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Month: November 2015


Growing up being a caramel coloured skin South Asian with a mother that looks middle-eastern, doesn’t always put you in the most comfortable position in society. Is she your daughter? Really? She doesnt look much like her sister! Oh well, she probably resembles her dad. If I had a dollar for every time I heard those lines, I’d probably have my own version of “Keeping up with Shanzah” by now.

Throughout the years as I’ve lived in Thorncliffe , I’ve realized that shadeism is a huge, huge problem but to the eyes of the world, it isn’t considered an “issue.” A few girls from the neighbouring community Flemington, decided to take action and do something about it which I really admire. They made an incredible documentary to get people aware about the issue and open their eyes to the bigger picture.

On Saturday November 21 2015, the GEM team planned for us to see a private screening of Shadeism: Digging Deeper at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Yes, this is the same TIFF that all of us have been yearning to go to. This private screening was exclusive to GEM girls only! I mean how often does that happen?

Before the event started, everyone got time to socialize amongst themselves and meet each other’s mentors. During all of this, I heard a lot about what the girls thought the film was going to be about. “Shadeism, definitely, is something we don’t hear a lot about. I believe people need to get over the idea that being a certain shade of a certain colour will make them better. I can’t wait to go in!” said Hira D. The screening itself had everyone excited and obviously popcorn was a plus because who doesn’t like snacks?

This documentary really got to me and I connected to it on so many levels. I always thought shadeism worked in a way where the majority thought “the whiter, the better” but I noticed in one of the cultures, being fair skinned was a problem as it is believed that the darker the woman, the more successful she’ll be.

The last few minutes were like a confidence booster because of the advice given from all the women in the film and not just because of being a woman of colour but being a woman in general. The following quote by Alexandra Elle was one of the greatest things I took away from the film:

“Our melanin will always make us marvelous. Just imagine what the sea of sisterhood would look like. Magic!”

GEMinar #3: Stylized Study Tips

“I’m not really a math person.” Says every other person I have ever met. I happen to be one of those people who will always understand math. I can ace the test without studying for it, but chemistry really confuses me. It takes a lot of hard work for me to maintain a grade in Chem. Maybe a week ago I would’ve said, “I’m not that much of a Chemistry person.” But after the fabulous GEMinar with Devra D’Urzo, I know that’s not true.

Devra helped the GEMgirls understand that not all people will learn the same way. Each person has a unique learning style and she helped us determine ours by giving us a survey. Devra was also able to give us lots of tips, on how to study and keep moving forwards.

Devra’s Stylized Study Tips

  1. Optimism: You’re most likely going to have to take a course you don’t necessarily need or like. You might even go through a unit in a course that you absolutely loath. But the thing is, no matter how much you dislike the class, you’re still going to have to take it and get a grade at the end. You might as well make the best of it, and keep a positive attitude to keep yourself motivated.
  2. Prioritize: All of your assignments won’t always be equally important. Invest more time into the assignments that have the most reward whether it’s the portion of your final mark, or the importance of the class to your future.
  3. Get Organized: Despite what your opinion on agendas may have been in middle school, the truth is they are really helpful. Students and adults living everyday life can really benefit from having an agenda. It’s nice to jot down your to –do list on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis. This way you won’t forget that really important thing you had to do. Plus do you know how satisfying it is to cross something off of your to-do list?
  4. Get comfortable: I find myself getting very easily distracted when studying. Things as simple as the temperature in the room or the kind of clothes I’m wearing can really change my mood when studying. I study best when I have a healthy snack to eat-that won’t cause a mess, a comfortable space to sit where I can keep a good posture, a comfy sweater, and all the supplies I may need easily accessible. I also turn my phone off, and keep it out of arms reach. That way I won’t always be compelled to pick up my phone every time it bings.
  5. Expectations: Simply doing only the assigned things won’t do. Take initiative to find some practice assignments you can do on your own, or even some reading. If you work better with other people, find a focused study group who you can work with, or maybe even a tutor if you think you will need it.

It’s terrible when you’re not prepared for a test that is the next day, or you don’t have the assignment that’s due tomorrow. Don’t be one of those people who start studying at ten p.m the night before. The best thing to do to ease the work load is to study a little bit every day, even if it is just ten minutes uninterrupted. Make the best out of your education. You only realize the value of what you have when it’s gone. It may sound cheesy but you know it’s true. Not everyone gets an education, or so many opportunities in school. And even though you absolutely hate math, the best thing to do is suck it up and learn the quadratic formula. You never know, one day you might actually need to find the line of best fit, or the slope of a hill in the park.

