue to improve ourselves.” (Participant from Hawkesbury East).

In light of the results of this initiative, le Centre Novas, LFPR’s partner in the project, is now working to develop resources for the fall of 2021 that will support young Francophone women in Prescott-Russell.

As for LFPR, the organization takes the issue of female youth leadership seriously and is committed to continuing its support for young women in the region, as mentioned by another of the participants:

“I would really like that to be able to have discussions like this more often. I realize my potential and want to have a positive impact on the lives of others.” (Participant from Clarence / Rockland).

Leadership féminin Prescott-Russell, in partnership with le Center Novas, obtained funding of $10,000 from the community support fund of Centraide Est de l’Ontario, for its project ‘Ma Voix, Mon futur!’ from the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.