What does being healthy mean to you? Why is it important to include young people in sexual health campaigns?
TOPAZA YU lives in Saskatoon, SK. She is a woman of colour who once felt confused about sexual health and her sexual rights, and is now passionate about destigmatizing youth sexual health.
I believe that being healthy does not only entail physical health, but other components of health such as emotional, spiritual, occupational, mental, and environmental health. Being healthy can also mean being supported by policies and peers who will encourage you to become the best version of yourself. It also means having implementation that helps you evolve into the healthiest version of you. This can be macro level public health policies or be as simple as promoting the importance of physical activities in the community. It is vital for youth to be at the forefront of sexual health initiatives because it will further promote the power of youth engagement and help revolutionize the idea that the voices of youth do matter!
MYLES NAHAL is a first-year university student in Calgary who proudly identifies as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community and is focused on bringing representation of the community with its wide range of sexual orientations and gender identity.
Being healthy to me means feeling confident and stable with my mental, emotional, and physical health. It means being able to do the things I love without feeling held back and get support when needed.
I believe it is important for youth to take a lead in sexual health to work on eliminating negative stigmas and break down the barriers that are preventing people from taking care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. The youth are the future and we are changing the way we view sex, the practice of consent, sexuality, gender and medical care, and we are creating an openness on the discussion of sex and how everyone’s preference is different and valid.
JESSINY LY lives in Toronto and is passionate about youth sexual health.
For me, being healthy is being your optimal self. Although certain standards matter to some extent, it is very important for people to feel their best. There are a lot of times standards do not define the best.
I think it is important for young people to take initiatives in sexual health issues because they are the generation that are the most open-minded and receptive. Younger generations also have a more inclusive and informative environment, which is the momentum for them to spread knowledge and awareness to other people.
ALICE GAUNTLEY lives in Toronto, on the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River. She is a voracious reader and aspiring writer; a lover of speculative fiction, cats, and tea; and a student of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
“Healthy” is such a loaded word—so much of the info we get about “healthy living” can feel pretty judgmental, and also puts a lot of pressure on us as individuals to make choices that aren’t always accessible to us. That’s not what being healthy means to me. I think health is something we each have to define for ourselves, but it’s also related to bigger systems that influence which health-related choices we’re actually able to make. (But also, being healthy for me means making myself just go. to. bed sometimes!)
I actually think that it’s important to have people from all across the life course involved in sexual health initiatives because sexuality is something that can be part of us at many ages, but I think young people have incredibly important roles to play in this work. For many of us, this is a point in our lives when we’re in the process of figuring out so much about our sexual selves—our desires, our values, our identities—and work by peers, whether that’s education, advocacy, support, or whatever, is super meaningful for us to see and participate in.
NAFISA RAHMAN is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. Their experiences and knowledge around sexual health come from their own lived experiences as well as the time they have spent at Planned Parenthood Toronto and the Sexual Education Centre at the University of Toronto. Besides sexual health and social justice, Nafisa is passionate about anime, cats, and memes!
Healthy, for me, transcends the absence of physical disease and ailments. But, rather looks at the body as a whole—which includes the mind and soul. Our mental, emotional, and physical health are equally important when thinking about what healthy might look like; and this can look and feel different for each person. Undeniably, young people have been at the forefront of many movements, and initiatives around sexual health should be no different. Youth are important advocates for social change and I believe that putting them at the forefront is the catalyst to change within the realm of sexual health.
MAYA ADACHI-AMITAY is a Bachelor of Environmental Studies student based in Toronto. She is involved with various organizations and initiatives, ranging from sexual health and community arts, to environmental efforts.
Being healthy is to feel comfortable and confident in all personal aspects of health: the physical, sexual, mental, emotional and spiritual. Having young people at the forefront of sexual health initiatives is essential, as it allows for a platform to showcase the diversity of valuable knowledge and wisdom that stem from personal experiences and passions. It welcomes the opportunity for young people to bring forward youth-specific issues that may otherwise be neglected in the general dialogue around sexual health.
DHRUHI SHAH is a 23-year-old still trying to figure out what a bio consists of, outside of the fact that she is a social work graduate with a passion for work in the area of sexual violence, who lives in Calgary.
Being healthy means going beyond only surviving, it means thriving as well. Being healthy is unique to every individual, depends on a variety of factors, and influences many aspects of our lives. Young people are affected by policies related to sexual health, yet their voices are often dismissed or ignored. Young people should be at the forefront of sexual health initiatives because there should be nothing about us without us.
The above sexual health experts are part of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights’ National Youth Advisory Board. The National Youth Advisory Board is comprised of exceptional young sexual health experts between the ages of 15 and 24 who are engaged in sexual health promotion and community work across the country. The Board is currently steering Action Canada for Sexual Health and Right’s upcoming national campaign to increase STBBI testing among youth, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.