In my 6 years in the Young Womens program, I realized that the two main challenges that Young Women face are 1 – low self-worth, and 2 – feeling accepted
In a book I’ve been reading called Blood Brothers, by Elias Chacour, (a Palestinian Christian), it says,“When you build dignity, you begin to destroy prejudice.”
Elias Chacour realized that you don’t destroy prejudice by blocking traffic and talking with world leaders (which Elias Chacour did do). You destroy prejudice by restoring people’s dignity.
A couple weeks ago I was at the Yavapai Library waiting for my brother to get out of class when I picked up a copy of the SGI Quarterly Magazine. In it, I read an article by Khalida Brohi from Pakistan. At 16, her friend’s father and uncle killed Khalida’s friend for “honor”. Honor killings are where a girl falls in love with a boy, and then the girl's male relatives murder her to restore the family's "honor." Khalida was outraged, and she became a passionate activist for the rights of girls and women. She gained a lot of support for her cause abroad, and her message went viral. However, though the world was receptive to her message, her village where the honor killing had occurred was not. Her car was stoned and she had to walk around in veils, and eventually had to leave the village entirely. This failure made her realize that men’s perception of women was not the only thing to blame for this heinous custom. Khalida says, “What we had not realized before was how women’s own perception of themselves played a role in perpetuating this behavior.”
“We had focused all of our energy on making noise and lobbying the government but had failed to recognize the fact that our voices did not penetrate those places where tribal rules and regulations ultimately dictate people’s everyday lives.”
“Women considered the violence and discrimination they faced as their acquired fate and told their daughters and peers never to complain when their husbands mistreated them. That’s why they never challenged a slap from a man or the insults that would come.”
Khalida changed her focus from lobbying the government to changing women’s lives and how they perceived themselves. Khalida opened up a community center in her town where women learned skills like embroidery and were taught in classrooms. With this skill and knowledge, they began to have confidence in themselves and to have a greater sense of self-worth.
The Young Womens program tries to help Young women overcome these problems of sinking self-worth and loneliness by establishing a deep sense of individual worth in the young women and by teaching about Christlike attributes and holding activities where girls can develop bonds and just talk to each other.
Not only in the young women’s program, but in Elder’s Quorum, Relief Society, and the young men’s program, we need to create an environment where people can feel accepted and valued.
Because honestly, Young Women’s wasn’t all flowers and rainbows for me.
I was homeschooled and not really interested in what other people were interested in, which seemed to be limited to movie stars, boy bands, tan lines, and complaining about public school.
I have some bad memories about young womens. Crying my first year at girl’s camp, sitting in my mia maids class with 3 other girls who would only ever talk about a boy band that will not be named, teacher’s trying to make me feel bad because I chose to go on a YSA trip instead of Youth Conference during the summer after I graduated high school. Or when I tried playing the opening hymn and I messed up so badly that the laurel president said I should never play the opening hymn again.
Not to say Young Womens was bad. I also have really good memories of young womens. Bearing my testimony in church and at girls camp, writing little notes to each other about each others good qualities, becoming a camp leader and making up trust exercises for the girls to do, repeating the young womens values, sharing things in class, feeling our leaders love for us, seeing my young womens leader’s families, having parties, eating really delicious food, and perfecting my craft skills. I think that Young Womens prepared me to have a calling, and gave me important activity planning skills and leadership experience.
Through Young Womens, I learned that there was good in people I didn’t necessarily get along with very well.
In a General Confernece Talk, Marvin J. Ashton said, “Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing.”
We can't change the way people perceive themselves and others by preaching to them over the pulpit or lobbying the government. It has to happen on an individual level. We need to believe in each other, build each other up, and treat others in accordance with human dignity. Everybody needs to feel loved and to feel accepted. Not just in Young Womens, but in every organization. However, you can't wait on your leaders to create love and acceptance. It all begins with you.