On International Women’s Day, Toronto Police Service and community partners decided to hold a workshop with young women about financial independence.
Sixty girls, aged 13 to 18, participated in workshops and lectures on financial literacy.
“We are promoting financial literacy because, when looking at domestic violence or abuse, one of the number-one reasons people stay in relationships is financial reasons,” said Sergeant Rodcliff Chung, who helped organize the event.
Ashley Hiscox, program coordinator for Teens Ending Abusive Relationships (T.E.A.R), as well a crisis counselor at Victim Services, spoke to the young women on the different types of abuse, including domestic violence.
Hiscox said that domestic violence was different from other sorts of violence because the person was more vulnerable to being re-victimised. Touching on the theme of the day, Hiscox explained that, often, one thing she hears from domestic violence survivors is “I don’t have money to pay my rent, where am I going to stay? I don’t have groceries to feed my kids,” so financial independence is critical in creating a safe future, explained Hiscox.
Besides financial literacy, the girls were also introduced to some successful women in the Service who have risen to the top in their fields.
“You all have so much to offer, and today is a day of empowerment, to take stock of all the things that are before you today. We have some amazing women who are going to be speaking to you, tonight, some are my colleagues in the Service, in very key roles in the service, traditionally held by men… as you move forward you will realize that, as women, you don’t stand behind men…you should always be beside the men” said Ann Marie Henry, Unit Commander of the Employment Unit.
This idea of standing equal to men wasn’t always there, explained Chief Saunders to the girls in the room, even when he was growing up, there was discrimination. “I remember, on career day in grade five, the teacher was asking everybody what they wanted to be when they grew up and one of the girls said she wanted to be an astronaut and the entire class laughed, including me, because back then there was no way, no way, a female could be an astronaut…and yet here we are today and whatever a man is doing, wherever they are doing it, women are doing it, too.
This rang true with 14-year-old Trina, who said “I liked how everyone spoke about how we are stronger, that this generation is much stronger than the generation before us, and that we have more power and possibilities and open doors for our careers and future.”
Inspector Sonia Thomas, the first female black inspector in the TPS, also spoke to the girls about her experience and struggle to achieving career success. She said that, when she was a high school student, her guidance counselor told her she should look into joining the hospitality industry. “So, here I am today…I was hired (at TPS) in 1986…it was difficult for me, I was a very shy person then so, when I stand here today and tell you that you can do anything you want to do, believe me. I didn’t know I could be in the position I am today, yet here I am,” said the Inspector.
Superintendent Deborah Preston reminded the girls of an important lesson she learned from her elementary school teacher. “There are three things that are important to everybody: you need to feel that you are seen, that you are heard and you need to feel that you matter,” said the Superintendent, saying that those were the three things that she has kept with her over the years.
“When you talk about being valued, it means valuing yourself, but it also means valuing your future, which includes your financial independence. Maintaining a degree of financial independence, so you can accomplish your dreams, independent of any relationship that you are involved in, and also to have financial independence to walk away from something, if ever needed,” said Preston.
“If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything in the future,” said 13-year-old Sharany, after hearing the women speak. “They are good mentors,” added the grade seven student.
Director of Finance and Business Management Sandra Califaretti also spoke, along with Staff Sergeant Vanessa Leslie of the OPP, entrepreneur Karen Singh, Carleen Dehaney of Invivo Communication, Karen Mackenzie from I can Rise Above, who hosted the event, and Tracy Moore, ofCity Line, who gave the closing remarks.
The talks were followed by the girls playing a game calledCash Flow, which is a fun way to teach young people how to manage their finances intelligently.