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The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
The Let’s Talk About Sex Project
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The Let’s Talk About Sex Project

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This community-based project engaged 15 young (14 – 18 year old) African, Caribbean and Black-Canadian women in an arts-based workshop designed to educe how these youth make sexual health decisions …

This community-based project engaged 15 young (14 – 18 year old) African, Caribbean and Black-Canadian women in an arts-based workshop designed to educe how these youth make sexual health decisions and negotiate their agency in a hostile, structurally inequitable environment.

Presented by Ciann Wilson at the Under the Baobab African Diaspora Networking Zone at the International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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  • Hi everyone, I will be presenting the layout for a paper I am working on which theorizes some of the findings from my masters research project, the Let’s Talk About Sex project.

  • Just to give you some context for this project....Whether we look nationally or more locally at the HIV trends, we see that HIV follows lines of larger socio-structural inequities as, this disease disproportionately affects the African Caribbean and Black (ACB) -Canadian community.
    For instance: with the exception of Aboriginal communities, on a national level the HIV infection rate is 12.6 times higher in the ACB community than amongst Canadians of other races.
    More locally, in Toronto, African and Caribbean people account for 10% of the City’s population and yet 33% of it’s new HIV infections.

  • Along the lines of gender and age we see that women account for an increasing proportion of positive HIV test reports in this country.
    Heterosexual contact being the main mode of transmission amongst ACB women, who are 3 times more likely to be infected with HIV than their White counterparts
    Along with Aboriginal youth, ACB youth are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at increasingly younger ages than youth of other ethno-racial groups. This is more worrying in light of the fact that the ACB community has a very large youth sub-population.
  • The Let’s Talk About Sex project took place in the Jane-Finch community.
    Located in North-West Toronto, the Jane-Finch neighborhood is one of Toronto’s largest ACB communities. It is also a context of racialized poverty, low income and high unemployment, results of systematized discrimination that remain largely ignored at the level of policy.
    These social ills then create the environment for high pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infections amongst the youth in this community.
  • It is this larger context that left me with a sense of frustration and motivation to better understand the sources of these statistics through the narratives of the young women within my community.
    While the larger research project had many overarching questions aimed at exploring the barriers and facilitators to the sexual health of young ACB women in the Jane and Finch community.
    For the purposes of this presentation, I will focus on how the group of ACB women I worked with in the Jane-Finch community make sense of the factors that influence their sexual decisions?
    For this study the community advising committee, which consisted of myself and representatives from Black Creek Community Health Centre and local community centres, recruited participants from local malls, high schools and community based organizations.
    In total 15 (14 – 18 year old) girls participated in the project.
  • - In terms of methods...During a workshop held every Saturday for 9 consecutive weeks from January – March, 2011, participants employed Photovoice, which allowed them an opportunity to photographically and narratively represent their perspectives on the barriers and facilitators to their sexual health.
    - I chose to employ the photovoice approach in this project because of my familiarity with photovoice and its use in health research.
    - The workshops, much like a focus group, provided participants an avenue for critical dialogue about and reflection on their photographs and accompanying narratives.
    In total 78 evocative photos and narratives were produced by the young women in this study
    Follow-up semi-structured interviews were conducted in the 9th and final workshop to get each participants’ reflections on the overall process of being involved in project.
    - Using Nvivo 9 software all of these forms of data were coded and main themes were derived.
  • Some of the major findings included the stressing by participants that negative stereotypes prescribed the kinds of sexual behavior expected of young women in the community
    labels such as baby mother, promiscuous and ghetto were ascribed to their persons
    - These stereotypes were thought to be informed by the media, outsiders, religion and culture.
  • A solid example of this came from a photo-narrative by one participant who cleverly photographs a stomach and wrote the negative labels assigned to young women in the community on her stomach to symbolize how such stereotypes held by outsiders mark and taint the bodies of young women from Jane-Finch.

    A shortened excerpt from this photo-narrative reads:

    “LOSER, DIRTY, WHORE, BABY MOMMA, NO AMBITION. These words describe how Jane-Finch girls are portrayed. This relates to our lives because everywhere you go ignorant people who lack knowledge will judge you because you are from Jane-Finch. Sometimes when I say I am from Jane-Finch, people jump to conclusions that I am a liar, I am sexually active, I am a loser who doesn’t care about life and I am not going to finish high school... Some girls live up to the stereotypes, but not all girls fit the stereotypes of the whore who is not going to graduate high school. Not every girl here is the same and you can’t judge everyone based on what a couple of girls do,” (photo-narrative titled If I don’t respect myself, how can anyone else?)”
  • - In light of this it should come as no surprise then that none of the young women in this study admitted of their own sexual activity but instead reported that girls avoided accessing clinics, condoms and resources because access would indicate the admission and “outing” of one’s sexual activity, a social blemish for young women...one that was linked to religion and ultimately led to a lack of communication with parents and unsafe sexual practices.

  • - In in many of the photo-narratives, participants made a pointed effort to declare that these broad generalizations did not apply to all of the girls in the community, and more specifically, that these stereotypes did not apply to them.

    It was in these declarations of self determination and resilience that participants also socially distanced themselves from the “other girls” in the community. By socially distancing themselves participants were able to reaffirm their own identity and agency, while perpetuating the negative stereotypes, projecting them onto other young women in the community.

