by Miranda Scotland
Northern News Services, May 11, 2012
The room erupts into giggles as Colin stumbles up to Hannah and offers her a drink in eXGhange for a kiss.
“If Hannah liked him, how could she go about it?” asks Nancy MacNeill, project co-ordinator for Fostering Open eXpression among Youth (FOXY).
The class quickly chimes in with suggestions for the student actors: Hannah should go home, she could talk to him the next day.
Role playing was one part of an all-day workshop put on by FOXY at Sir John Franklin High School Tuesday to help girls communicate better about sex and relationships. Ten female students participated in the workshop, which also featured a student led sex education class and a discussion about the myths and misconceptions about sexual health.
“I though it was so much fun. I learned so much,” said Grade 9 student Brenda Hotte-Joyce, of the workshop.
“You can just express yourself here.”
That is exactly what the workshop is about, said Candice Lys, FOXY project lead – the girls feeling comfortable enough to open up about health issues.
“We are there to have honest and non-judgmental discussions with the girls about issues that they bring up during the workshop. So we hope to improve the choices they make in their own lives and bodies.”
Lys, 29, got the idea for the workshop while she was doing her master’s degree in health promotion. She found during her research that there was a need for a more interactive sex . education workshop for women in the North. Websites and pamphlets weren’t cutting it, said Lys, who is from Fort Smith.
“One of the things (the women) kept saying was the traditional method of health promotion … gave really good information but they were looking for things more hands on,” she said.
So Lys joined forces with V-Day North, which works to end violence against women, to put together a workshop. The Public Health Agency of Canada also helped by providing Lys with a grant for the project. Once they finish doing the workshops, Lys and MacNeill are planning on putting what they’ve learned into a manual that schools and camps can use to teach kids about sexual health.
Sir John Franklin High School is the third school the team has visited – after Paul William Kaesar High School in Fort Smith and Samuel Hearne Secondary School in Inuvik – and FOXY is planning to visit a few other high schools before the end of the school year.
Lys said so far, the team has gotten great feedback from the participants and the community about the program. The girls love it, she said. Hotte-Joyce said the program brought her closer to the girls in the workshop and helped her see the importance of being comfortable in her own skin. She said she really enjoyed the role playing, which required the girls to act out situations, such as having a friend admit she’s a lesbian.
“It was just fun, we got to dress up,” she said, adding she also learned from the activity. “You have to take (the scenarios) seriously because that could actually happen to you.”