In Nova Scotia’s rural context, girls often face genuine and constant gender-influenced barriers. We know from previous research that social supports, identification with a strong cultural community, and opportunities for leadership and engagement in girls-specific programs all help build resilience. We define resilience in as a blend of varied capacities that support girls to come back from hard times, keep themselves going, and take up opportunities. Our conversations with a broad range of community participants (see map) generated N.S. specific data that followed the efforts of communities as they uncovered pathways – the people, programs and services – that launch and sustain girls on a positive life trajectory. Across the diverse array of positive action, we observed or were told about, there were some common elements of success -assets we have named Metaresources that serve to strengthen a foundation for growth and development of youth – especially girls.
The first is a commitment to place- and concurrently often a refusal to leave. Place-based programs recognized that where you are mattered to who you are and where you are going in your future. In some instances, transportation heroics were achieved to resist centralized supports and to ensure authentic participation by girls. Related to place is ethnocultural identity, simply put by one community member as “the culture and the pride of being part of a group.” Whether you are part of the African N.S. community, Mi’kmaq, Acadian, newcomers to Canada or historic European settlers, our diverse histories contribute to how we view the world and particularly inform gender roles.
Community members linked both identity and place to the need for intergenerational engagement where girls can get “right in the thick of things” in terms of influence from elders and the opportunity to take on leadership roles. Lastly, in terms of activating the previous three resources for resilience, community members (program leaders, education and health professionals, parents and more) spoke of how the necessity of shared space, funding and other collaborative efforts created community interdependence. The interdependence of programs and services meant a more informed public and a clear communication of purpose.
We were thankful for the dialogue, as one community participant noted “the stories are at the root of what ties it all together”.
M. Lynn Aylward, Acadia University
*Our focus ‘girl’ population was 11-15 year olds, with consideration of the before and after of this age group for context.