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NWT-based youth group FOXY expands to include young men

A group which talks to Northern youth about sexual health and sexuality is expanding its program to include young men.

Since 2012, Fostering Open Expression among Youth (FOXY) has used art to help teenage girls express their knowledge, opinions and questions about health and love.

But now, the group seems poised to apply that same type of teaching to the other half of the population.

Read: Northern Youth Group FOXY Wins $1M Arctic Inspiration Prize

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FOXY first began holding focus groups with young men in Yellowknife last spring.

Following a successful turnout, facilitators travelled around the territory speaking with young men and community leaders in every region of the NWT.

After conducting nearly 70 focus groups and interviews, a think-tank came together and began laying the foundation for a program called Strength, Masculinities and Sexual Health (SMASH).

“We’re so happy to finally be getting this other half of our program off the ground,” said Nancy MacNeill, FOXY’s project coordinator.

“We talk a lot about healthy relationships but up until now we’ve only been talking to half of the population.

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“Guys deserve this education just as much as young women do and it’s really necessary. They’re experiencing problems just like young women are.”

MacNeill says the program is designed to teach young men about defining their own masculinity and what it means to be a good man.

Through workshops and retreats, participants will learn about sexual health, consent, healthy relationships and positive masculinity.

“Guys want to have these conversations but they’ve been told they’re not supposed to,” said MacNeill. “They’ve been told that men are supposed to know what to do all the time.

“I think it’s really important for young men that they know that it’s okay to be open and vulnerable and they are just as masculine playing hockey as they are when they’re talking to their friends about a problem.

“There’s more than one way to be masculine and there’s no wrong way to be a man.”

Young men from across the NWT will be introduced to SMASH during a peer leader retreat at Blachford Lake Lodge in July.

After that, FOXY will shift its focus to school-based workshops – which will be delivered in schools across the NWT alongside programming geared towards young women.

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