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Mar2TueThe goal is to engage young women before they end up as victims of human trafficking. March 2, 2021
(Above) From left, Cpt Laura Van Schaick, Mjr Shari Russell, Cheryl Nembhard and Danielle Strickland spoke at the territory's first Brave event
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- Territorial News
Young women from across the Canada and Bermuda Territory tuned in virtually on February 27, either with their host corps or individually, to watch “Brave,” an online event hosted by The Salvation Army’s women’s ministries department to empower young women. A recorded version of the event can be accessed here.
The event was emceed by Mikayla Nembhard and Hannah McNeilly, who are hosts of the Brave Girl podcast. The featured guest speakers were Cheryl Nembhard, a Brave journal author, speaker and social justice advocate, Major Shari Russell, territorial Indigenous ministries consultant, and Danielle Strickland, co-founder of Brave Global.
The event kicked off with Danielle Strickland, who shared how she started Brave to fight against oppression: “I’ve always wondered how this happens to women who are so strong, brave, incredible and gifted. I’ve been a student of oppression; if I understand it, maybe I can stop it from happening.”
As Strickland shared stories of abuse, including her own, she marked up tissues with words such as “lie,” “shame” and “racism” and placed them on a plastic female action figure. She explained how although the heroine remains strong and capable underneath, the layers of adversity cover up a woman’s personal strengths.
Then, peeling back the layers of discouragement, Strickland encouraged women to work as a community to confront it. “Speak up and get help to undo the oppression!” she urged.
Next up, Captain Laura Van Schaick, divisional secretary for women’s ministries, Ontario Division, hosted a panel with guests Cheryl Nembhard, Major Shari Russell and Danielle Strickland where the women shared about the adversity they had faced as young women and how they overcame it.
Nembhard spoke on her turbulent childhood, which included sexual assault and joining a gang at a young age. “I was just piling anger on top of hurt,” she explained. “When you love away anger, and heal away anger, you’ll see there’s a very wounded child underneath.” A few years later, she was reached by an urban missionary. “They loved me back to life and the rest is history.”
Major Russell told how she was a part of the Sixties Scoop, where the government took Indigenous children and placed them in non-Indigenous homes to be assimilated. She also spoke on how she spent years of her life in and out of foster care homes, where she experienced various kinds of abuse.
Strickland spoke again, explaining that she had believed the lie that rebellion was freedom. That led to bad choices, which eventually landed her in a jail cell. When a woman from The Salvation Army visited her and showed compassion, it changed her life. “Where I had thought I was an enemy of God because of my behaviour, I realized that he was not mad at me,” she says. “He loved me unconditionally.”
Cheryl Nembhard concluded the event with an encouragement to young women to be brave. She spoke on the added challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and how various hardships, including bullying, poor self-image, job loss and a tough living situation, could be affecting them. “You can only fake it until you make it for so long,” she said. “Crying out for help is one of the bravest things that you can do.”
According to Nembhard, bravery is not always a grand gesture. Sometimes it looks more like just getting back up on your feet after being knocked down. And, bravery isn’t one-size-fits-all either. “It looks different for every single person in their life,” she said.
Brave Global is a network of seminars held across Canada and the United States meant to empower girls, particularly that come from vulnerable situations. The goal is to engage young women before they end up as victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The idea was conceptualized in California in 2014, with the first Canadian event being held in 2018.
Strickland describes Brave as “a campaign to reach out to the most vulnerable girls with a message of empowerment in every community across the Western world.”
“Most of the risk, in terms of being victimized through human trafficking in Canada, tends to be for those groups that are either socially or economically disadvantaged,” notes Trevor Bhupsingh, director general, law enforcement and border strategies directorate for the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, in a 2018 report to the House of Commons on human trafficking.
Brave events are trying to curb this, by reaching girls in this vulnerable demographic.
Prior to the Saturday event, the British Columbia Division had twice hosted Brave events, but this was the first time The Salvation Army hosted Brave territorially, thanks to the efforts of Commissioner Tracey Tidd, territorial president of women’s ministries, and Colonel Shelley Hill, territorial secretary for women’s ministries.
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