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Our Voices

We Had Better Believe Her!

An image of a young black woman, wearing a flowered dress, hands folded in front of her.
Feminist poet, Alexandra Mandewo. Photo Provided.

Not every 18 year old writes feminist poetry and dreams of going to biomedical engineering school in the fall. Except for Coquitlam, B.C. based Alexandra Mandewo. 

Mandewo won an award at her school for this work. She sent it to us –looking to publish it.  We loved it. Thought you would too.

Here is a little more about Mandewo and her poem. 

LiisBeth: How old are you? What school you go to?

Mandewo: I am 18 years old and go to Pinetree Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC.

LiisBeth: What prompted you to write this poem?

Mandewo: I wrote this poem as part of a social justice poetry assignment for my First Peoples English 12 class. I wanted to write a poem that would inspire and motivate others.

Not every 18 year old writes feminist poetry and dreams of going to civil engineering school in the fall. Except for Coquitlam, B.C. based Alexandra Mandewo.  Mandewo won an award at her school for this work. She sent it to us –looking to publish it.  We loved it. And so we did. 

LiisBeth: Do you write a lot of poems?

Mandewo: I started writing poems this year but I’ve always considered myself a writer. I’ve written many articles ranging from diversity and inclusion to educational disparities. Many of my poems have been about women’s empowerment but also grief.

LiisBeth: Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so tell us about your beliefs as a feminist. 

Mandewo: I do consider myself a feminist- an intersectional feminist. I use Roxane Gay’s description of the foundation of feminism as my definition of a feminist: I think a feminist is someone who supports the choices of women even if they wouldn’t make those certain choices for themselves.

(Click above to hear Mandewo read the poem. You can also download it here. )

LiisBeth: How have you experienced high school in terms of gender equity?

Mandewo: My high school experience has been very unusual due to being a high performance athlete and the pandemic- doing half of my high school completely virtual. I don’t really think I have experienced gender inequity in my classes or in my school.

However, one distinct moment I remember was my first high school career fair. I decided to go to the room where a male engineer was speaking about his field and when I entered I realized I was the only girl out of at least forty kids. Despite this, I tried to actively participate in the discussion but whenever I put my hand up to answer questions, I was never picked.

The speaker went as far as asking kids who had already answered questions to answer another one instead of calling on me with my hand up.

Luckily, this experience didn’t heavily affect me as I am going into engineering in university- but it was my first of many experiences being the only woman in the room.

LiisBeth: Have you ever felt a “feminist snap”? A moment in time when you wanted to shout “That is not right!” Or fair!

Mandewo: The one thing that always gets me is the gender pay gap. Some people argue that it only exists in certain level jobs but research and testimonies clearly shows that it exists in all levels of the workforce. I struggle to fathom how someone can think a man and woman doing the exact same job should be paid differently.

LiisBeth: What do you want to do when you graduate? Interests? pursuits?

Mandewo: I will be attending George Washington University in Washington, DC. Being in America’s Capitol, I will have access to a plethora of organizations looking to help with the advancement of women’s rights. Within school, I plan on taking courses like Women, Gender and Sexuality studies as well as joining groups like Women in Engineering to help uplift other women.

LiisBeth: Thank you so much Alexandra!  You are an amazing young woman!

Mandewo:  And thank YOU for sharing my work with your readers!

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