Yoyo BenchetritIn my yearbook, I wrote about my teacher, Ms. Jones. She taught me to be just who I am and to not hide the things I’m good at. In her class, we made T-shirts about being grateful. She said when she saw me in my shirt, standing proud and tall, it inspired her to want to get everybody to be proud of who they are.

She came up with an idea to do a workshop called “As We Are”, which I got to participate in. It was a great experience. In the workshop, we started by looking at T-shirts with bad messages about women. For example, one said “Allergic to Algebra.” That offended me because I really like math. It upset me to see a girl wearing that and thinking she’s not allowed to be good at math because it’s “for boys.”

We discussed these messages and brainstormed to come up with more positive ones. We also talked about women we think of as leaders and who inspire us. There are a lot of female athletes I think are good role models, like Serena Williams. Serena shows she doesn’t think that anyone can stop her. We also talked about family members who inspire us. I said my mom, because she’s confident, she works hard, she’s supportive, and she really believes in women’s rights.

After that, we worked on our own T-shirt designs. I wanted mine to describe what women are to me: confident, leaders, musical, athletic, intelligent, and proud of who we are. I put “confident” twice because that’s the word we really need to get out there.

I think a lot of girls are put down just because of their gender. A lot of people say there’s two categories, women and men, and they need to follow certain rules, like women being pretty or being skinny. And then that kind of lowers the way girls think. They don’t try as hard because they think, for example, “I can’t play football, because girls don’t play football, so why bother?”

I usually wear the shirt I designed to bed, because it gives me a reminder before I go to sleep. I have three copies of it and my brother wanted one, too. He’s seven. Hopefully, this project will go worldwide and a lot of girls will start standing tall and being proud. And they’ll hopefully try to be leaders to other kids, too.

As We Are is a Canadian Women’s Foundation funded project that encourages girls aged 9 to 13 to challenge stereotypes and design T-shirts with positive messages. Select T-shirt designs will be sold to support the Foundation’s girls’ programs.

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