SAFIRI - Rites of Passage
Written by Ann Hanson
SAFIRI – A Journey to Womanhood
On May 22, a dynamic group of young women, their mentors, mothers and grandmothers from Mt. Zion UCC’s SAFIRI Rites of Passage group gathered in the Church House to talk about issues related to human sexuality including HIV-AIDS, relationships, and sexualization.
Barbara Baylor (JWM), a member of this group, invited Ann Hanson (JWM) and Alison Proctor (WCM) to lead this event in preparation for a trip to Ghana where they will be in relationship with other young women of African descent.
The day started out with introductions and the ice was broken by the presence of a racially diverse family of anatomically-correct dolls (representing all ages)!
As we continued through the day, the inter-generational and multi-racial/cultural group came to know each other as female, blessed and whole. Information was shared, stories were told, differences of opinion were expressed, and experiences were honored. The Journey to Womanhood, inspired by laughter, surprise, questioning and joy, was shared by all!
Jacqui Lee-Ivey, Founder of the SAFIRI Rites of Passage remarked: “Being in SAFIRI, a multigenerational group in itself has many benefits for not just girls but the women as well. To have access to all the experiences of women at all ages is invaluable. As a single mother of two girls, I found having conversation about issues of sexuality to be awkward initially, but overall a truly bonding experience. As adults, learning about what our girls are facing, what’s ok, not ok and just in general their perspectives of how they view adults was eye-opening. The greatest lesson I learned was that youth want to be heard. With so many different messages, coming at them simultaneously, talking TO them and not AT them was key.”
As our day together ended, a circle of women gathered, giving thanks and praise for our time together. The journey of life continues with added knowledge and joy!
Listen to other voices:
“Being together with a multigenerational group of females was an education and fun experience. This workshop, because it was facilitated by non-SAFIRI members, allowed the group facilitators, mentors, and the girls to openly communicate and begin to understand what influences each generation’s reaction to sexuality today and it bridged the gap between the group’s generations in learning how family, society and peers influence our self esteem, sexual conduct and sexual knowledge.” (mentor)
“This was a good learning experience. It helped me to see how this younger generation thinks and the differences we have.” (grandmother)
“It felt weird at first, but then it was interesting to hear some of the things my elders were told.” (granddaughter)
“I have attended sessions of this type in the past and looked forward to attending the recent session and obtaining more current information. I was slightly concerned that my presence might affect the level of participation from my daughter and granddaughter. We have always had open conversations at home and I have never hesitated on answering any of their questions on sexuality and relationships. I enjoyed the intergenerational energy.” (grandmother and mother)
“I felt comfortable because I was surrounded by adults and teenagers who helped me to learn about HIV/Aids and relationships. It was nice for me to be there even though I was younger than everyone else. I can talk to my grandmother about anything.” (granddaughter)
“I liked being able to see the reactions of the adults that I otherwise would not have been able to see.” (daughter)
“It was so refreshing to see how the girls interacted with the presence of their adult mentors. They were not afraid to speak up about how they felt about sexuality and relationships. I was once again reminded of what a healthy relationship really is and how difficult at times it is to know what is best for you and how to find your voice to speak up when you know things are not healthy. Healthy relationships are challenging no matter what they age.” (mentor)
“Felt more comfortable talking about it together in a comfortable environment. Learned more in this setting than in school.” (daughter)
“It felt comfortable to ask questions that I always wondered about. I liked doing the group stuff with the adults. School is too uncomfortable.” (daughter)
Safiri, an Afrocentric society of women and girls that focuses on culture spirituality, community responsibility, creativity, health and wellness. Safiri is Swahili for "set out on a journey."