The Second Series of Spoken Word

The second series of Spoken Word workshops began as young women ages 17-24 joined Sheniz Janmohamed to learn spoken word and to present forced marriage related issues through this performance art.

 We started the session with introductions and our experience with spoken word. The experience level varied around the room but each member was ready to learn and improve on their skills. Our first line of business was establishing a definition of what we think spoken word is. We decided that spoken word is a creative and poetic way of expressing feelings, attitudes and perspectives that are either personal or present in the community; whether it is in our media, societal views or expectations. For example we viewed the video of a piece expressing the many appearance preparations women endure to achieve what society deems as “perfection.”

Second we talked about a few aspects that make a spoken word piece effective. Our facilitator Sheniz did a great job in demonstrating how body language, pace of speech and the tone of voice can support and promote the message of your piece. For example a piece that is made to convey how angry a woman is with sexism may be performed in a firm, authoritative voice with a faster pace of speech. She may also gesture or move in certain ways to express her discomfort. We then moved into trying an exercise saying “no” in three different tones. The first no was passive and quiet, the second was aggressive and angry and the third was firm and strong. This exercise was to demonstrate how tone of voice can deliver a message.

Finally, we concluded the workshop with discussing gender roles and the main responsibilities of women when it comes to family.  Our first free writing exercise was to complete the phrase “Because I am a woman…” in our notebooks. These pieces will be worked on throughout the 7 week period and will hopefully develop into great performance pieces at the end. — Mariah Carty, Youth Ambassador

The second week of this workshop started off with an activity to get to know each other more. Sheniz brought in a round piece of rock and everyone wrote a line about what they thought it was on a piece of paper and then fold it. Sheniz shuffled the folded papers and each participant picked one piece of paper to read what someone else had written and guessed who wrote it. Surprisingly, everyone matched the right person with the writing on the pieces of paper.

I led a discussion about gender by showing the participants a bristol board with definitions related to gender, socially expected gender traits, and sexuality. It was very encouraging to know that participants had read about these concepts in school through courses on society. Mariah had also had a discussion about gender roles in one of her university classes that she brought into the discussion. Sheniz wrote down some of the behaviour that is expected of women in our society. Our discussion led to the next activity, which the participants adding a line to “Because I am a woman…” on a piece of paper, folding the paper where they had written their line and then passing it to the next participant. Then everyone read their piece out loud so that we had a group piece written down. Everyone copied it in her own notebook and then they sat in a circle away from the table to rehearse performing that short poem as a group. Sheniz showed the group various techniques of performing it together and the effects of that technique. For instance, one participant would start reading a line and before she finished, the next one would start reading her line. This created the effect of echoing and reinforced the power of young women speaking up together. It was very exciting to see the participants learning to perform already.

The last activity involved the girls going into two groups and brainstorming group pieces that would talk about gender roles that affected them. In the next workshop, they will finish off their group pieces, rehearse together and then perform. — Amna Siddiqui


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