There is no such thing as too young to start having these conversations.
This is the sign that my daughter and I made for her third Women’s March, in 2019, when she was 8 years old. This grew from a conversation we had at the Women’s March the year before, in 2018, when she was 7 years old.
At the 2018 Women’s March, she was looking around at all the different signs that people were holding and one in particular caught her eye. It had a red dress on it. At first, she was very critical about this. She felt that the Women’s March wasn’t about getting dressed up in fancy dresses, it was about making change happen, about getting things done. She asked me what was up with that sign. I quickly ran through exactly what I wanted to tell her about this symbol that represents Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S). I didn’t want to terrify her by giving her too much information. I didn’t want to get into all the details. I didn’t want to tell her that there are over 1,000 unsolved cases of missing Indigenous women and girls. I didn’t want to tell her about the Highway of Tears where too many Indigenous women and girls go missing.
But then I thought of something I had once read that changed my thinking on how much we should tell our children and how much we should shelter them .. and it goes like this .. the only reason that I am able to even consider how much to tell my children about a certain terrible situation is because of my white privilege. The Indigenous families do not get to shelter their children from the reality of the MMIWG2S, because they see so many of their family members and friends go missing. Black families do not get to shelter their children from the disproportionate number of cases of police violence towards Black men and boys, because these children see it in their communities. Refugee children do not get to be sheltered from the pain of war, because they are forced to live through it. After reading this, I felt that I actually do have a responsibility to tell my kids more than I might be comfortable telling them. I need to force myself to get uncomfortable.
And this has helped form one of the founding philosophies behind World-Changing Kids – the idea that we can talk to kids about real life issues, at the level that they can handle, letting them lead with questions, and then we pair that with an action we can take to help .. since action is the antidote to anxiety. By doing this, we will help our kids become empowered, confident, inspired, engaged citizens and leaders. If we don’t do this, we run the risk of them become anxious, apathetic, overwhelmed and depressed because the world’s problems seem too big and they don’t know how they fit into the solutions.
So, with all this in mind, this is how I chose to explain the red dress sign to my 7 year old daughter .. I told her that currently, if an Indigenous woman goes missing, the media does not give her the same level of attention as the story would get if it were a white woman. I told her that if a young Indigenous girl goes missing, the authorities are likely to say she was a runaway and won’t put as much effort into finding her as they would if the girl was white. If a young white girl went missing, it would be front page news until she was found. I told her that this is not right. And that we need to use our voices to say that we think that this is wrong. We need to say that we believe that everyone is equal and that we want this situation to change for the better. We want as much attention and effort put into finding missing Indigenous women and girls as anyone else would receive. We want more to be done.
She sat with that for a while. A few hours later she told me that she wanted to paint a red dress on her poster for the next Women’s March. And this is what we did.
In honour of Red Dress Day, we placed this sign outside our house earlier in the week to help raise awareness about this important issue. We need to take today to learn more, and we have to continue having these conversations all year long.
Here are some great resources you can check out for further learning:
“Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls”: https://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/final-report/
An action you can take to help – sharing the Missing Persons Report for Maisy Odjick and Shannon Alexander: https://www.facebook.com/bridget.tolley.3/posts/4994545410580509
A difficult post to read about Tina Fontaine: https://www.facebook.com/worldchangingkids/posts/7356230811118919
A beautiful and powerful song by our friend Theland Kicknosway: https://www.facebook.com/worldchangingkids/posts/7355392617869405
A beautiful and powerful post by Shina Nova: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdLnH1rl6ub/
A beautiful and powerful post by Asha Frost: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdLnRsOlfQc/