Monday 30 April 2012

Award-Winning Journalist?

It appears that this future PR maven just so happens to be an award-winning journalist. 

Okay, that sounded a bit cocky. 

Let’s try again...

It just so happens that this PR student won an award for an article she wrote for Undressed Winnipeg magazine.  


At the magazine fair held at Red River last month, awards were given to different magazine groups for things like best booth, best overall magazine, etc. I was both happy and shy to hear that I received an honourable mention for best magazine article. This isn’t a category that is normally apart of the judging process, which is why I was especially honoured to receive it. 
Honourable Mention Prize
My article was about a young woman’s cultural experiences between sex in Somalia, versus sex in Winnipeg. It dips into topics of virginity, sexual norms, and female circumcision. 

Prior to the magazine fair, I had entered this article to be the possible recipient of an Eric and Jack Wells Foundation award of $500. The awards were presented during our weekly first-year seminar, a week or two after the fair. 

A few friends of mine were certain I was going to win, but there were over 30 amazing submissions; it was really anybody’s game. But to my surprise, I somehow managed to snag one of the awards. If you don’t believe I didn’t see it coming, just think back to my “thank-you speech” I gave when I received my cheque. I was definitely caught off guard. 
I’ve been promising people that I would post this article on my blog, and the time has finally come. Although I have permission from the young woman I interviewed to disclose her full name, I have decided to take her name out of the article, and change it to the most generic name I can think of...Jane Smith. 

*If you would like a FREE PDF of Undressed Winnipeg Magazine, feel free to provide me with your email

Somalia to Winnipeg

A Young Woman’s Cultural & Sexual Experience

Jane Smith moved to Winnipeg from Ethiopia 10 years ago when she was 13. She grew up in a Muslim community and respected many of the different traditions of her culture, some of which may seem bizarre to some Canadians. After moving to Winnipeg she was surprised about often women here openly talk about sex.

“Where I’m from, sex wasn’t talked about, and it wasn’t really a pleasurable experience for women,” said Jane. 

In Somalia, sex is not something meant for women to enjoy. Girls as young as three are circumcised to ensure they don’t have sex before they’re married to someone their family has chosen for them; these marriages usually happen once a girl turns 13. In many Canadian elementary schools, kids learn about sex from their teachers, and are encouraged to have “the talk” with their parents. For Jane, the circumcision was “the talk.” Her parents didn’t talk about what sex meant in their community, it was just something that was understood. Girls knew that having sex after they’ve had the procedure would be painful, and therefore would want to put off the experience.

“As soon as the cut happens, you know the sex isn’t going to be pleasurable.”

There are between 8-12 different types of circumcisions a girl can have in Somalia, and the type she gets depends on what tribe she’s from. Although this procedure can happen to girls as young as three, it mainly depends on when the girl develops enough room for the doctor to cut and sew the right spots around the vagina. Jane was four when it happened to her. 

“I was excited to get it done before I actually got down there. It happens to every female and they make it exciting. My sister who was three at the time went before me on the same day, and so having her there made it even more exciting. We were becoming women.”

While some people view this procedure as a rite of passage, others view it as violence against women, as it can sometimes lead to death. “Often performed without anesthetic under septic conditions by lay practitioners with little or no knowledge of human anatomy or medicine, female circumcision can cause death or permanent health problems as well as severe pain. Despite these grave risks, its practitioners look on it as an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity, and some perceive it as a religious obligation,” Frances A. Althaus, executive director of International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. (

Sex for the first time can often hurt for girls. But having sex years after you’ve been circumcised can hurt twice as much. Not only does the penis need to enter the vagina for the first time, but it needs to penetrate through stitches that have been in place for quite a while. 

Boys in Somalia also get circumcised, but it’s a different feeling for them than it is for girls. 

“We get circumcised too but it’s just a little cut for us, which actually makes us get more easily aroused, if that makes sense.  It actually kind of makes the penis work better in a way,” said Yohanise Gabraeyasuse, a University of Manitoba student. 

When Jane came to Winnipeg, she avoided having sex but not because she wanted to wait until she was married. Although she does follow different Muslim traditions, she considers herself to be a free spirit and only engages in traditions that make sense to her. Jane’s mother died when she was seven, but had told Jane she wouldn’t force her to marry someone she wasn’t comfortable with. Her parents believed in their traditions, but also wanted their kids to be happy. 

“I wasn’t really avoiding having sex before marriage. I just wanted to wait until I had a stable job with reasonable income, in case I got pregnant. I didn’t want to be foolish.” 

Although Jane doesn’t feel that she has achieved long-term employment, she is considering having sex for the first time with her boyfriend whom she’s been dating for a couple of months, providing things continue to go well in their relationship. Even though she uses the word “boyfriend,” she’s reluctant to use that label because she doesn’t want to make things seem too official.

“I don’t want a serious relationship; I do want to meet different people. But just because I want to have a good time, doesn’t mean I’m going to start sleeping with every man I meet.” 

Despite the fact that Jane is still a virgin, she has recently tried to have sex. Because it was her first attempt she was scared for what would happen. She didn’t know how much it would hurt, how it would feel, or if it was even possible for her to enjoy herself. When it got down to the penetration part of the experience, she felt a bit of pain and was afraid that feeling was only leading to further discomfort. So they both decided to stop and wait for another moment where she felt more prepared. 

“I don’t want to expect something to be enjoyable but then go through the painful experience and never get the pleasure that everyone talks about.”

Jane knows there’s more to the overall sexual experience than just intercourse. When asked if she’s engaged in any other activity in which other parts of her body were aroused, or if she had done anything to stimulate her partner, she starts to giggle.

“I tried to do the whole oral thing. Tried and failed. It was too big. My mouth is too small apparently. I didn’t know how to do it so I ended up just scrapping his penis with my teeth.”

The giggles continue.

“I don’t want to say that I’m in a rush to have sex. I mean, I definitely want to have sex before I die a virgin. There’s just that feeling there that you want to fulfill so it’s natural for me to want to satisfy those urges.”

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