Special thanks to Devra D’Urzo, for presenting at the GEMinar.

Here is an online self-assessment to find out the type of learner you are right now. http://www.edutopia.org/multiple-intelligences-assessment

Apps to keep you organized



For those of you looking for something simple, try a to-do list app.

Tabassum Lakhi is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM and also a GEMgirl.

Coffee Chat #1 – Taking the next step

Should I include my family history? The Honesty award I got in fifth grade? What about my club memberships? The dog walking job I had for three years? My family income? Whether you’re applying to university in the next few months, or the next few years, you’re going to have a lot of the same strange but honest questions. Michelle Carvalho, Associate Director, University Counsellor from Upper Canada College, helped GEMgirls out with personal statement writing at the first GEM Coffee Chat of the year.

Michelle had a lot of helpful tips and suggestions to get GEM girls on their way to applying to their colleges and universities of choice.

Tips and Advice

  • Talk about yourself: Michelle emphasized throughout the session how important it is to be able to talk about yourself. You have to be able to do it on your résumé, during interviews, and on your college application.
  • Create your own voice: A lot of people may think that the fancier the words, the more impressed a person will be, but that’s not true at all. Schools are looking for students with creativity, and value. Put the thesaurus away, and be clear about what you are writing. Deliver your perspective in an authentic way, and no matter how typical the question or topic, stray away from the stereotypical answers and phrases.
  • Research: You want to know who your audience is and what the school strives for. Search their mission statements, and read their mottos.
  • In or Out: No, not the restaurant. I’m talking about information you’re not sure whether to include or not. Michelle advised that unless they specifically asked for the information don’t provide it; it’ll most likely get thrown out.
  • Accomplishments and Experience: When it comes to job experiences, and accomplishments, it is important to keep tracks of the date. Include it if it happened in the last 4-5 years, because the truth is schools don’t care about the honesty award you got in fifth grade, but when it comes to your tenth grade job, or the scholarship you just won, they’re all ears.

Special thanks to Michelle Carvalho for coming out to help out the GEM girls. The coffee chat was very informative, and Michelle also left us her personal card for any questions regarding personal statement writing and more.

Tabassum Lakhi currently attends Marc Garneau C.I. and is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM.

Day of the Girl

Generations of incredible women have created a change and a community in which the dehumanization of women is intolerable. It’s crazy to think that a hundred years ago in Canada, women weren’t even legally considered persons. Today that notion has long faded in Canada, but the same can’t be said for places around the world. International Girls Day is on October 11, of every year to recognize girls’ rights, and the challenges they face in society.

The UN believes that girls should have the right to a safe, educated, and healthy life, not just as youth but also as they flourish into young women. The UN emphasizes importance on this day to bring attention to the changing role of women in society and how they hold power to create a generation of change. Empowered girls of today have the potential to be tomorrow’s mothers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, and much more. Educated women, even in societies where it is not a norm, have already proven to do great things. Take Noble Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai, as just one example, from the millions.

To create the society that you want to live in, it is important to exercise your right to vote; the same right that countries have gone to war to get. It is important to read into party promises, and see what the party has done for our society, and surrounding countries in the pass. It’s time we do away with politicians who silence women, and single out people of race and culture. We need leaders who not only listen to the needs of their people, but also follow through. It is important to make sure the politicians we elects have the best interest of their people. We need to elect leaders who recognize the needs of women in today’s society. Politicians who give women a choice when it comes to carrying children, equality in the workforce, and belief in the change they can make.

It is also important to stand by women in a society where they love to pit women against each other. Celebrate each woman’s success, and women who break the barriers of society’s norm and redefine the role of women in society and in mainstream media. Every time she’s the nurse and he’s the doctor, she’s the assistant and he’s the CEO, and every time she’s the damsel in distress and he’s the hero, their sending a message; women can’t. But the truth is we’re a generation full of Katniss Everdeens, and we’re already breaking barriers and paving our own path.
Happy Girls Day. To celebrate all girls, and their right to a safe, healthy, and educated life. To every girls individual journey, and every girls right.
Special Thanks to GEM, for creating a community where they empower girls to come together and reach their full potential.

Tabassum Lakhi currently attends Marc Garneau C.I. and is a Creative Writing Intern at GEM.