Yellowknife's FOXY 1 year after taking $1M Arctic Inspiration Prize

“The biggest changes that we’ve seen in foxy is the development of our boys program,” says Nancy MacNeill of FOXY's win. The sexual health education program took $1M 2014 Arctic Inspiration Prize.

Flush with cash, sexual education group expanded its reach

As three Northern projects celebrate their 2015 Arctic Inspiration Prizes, one organization is looking back on the day it took home the money.

Last year FOXY, or Fostering Open eXpression among Youth, took the entire $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize — making history as the first organization to win the whole pot. 

FOXY has been bringing sexual health and leadership education to young women in the Northwest Territories since 2012 — but the win has meant some significant changes to the program. 

FOXY for the boys

"The biggest changes that we've seen in foxy is the development of our boys program," said Nancy MacNeill, one of FOXY's founders.

The group planned to have that part of the program up and running earlier this year, after conducting three focus groups in Yellowknife in the fall.

"Once we started doing the focus groups we quickly realized we had to expand and find more information, specifically outside of Yellowknife," something the prize money helped the group to do, MacNeill said.

"We're now travelling to every region in the N.W.T. to do focus groups and interviews."

'Being a man'

MacNeill was "blown away by some of the issues and the problems" facing young men.

Like young women in the North, young men said they struggled with social isolation, lack of resources and support - but also as some unique pressures.

According to MacNeill, "the pressure of 'being a man' and of living up to gender norms you don't necessarily feel apply to you," affects men across the North. 

The men MacNeill spoke to also identified a desire to learn communication skills to deal with things like jealousy and break ups, rather than just the biological information conventionally associated with sexual education in the classroom.

But for Macneill, the biggest surprise resulted in a shift in her own thinking. "What was really personally shocking for me was the desire to break free of 'standard' male roles and gender stereotypes.

"After the focus groups with men, what I've seen is that the patriarchy may benefit men, but it hurts them as much as it hurts us."

A parallel program

"Realistically the structure will stay similar to what FOXY is doing in terms of school based workshops and a peer leadership retreat, but we need the boys to tell us what they want," MacNeill said.

"The guys will ultimately determine what the guys program will look like, and that's a really cool thing."

MacNeill says the organization is planning to pilot test the workshop components for the men's program this summer, and hopes FOXY will be able to start delivering the program in schools in the fall.

Since winning the prize, the group has also started travelling to Nunavut and Yukon, as well as expanding its research mandate.


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