Foxes are a great symbol for this project – in addition to being adorable, wild, and northern, foxes represent resilience, pride, intelligence, and resourcefulness. These are all qualities that we see in young women in the North, and we want to help them develop these attributes and really take pride in who they are.
What’s FOXY all about?
FOXY (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) is a revolutionary program that educated young Northern women about sexual health and relationships. We use drama and the arts to open up a dialogue with teenage girls about healthy sexuality, and they have a great time doing it. We have a strong focus on empowered decision making in a tolerant and non-judgmental atmosphere, as we believe that the best thing we can do for these young women is help them get to know themselves better. We also have many sexual health resources available, and we strive to answer every question accurately, directly, and honestly.
What is the main goal of FOXY?
FOXY is exactly that – a way for us to foster open expression among youth. We talk about sexual health, but we don’t restrict ourselves – we’re there to have honest, non-judgmental discussions with young Northern women about everything related to sexual health and relationships that they might want to talk about. Our hope is to improve the skills that they use to make choices about their own lives and bodies, so that they are better able to go into confusing and stressful situations knowing how to make the decisions that are best for them.
Where do you get your funding? Who are your partners?
FOXY is very happy to have the generous support of the Arctic Inspiration Prize and the Public Health Agency of Canada. We’re grateful to have found partners across the Northwest Territories in schools, youth centres, and community agencies that have invited us to come and work with them. We are also very thankful to have the support of Blachford Lake Lodge, Air North, Northwestern Air Lease, Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation, and the Government of the Northwest Territories to help us reach girls in as many communities as possible. FOXY is always looking to expand our list of community partners, and would love to hear from anyone or any organization interested in being part of the FOXY phenomenon!
Is FOXY just for Indigenous women?
FOXY is open to all young women in the Northwest Territories between the ages of 13 to 17, and we are inclusive of young women of all cultures, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Nothing that we talk about in FOXY is culturally exclusive, and we maintain a very tolerant and open atmosphere.
Are young men allowed to participate in FOXY?
FOXY is just for young women. This particular project deals with issues that are more relevant to young women in Northern communities, and there are different approaches that we take with young men. We feel that it’s important to open this dialogue with all youth, but especially with young women because of the social taboos that still exist about female sexuality. Our parallel program, SMASH, is designed for young men. Check out our SMASH website for more information.
Have you gotten any negative feedback? Aren’t these teens too young to be talking about sex?
We’ve been really excited about the amount of positive feedback we’ve received. Although we know that the issues that we’re discussing might make some people a bit squeamish, we know that people in the North truly care about the well being of our young women, and this is just one more way that we can arm them with the skills they need to take care of themselves. We’re not encouraging any type of behaviour over another, except for healthy behaviour over unhealthy, and well-prepared over uncertain.
Why are you using arts instead of a more traditional approach (like, presentations)?
The Northwest Territories has some very successful sexual health education interventions already. We’ve seen in these workshops that there’s no shortage of knowledge among young women in this age group. We’re trying to go beyond the science and hard facts of sex ed, and open up a dialogue about how this information plays into the day-to-day lives of teens in the North. Drama and the arts allow the participants to explore real-life situations in ways that give them a bit more freedom and anonymity. It also provides them with the opportunity to practice articulating their feelings and choices in a no-pressure environment, strengthening their knowledge and skills to do so in real life.
What about the more colloquial interpretations of “foxy”? Are there negative connotations to the word?
Urban Dictionary defines “foxy” as someone who is “sexy, cool, beautiful, and awesome” – we don’t think that these are negative terms, and this is how young Northern women say that they want to see themselves. We hope that the FOXY will help them feel that way.
What do the participants learn in the workshop?
We try to ensure that the entire day contains a strong sexual health theme, with as much factual information as possible. We address common myths and misconceptions about sexual health and relationships. Participants learn about different ways that they make decisions, are asked to identify their personal cues so they’re more able to trust their instincts, and can practice ways to make difficult decisions in common sexual health and relationship scenarios that affect many Northern youth. These activities and skills help to arm young women to make the best decisions for themselves when dealing with situations that face most, if not all, teenagers.
What if I don’t identify as a girl or a boy, or if I am a trans person? Is there a place for me at FOXY/SMASH?
FOXY/SMASH aim to be inclusive of all sexual orientations and genders. Transgender, Two-spirit, gender-queer, and all sexual and gender identities are welcome at our FOXY/SMASH programming. Please call FOXY/SMASH Executive Director Candice at (867) 444-9108 or email her at email@example.com if you have any questions or concerns, or would like to talk about your Retreat application.