New Group Provides a Safe Space for Women to Build Their Confidence in Speaking

Naotkamegwanning Arena housed some much needed giggles and encouraging applause.

Toastmasters-Karli Zschogner
Front: Darlene Oshie, Rolanda Wilson, Marilyn Leask, Rose Mary Paypompee, Darlene Paypompee Back: Laura Kakeeway, Patricia Biggeorge (Photo credit: Karli Zschogner)

By: Patricia Biggeorge

Ikwewag Toastmasters Club began in the community of Naotkamegwanning in October 2018 at the request of a couple of ladies in the community. Darlene Paypompee was approached because she has been a toastmaster member for a few years.

“I saw a need in the community, and every other community, to learn how to speak in public, conduct meetings, to gain confidence to speak up, to work or join in various committees, and I wanted to support them,” she said, “So, I decided to organize Ikwewag Toastmasters Club where women (Ikwewag) could learn these skills in a social and safe environment.”

Toastmasters is an international network in communication and leadership development.  Some people may wonder why it is called ‘Toastmasters’. Founders of the YMCA realized that a space for encouraging better communication was needed. The name resembled a banquet with toasts and after-dinner speakers.

A Facebook page titled ‘Ikwewag Toastmasters Club’ was launched in early October. Local Indigenous women, 18 years and above, are invited –  not just in Naotkamegwanning, but anyone from neighboring communities.

The first two practices happened in the last two weeks with a minute to speak on a table topic chosen randomly. The ladies chose the topic based on a theme for the meeting. The seven women discussed with each other on how even speaking improv for one minute was exhilarating and they already felt safer and confident.

Darlene said there will be a poll on the Facebook page so that members will have an idea on what to say. The long term goal is to build enough skill and confidence to be able to speak without filler words such as umms and ahhs for 5 minutes. The clubs’ support builds research skills and the ability to speak on a certain topic with confidence.

Joining the club inspires the development of ten goals within a person on public speaking. These are evaluating one’s own speaking ability, preparing and giving speeches, giving impromptu talks, controlling voice, vocabulary and gestures, giving constructive feedback, building confidence, sharpening leadership abilities, improving improvisation, expanding networks, and sharpening speaking, listening, understanding and thinking skills.

It is up to the individual as to when these goals are achieved. The individual can compete in speaking competitions at the regional, national or international level. Membership in the Toastmasters Club provides this small Indigenous community an opening to the rest of the world.

If interested, women can join the Ikwewag Toastmasters Club Facebook page, and are encouraged to sit in on the bi-weekly meetings  starting at 6:00 pm. While the club is for 18 years of age and over, there is the opportunity to start a club for those under 18 years of age, or come to the next meetings.

Membership allows access to regular tips, magazines and competition. Registrations are being accepted, but until a membership of 20 is reached, the club cannot register to confirm its unique bilingual status with Anishinaabemowin.

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