    For instance, participants attributed teen pregnancy (an obvious and stigmatizing indicator of sexual activity) to character flaws such as the lack of ambition and male dependency on the part of young mothers. Likewise, participants viewed girls whose sexual activity were made public as “lacking self respect.”

  • One particpant in her photo-narrative discussed the challenges young women in the Jane-Finch community face with accessing financial resources and jobs and how this negatively impacts their decisions to purchase recreational items like condoms and other forms of contraception…but also how the lack of access to money also translates to a lack of access to power.
  • Importantly, despite the financial burdens the participants faced in virtue of living in the Jane-Finch community, none of them self-reported engaging in transactional sexual relationships. All of the reports were of friends or peers who had succumbed to their economic reality or who, as some of the participants critiqued, were simply too “lazy” and lacked self respect. This negation of self-reporting may be a result of the social taboos associated with engaging in transactional relationships but may also symbolize the resistance some of the young women in this community pose to engaging in these relationships.

    The young women in this study did discuss their envy of the young women with the gear, the hair and all the material stuff.
  • Transcript

    • 1. HIV in African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) -Canadian Communities: - The HIV infection rate in the ACB community = 12.6 times higher than in Canadians of other races.1 - The ACB population accounts for 17% of the people living with HIV and AIDS and 27% of the new HIV infections in Ontario. 2 - African and Caribbean people account for 10% of Toronto’s population and yet 33% of the city’s new HIV infections.3
    • 2. Gender and Age: Women account for a growing proportion of positive HIV test reports across Canada.4 Heterosexual contact is the primary mode of HIV transmission amongst ACB women.4 ACB youth are diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at increasingly younger ages than youth of other ethnic groups. 1
    • 3. The Jane-Finch Community: Located in North-West Toronto Jane-Finch is home to over 150, 000 people, 75% of whom are visible minorities.5 21.1% of the Jane-Finch population is ACB = one of the Toronto’s largest ACB communities.5 39% of the residents in Jane-Finch are classified as low income.5 In 2007, the youth in Jane-Finch displayed some of the highest Sexually Transmitted Infection and pregnancy rates in the city of Toronto. 6 Richardson, 2008 (Modern Jane-Finch (ERA Architects Inc., 2007)).
    • 4. To work with Black Creek Community Health Centre and local City of Toronto community centers to explore how a group of 15 young (14 – 18 years old), ACB women residing in the Jane-Finch community make sense of the factors that influence their sexual decisions.
    • 5. What is sexual health and what things affect my sexual health? How can I be “sexually healthy”? What help or support do I need to make sexual decisions? What makes it hard to make healthy sexual decisions? What are some stereotypes about girls who live in my community (Jane & Finch)? Using photography, how can I address these stereotypes?
    • 6. Nine Week Workshop Photovoice: using photographic technique and creative writing, participants are able to reflect their understanding of the issues in their communities. Interviews: semi-structured individual interviews
    • 7. Safety First
    • 8. What Should we Talk Abou
    • 9. Negative stereotypes prescribed the kinds of sexual behavior expected of young women in the community These stereotypes were informed by the media, outsiders, religion and culture.
    • 10. “Disgraceful phrases are written on this stomach .LOSER, DIRTY, WHORE, BABY MOMMA, NO AMBITION. These words describe how Jane-Finch girls are portrayed. This relates to our lives because everywhere you go ignorant people who lack knowledge will judge you because you are from Jane-Finch. Sometimes when I say I am from Jane-Finch, people jump to conclusions that I am a liar, I am sexually active, I am a loser who doesn’t care about life and I am not going to finish high school. This makes it hard cuz boys won’t date or have sex with a girl if she’s from Jane-Finch cuz of the things he hears about girls in the area. They think their brainers and hoes. Some girls live up to the stereotypes, but not all girls fit the stereotypes of the whore who is not going to graduate high school. Not every girl here is the same and you can’t judge everyone based on what a couple of girls do,” (photo-narrative titled If I don’t respect myself, how can anyone else?)
    • 11. Photo titled My Name Is
    • 12. Caged Up
    • 13. Purity
    • 14. Photo titled Purity Participants feared but wanted to communicate about sexual health with their parents. Photo titled Caged Up Participants reported a lack of autonomy due to parental and religious controls.
    • 15. social distancing from the negative labels, and ultimately other young women in the community. Avoid admitting to sexual activity Don’t access sexual health services and information = a form of “outing one’s sexual activity”
    • 16. “Money is having power. Money is having opportunities. Money is making choices. Money is protection…Money can do a lot of things. It can buy protection, birth control and condoms.... It’s really powerful. If you don’t have money, you are not able to buy the things or get the help or counselling you need... For young girls in this community, they can’t find a job. If you have Jane-Finch on your resume people think you act a certain way. In this community, they think we’re loud, have no control over ourselves so we are not going to get that job. The money parents give a girl is for books and for school so they have to choose between buying books or buying protection,”
    • 17. Music Sound Text Voice images Personal narrative/experience
    • 18. None of the participants self reported their own participation in transactional sexual relations
    • 19. David’s video
    • 20. This project was the result of a partnership between Black Creek Community Health Centre, Northwood Community Centre and York University. The author would like to thank the entire team on the project including: the youth participants, Dr. Sarah Flicker, Jennisha Wilson, Sabrina Virdee Lester Green, Cheryl Prescod, Marlon Greene, Roma Kiyum , Franklin Taylor and Damion Platt Scholarship support for my work on this project was provided by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, York University and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s University Without Walls fellowship and training program.

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