Indigenous youth taking lead in sexual health education
Native Youth Sexual Health Network invited to UN meeting on sexual and reproductive health
Megan Kanerahtenhawi Whyte wasn't always comfortable talking about her sexual health.
"I think it’s true for a lot of young people that it’s awkward or maybe difficult to talk about sex and sexuality..."
She went to her first Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) event in 2009 and quickly realized how important it was to talk about it.
"Having those discussions really made me have a clear look at my own boundaries and to look at confidence and when it's OK to say no and that’s OK and you shouldn’t have to feel guilty for setting your own boundaries." Whyte said.
"That was an important lesson for me having had prior experiences with not so great situations."
Whyte is now a youth leader for the network and hers is just one of dozens of communities the organization visits across North America to raise awareness about sexual health.
The Native Youth Sexual Health Network invited to present at the UN
This year the NYSHN was chosen to represent Canada and the United States at the first international expert group meeting on sexual health and reproductive rights at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Konsmo is the Media Arts Justice and Projects Coordinator at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
The organization will present a 12 page report highlighting some the issues facing indigenous youth in Canada.
High rate of HIV and AIDS in indigenous communities
"Indigenous youth and indigenous young women are facing some of the highest rates of HIV in our communities." says Konsmo.
"Much of that is because of not having the right to access clean needles or harm reduction supplies because that’s often not provided on reserve or in rural or remote areas or access to testing."
She points to Saskatchewan as an example. In 2012, 74% of all newly diagnosed HIV cases were Aboriginal.
It's an issue important to Whyte as well. "l’m involved in HIV/AIDS awareness because I think it's important to talk about your sexuality and to talk about consent and to talk about protecting yourself and to break down stereotypes or misconceptions about HIV/AIDS."
The meeting takes place over two days and the findings will be put together in a report shared at the United Nation's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May.