"Laini" is a Swahili word that means 'to flatten an area with the intent of making it accessible'. It is a very similar meaning to “esplanade”, which is a flattened path for people to walk on. Laini is about giving every young woman the confidence and tools to see themselves as leaders; it is about equal chances, and the ability for all to walk the path of leadership.  We thought it was a perfect word to describe these opportunities.

Jamii is offering FREE leadership programs for girls and young women of the Esplanade community
We are excited you are interested in our programs!
Click "REGISTER" or the orange circle to get started
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Ages: 10-16 yrs old
SEPT 2021
Mentor: Elle Alconcel

Jamii is organizing a photo exhibit by artists from Pikangikum First Nation, Northern Ontario (see location on the map HERE), to be displayed in the courtyard of the St Lawrence Library in October 2021.

The photos will be selected by a group of girls from our Laini (girls in leadership initiative) group lead by Creative Placemaker Elle Alconcel.

CLICK HERE to read more about THIS program



Ages: 13-15 yrs old
June to September 2021
Mentor: Arlene Paculan

Learn loving ways to create greatest masterpiece - YOU! Through activities, discussions, and experiences, we will explore ways to be your own greatest fan and showcase your best through different mediums of art forms. If you have ever wondered how to elevate your voice for it to be heard, come along on our journey to help you find that positive voice within so you can shine.

CLICK HERE to learn more about THIS program

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Ages: 16-25 yrs old
May to Aug 2021
Mentor: Paulina O'Kieffe- Anthony

Join Paulina & a group of your peers as we listen to a series of audio theatrical plays produced by Soulpepper Theatre Company titled "Around the World in 80 Plays".


Each week we listen to a play and then, like a book club, we talk about what we heard.  We talk about how we relate to the stories, how they relate to our lives, etc.  We connect over the stories and through that, to one another.

CLICK HERE to read more about THIS program

BECOMING CLUB - with mentor Ayelen Liberona
Ages: 11-13 yrs old - June & July 2021

A Rite of Passage, Connection & Collective Creation. "Becoming Garden" was a journey through art, music and imagination to explore our stories and why we tell them. A unique opportunity to dream with and learn from professional artists, earth workers, story weavers and mystery makers. Participants were invited to play, dig in, grow wings and dance with their shadow.

Becoming Club participants were also part of the creation and performance of the  "Becoming Garden: Cultivating Gratitude; Composting Grief; Harvesting the Mystery" - a performance that premiered on The Esplanade on July 15-17, 2021.


Ayelen Liberona is a multifaceted dancer, filmmaker, culture maker and community weaver. She is the co-founder of The Wandering Eye, where she creates award winning films and site-specific experiences as powerful tools for transformation and social justice. She is also the co-founder/director of Becoming Praxis, an organization committed to developing Open Source Ritual Architectures and Pedagogies that re-story our relationship to land and to each other.

10 participants - 43 hours of workshops

Supported by Ontario Arts Council and TD Bank.

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MUSICAL JOURNEY - with mentor Raha Javanfar
Ages: 8-10 yrs old - July 2021

Under Raha's guidance and leadership, participants formed a musical group, exploring various styles and sounds, and discovering innovative ways to find expression on a variety of instruments. Sessions revolved around the desires and goals of the group, and included diverse activities in addition to playing instruments. 


A musician, lighting/projections designer, theatre performer, and educator, Raha Javanfar is a multi-faceted artist. She is the bassist/front-woman of Maple Blues Award nominee blues/R&B band, Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes.

7 participants - 27 hours of workshops.

Supported by Ontario Arts Council and TD Bank.

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Laini: Testimonials

For years, Jamii has been engaging young women in its programming through volunteering opportunities, participating in creative workshops, and working within the organization.

Here is a series of testimonials that speak to the work we have already done. All are excerpts from the one-on-one series of 20 interviews. We promised anonymity to the participants.



“I gained confidence with my abilities; it was the first time singing in front of a crowd."



 “Jamii has enabled my connection with community which wasn't there before. Jamii has potential for creating social capital and link for people to access public information like town hall meetings, which I got to be part of.”



 “When you transition to high school there is no time to do things you like doing so Jamii created a space for that, and to think critically about my own creativity.”



 “Jamii brings out the need to preserve community values. This has given me motivation to advocate for community in relation to social housing.”



“Jamii programming opened me up to new art forms and better understanding of creative processes.  Especially film, being part of a production team and working/watching the entire creative process, showed me that every part of film is artistic and creative.”

“My experience with Jamii confirmed the type of photography I would like to do. Now I observe to capture interesting moments. I can capture the essence of people.”


“Jamii helped me resist the system of oppression I grew up with where in South Asian culture, young women stay at home. Jamii is offering an opportunity for experience and exposure for these women.”



 “Jamii gave me a sense of responsibility. Setting up the tent at the event made me feel like an important team member.”


Jamii’s Impact: A Self-Study Report
Opportunities, Impact, and Next Steps

Report written by: Tanjin Ashraf


As Jamii is celebrates its 10th anniversary, it has become imperative to assess its impact on the Esplanade community. Building on previous findings, the purpose of this report is to capture the impact of Jamii and its programming in a more comprehensive manner. 20 interviews were conducted in 2019 to collect data on the impact of Jamii programming. The findings from this report will inform future programming such as LAINI, an initiative to encourage young women to affirm their capabilities to become tomorrow’s creative leaders.

"To create leaders, you first have to foster community, then you bring on leadership skills and contribute shaping women as the leaders of tomorrow. Jamii has enabled The Esplanade's community's potential to be iconic: it has definitely raised the potential of our neighbourhood.
Somehow, it brought its talents out. Excited to see what future programming of Jamii will be about.

This quote from one of the participants encapsulates the impact of Jamii, and also emphasizes two aspects that Jamii will focus on in its future programming: building leadership skills, female empowerment, and the nexus between the two.



Tanjin Ashraf

Tanjin has been living in the Esplanade community for the past 22 years. She joined Jamii because she heard about it's empowering programming and saw the beautiful art installations throughout the neighbourhood. In the past, she was a camera assistant for the 'At-Heart' film project and she is currently analyzing the impact of Jamii programming. Tanjin completed her undergraduate degrees in psychology and education in 2015, and finished her Master of Education degree in August, 2019. She loves travelling and has taught in China, Taiwan, South Korea, and England. She is pursuing a PhD in education policy.