Peers to continue providing education
Status of Women Canada will be presenting information from a Tri-County Women’s Centre project as a rural best practice example to the United Nations this spring.
Doris Landry holds a poster connected to an 18-month project that has seen the evolution of peer educators in tri-county high schools. Information on the project, which deals with hypersexualization and sexual violence, has been selected by Status of Women Canada to present before the United Nations this spring. Carla Allen photo
A leader for the project – Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in South West Nova: Reducing the Harm / Reducing the Violence – is implementing it in each county: Patricia Vanaman for Shelburne County, Nicole Hattie for Digby County and Doris Landry for Yarmouth.
Landry says the 18-month project, which began last March and ends this August, addresses sexual violence and hypersexualization through engaging youth and gathering information.
“It’s been a priority for us so that we have better outcomes at the end of the project. From Day One we knew it was important to engage youth,” said Landry.
“We started off with focus groups, going to all of the high schools. We asked them specific questions around hypersexualization and sexual violence.”
Landry said that few knew what hypersexualization is (the hyper use of sexuality to sell products.) Through hypersexualization, young women are led to believe that they must be weak and submissive and that they must “look” a certain way. Young men receive the message that they must be powerful, strong and in control.
“For me, over the years I’ve noticed it more and more, this (hypersexualization) is becoming normalized. We don’t even pick up on some of the things that are there every day,” said Landry.
The focus groups helped to make young people much more aware of the issue.
“What came out loud and clear is that people do not know the issue of sexual consent,” said Landry.
The coordinators requested volunteers in each county to become peer leaders in their school and community in order to provide others with information on prevention and the intervention of sexual violence.
Most of the 30 to 35 students that received the peer education are from Grades 10 and 11. The hope is for these youths to train other students behind them. Another component of the project is to supply a tool kit of resources to these educators. The kits may include information on who to approach for help, an interactive power point presentation, DVDs and fact sheets.
What came out loud and clear is that people do not know the issue of sexual consent. Doris Landry
Landry points to the development of youth health centres in rural areas as a tremendous boon to education. As well, teachers and guidance counselors have been “amazing,” she says.
Project leaders continue to work with the peer educators on various initiatives that they have selected.
“We’re letting them run with it, with a little bit of guidance,” said Landry.
The establishment of Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART’s) in each county is another component of the project.
The 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will take place Feb. 27 to March 9, in New York. The CSW will consider the priority theme of “The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges.”
The Status of Women Canada (SWC), in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, is leading preparations for Canada’s participation at the UNCSW.
For the 2012 session, SWC is developing an information kit that will provide a statistical profile of the economic and social situation of rural and remote women in Canada. In addition, they will be including Canadian examples of best practices/innovation of project/policies/initiatives aimed specifically at rural and remote women and girls.