Young voices making waves

by Shari Graydon
making waves 2023 image of audience

Photo by Stasia Schmidt

“Women who get c-sections are pussies.”

This mind-blowingly ignorant pronouncement was made by a Calgary high school teacher to his biology students. Not last century, but this year.

Does thinking about a room full of impressionable young people hearing this claim made by an authority figure in the tax-payer funded education system enrage you? (Three days later, I’m still fuming.)

But what gives me hope is that it was one of the first stories shared at the Making Waves workshop Informed Opinions convenes every year in collaboration with Hanita Simard.

Hanita mobilizes a network of women and teens keen to spend their privilege by working for change – on everything from climate action and women’s equality to mental health and LGBTQ+ rights. We invest a day together talking about how to make waves and why it matters that their voices are heard.

When I paused my presentation 20 minutes in to invite the 60 teens and women present to reflect on if or when they’d either silenced themselves or been silenced by others, a grade 12 student spoke up to share her experience.

Photo by Stasia Schmidt

She said that when her biology teacher verbally demonstrated how unfit he was to deliver scientific insights, she was too stunned to object. But by sharing the story with the rest of us, she galvanized the room.

Later that day, after we’d already talked about the value of being strategic about your audience, articulating a clear, out-come-focused purpose and making an explicit solution-focused call-to-action, we drafted a letter to the principal.

Maria Spronk-Johnson, a lawyer currently on mat leave, facilitated a live demo using ChatGPT to show how easy the technology made it to incorporate data about how often c-sections are medically-necessary.

Maria did so with her infant daughter, Rose, strapped to her chest, a visible reminder of how profoundly different women’s realities so often are and why it’s critically necessary for our voices to be equitably integrated into every decision-making — and educational — arena.

Calgary Foundation and Bennett Jones sponsored Saturday’s event in the law firm’s beautiful Calgary offices. We all left high on one another’s energy, insights and commitment.

To learn more about Making Waves, visit

And if you’d like to collaborate with Informed Opinions on convening or sponsoring a similar event for young women in your community, please contact