By Chantelle Archambault, August 12th, 2018 in
Every year on August 11th, we celebrate International Youth Day to recognize the contributions of youth in our communities and around the world, and to address the issues that affect them. The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Safe Spaces for Youth”. Safer spaces are spaces that ensure the dignity, equity, and freedom of all individuals who enter. This is a theme near and dear to our hearts; Peel HIV/AIDS Network strives to create spaces that are free of as many barriers as possible as a means of working towards liberation. This means that we are all responsible for creating the spaces we desire, by educating ourselves, each other and ensuring that we are continually engaging in these conversations and creating relationships of support and collective responsibility. We use the term “safer space” as an alternative to “safe space” because while we recognize that no space is exclusively “safe” for anyone, we must collectively work towards mitigating harms.
In honour of International Youth Day, we spoke with our summer students, AJ and Britney, about safer spaces and the work they are doing to make our community more equitable and inclusive.
Can you describe your work at PHAN?
AJ: I’m the Events Assistant, so the majority of my job is to help plan events and to help different departments facilitate their events. Right now I’m mostly focusing on the Knock Down Stigma event and the Young Black Women’s Project Cookout fundraiser. I’m keeping myself open to different roles and different experiences I can gain here.
Britney: As the Online Communications Assistant, I’m in charge of all the social media, which includes Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m trying to promote more engagement with organizations to reach more people in Peel and it’s going very well. I’m also working on some campaigns; right now we’re doing the Overdose Awareness campaign for Overdose Awareness Day on August 31st.
Can you tell me about something that you’ve learned while you’ve been here?
AJ: This position has definitely changed my perspective on the world. I’m more open to different experiences, I’ve learned a lot of terminology, and I’ve heard from different voices.
How would you describe a safer space?
AJ: A place with no judgement where you can speak your mind and where you’re allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. One example is the Young Black Women’s Project, a safer space meant to empower young black women in Peel Region. It’s based around a workshop series where the women can learn about leadership, health, and other topics through art and really let their voices shine.
Britney: A safer space to me is somewhere inclusive where there is no bias or judgement. Another safer space event that we recently had was the 2SLGBTQ+ Dodgeball event on July 31st. It was offered to participants who identify with the 2SLGBTQ+ community and was also facilitated by 2SLGBTQ+ staff from PHAN and the Gay Ball Society.
Why are safer spaces important?
AJ: Safe spaces are important because they open the floor to new ideas and perspectives from other people. They allow everyone to have their own voice and because they’re free from the oppressions that could silence those voices. Because of this, they open up creativity and provide a positive atmosphere for self-expression.
Britney: Safer spaces give everyone the same opportunity to learn and grow, especially in educational settings and workplaces. They ensure that everyone has the opportunity to express themselves.
How are you working to make your community more inclusive?
Britney: I think education is the most important thing. When people are educated on what a safe space looks like, they’re more like to help make and maintain these spaces. I have the opportunity to help educate the community on the importance of safer spaces through my role as the Online Communications Assistant and through my personal network.