Zero judgement was the name of the game for the sexual health workshops held last week for young girls.
FOXY, known as Fostering Free Expression among Youth, project co-ordinator Nancy MacNeil said she doesn’t know what it’s like to be a teenage girl growing up on the Hay River Reserve, so she said she couldn’t presume to judge those who do.
“The world is not built for young women,” she told The Hub. “I think we all grow up knowing that, that there are things we know aren’t for us but we’re here helping them navigate those issues, showing them women just being real, regular people.”
The FOXY team visited Diamond Jenness Secondary School and Chief Sunrise Education Centre last week to deliver sexual health workshops that cover everything from basic anatomy to healthy relationships.
Broaching these topics isn’t always easy but MacNeil said it is always rewarding.
“There are no value judgements in there,” she told The Hub last week during a visit to Chief Sunrise. “Because we’re leaving today, they can ask us anything and they don’t have to see us tomorrow.”
FOXY was awarded the Arctic Inspiration prize last December along with $1 million, allowing it to start planning to expand into the Yukon and Nunavut, as well as develop a program for boys. But for all their new travels, the team hasn’t forgotten that Hay River played host to the very first focus group that led to the creation of FOXY.
“It was a disaster,” said MacNeil. “We scheduled it for 8:30 on a Saturday morning, got there and we were really tired, and then wondered why there were no teenagers.”
Although the program has been to the high school in previous years, last week was the first time the team visited the reserve. Executive director Candice Lys said it was good to be able to reach all the girls in high school at once in the smaller school.
“They all hang out together, despite the difference in grade-level,” she said, adding that a few girls who had gone to FOXY’s peer leader retreat came out to help facilitate the workshop.
The team hosted workshops across the South Slave, touching down in Fort Resolution and Fort Smith as well as Hay River and the Hay River Reserve. MacNeil said she hopes to see girls from the schools come out to the next peer leader retreat, where girls are encouraged to express themselves, gain confidence and become role models.
“Watching girls go from shy teenagers to strong, amazing, brilliant women has been amazing,” she said. “The entire world tells women to shut up and we put them on a chair and tell them to get mad. There are so many things for young women in the North to be mad about and we want to help them find their voice to speak out against them.”