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The Legislative Building's rotunda was the setting for MCIC's debut spoken word performance by high school students from across Manitoba.

The official launch of international development week of 2018 took place February 6 as Manitoba Council for International Cooperation welcomed speakers from around the globe and students that study right in our backyards to speak on behalf of important strategies to fight for individuals' rights. The Honourable Ian Wishart was in attendance for the launch as well to witness high school students conduct a spoken word poem.

Tee-Tee, Tanin, Sasha, Anya, Georgia, and Alexander worked together to perform this spoken word poem focused on gender equality.

Alexander says, "I love to write. I've been doing it since I was really young. But I take time when I write to switch out words and take personal time to it. It was good to have new exposure to different styles."

They worked alongside Steve Locke, a Spoken Word Artist, who mentored and instructed them in the art.

"For only four days," Locke says, "the students and I met and learned about global issues relating to gender equality, we learned about spoken word. We came up with ideas for the piece, we wrote the piece, we edited the piece, we video recorded the piece . . . In this challenge with this creative grinder that I put these kids through they overcame every obstacle with bravery, with compassion for each other, and compassion for the issues they care about.

"They embody what spoken word means to me: a tool for empowerment for education. For our bodies to contain our voices as a conduit, for these issues to live within us, and to be transmitted out to you."

Sasha of Winnipeg says, "I think being around people with the same views and the same wishes of wanting equity and equality really helped to promote my writing process with them and make something beautiful together."

The six students from Selkirk, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, and Steinbach came together and created the piece, Shaping Us, as a way to act as voices for change.

Tanin says, "Gender equality is a big deal to me. As a kid, I never fit into stereotypes so I had a lot of prejudice towards me. What I want is for people to have it in their minds. If you can do something, do it. Just change your mindset."

Most of the kids who took part had been on stage previously for either other spoken word poems, drama, dance, theatre, or writing clubs.

Anya from Steinbach says what's important to her for people to take away from Shaping Us is: "You can be who you want to be no matter what your gender is. Just break through those barriers."

According to their website, the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC) is a coalition of 35+ organizations involved in international development who are committed to respect, development, Global understanding, cooperation and social justice.Their mission is to promote public awareness of international issues, to foster member interaction, and to administer funds for international development.