News release

Young Women Speak Out on the Issues

Young women's voices were heard loud and clear today at a forum for Halifax area high school girls sponsored by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

"We listened carefully to concerns, opinions and fresh ideas," said Sharon Heading, executive member of the advisory council. "These young women are our future and we need their input if we are to plan effectively for the future."

About 60 young women gathered in anticipation of International Women's Day (March 8) and in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Titled Twenty Years From Now: Hopes, Dreams and Directions, the day-long session tackled the topics of women earning a livelihood, freedom from violence, and women's health.

The day started off with a theatrical presentation by the Irondale Ensemble to illustrate some realities in young women's lives and to initiate debate and discussion.

"We need an education system that gives us what we need," said Katy Pedersen (Queen Elizabeth High), spokeswoman for the topic of earning a livelihood. "We need schools, parents and politicians to understand that more emphasis is needed on real-life experience."

Brynn Leard (Auburn Drive High), spokeswoman for the topic of freedom from violence, said that "changing the way we raise our children" is the No. 1 way to stop violence against women. She called for concentrated education on the violence issue for both females and males.

"Schools don't seem to take sexual harassment seriously unless there is physical harm," said Ms. Leard. "We need a policy of zero tolerance for all forms of sexual harassment in schools."

She said more students need to speak out when they see sexual harassment and more victim-support services are needed in schools.

Women's health spokeswoman Cindy Ryder (Armbrae Academy) said young women need to pay attention to the "health of their minds, bodies and souls." She said there must be a balance of all three components for good health and called for attention to that balance to be integrated into the school system.

"We've got to work on self-esteem; we've got to be more open about health issues, and we've got to enlist the support of peers, parents and teachers," said Ms. Ryder.

She called for government to help co-ordinate youth meetings, workshops or camps to work on the issue of overall health for women.

Ms. Heading called the day a success and said the advisory council will be discussing ways to receive regular input and involvement from young women. Details of the day's discussions will be passed along to the full council, which will forward a summary to Francene Cosman, Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Ms. Cosman opened the day and brought greetings from the premier.

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Contact:

Chris Hansen
Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women 902-424-4190 E-mail:
ngr                  Mar. 6, 1998                 4:30 p.m.