Finding Comfort in Confidence

women develop confidence In the past few weeks at TYO, participants our The Women’s Group have stepped out of their ‘comfort zones’. As clichéd as this phrase may be, the transformative power that participants find in challenging themselves in IT, Fitness and Nutrition classes has elicited a visible change in the bearing and demeanour of the women.

For years, studies have shown that exercise carries a benefit not just for physical, but also for mental health. Exercise helps to give women a sense of control over their lives and their bodies. This is clearly demonstrated in the confidence women possess in performing their zumba moves and Pilates stretches - their newfound confidence has eclipsed any initial reservations. Women now request their favorite activities, their movements relaying the feeling that they have ‘more trust in themselves.’ Most importantly, they have begun to feel comfortable in their newfound trust, and now take every opportunity to question, learn and grow.

In Fitness and Nutrition, women have found a freedom of expression in the safe space for movement at TYO. In their day-to-day environment, restricted by the limitations of densely-packed and populated refugee camps, there is a severe lack of space for physical activity. Similarly, access to educational materials, let alone the opportunity to learn about and discuss them, are few and far between. At TYO, the chance to learn and question is an opportunity that few women have previously had. In open discussions about proper diet women feel comfortable enough to come forward and ask questions about basic nutrition they previously had only little information on. TYO provides these women with not only the information they need to lead healthier lifestyles, but also a safe space in which they can explore any reservations or questions they may have had.

TYO is happy to see the growth that comes from fitness and nutrition classes, but the growth for women does not stop there. TYO encourages all women to stay technologically informed by providing them with IT classes. For women living in refugee camps where computers are scarce, nothing is further from their comfort zones than IT. Although the class is confined to computer lessons, it is analogous to their daily lives -- lives spent depending on the provision of husbands and sons. At the beginning of the semester many women stated, “I want to learn to use the computer but my children don’t teach me.” It is breaking down this dependence that has become one of the priorities in teaching the IT classes.

They hold the mouse hesitantly, as if steeling for it to make a quick escape. Many regularly forget simple commands, such as right-clicking to select from a menu. The issue is not merely comfort or memory, but confidence; without confidence in themselves or their abilities, comfort is impossible.

After completing each step of instruction, they request validation. After two weeks of IT lessons we began to notice a trend: that women are now familiar with commands and retaining basic IT knowledge, but unwilling to execute basic steps without dependence on the instructor.

So we tried an experiment. After each lesson we informed them, “Do this by yourself, as if I’m not here. I won’t be here when the class is over. You can’t keep relying on me.”

Slowly but surely, they have begun to depend on themselves.

-TYO Interns and Fellow, Amanda, Yvonne, and Nada