Young Women Change-makers: Youths’ Interests in Exploring Topics of Health
and Social Change through Photovoice
Principal Investigator: Stephanie Begun
Agency Partner: YWCA Toronto
Expected Project Timeline: 2019-2021
Funder: Richard B. Splane Applied Social Policy and Social Innovation Fund Faculty
In 2018, Ontario’s sexual health education (“sex ed”) curriculum was replaced by a previous, 20-year-old version, omitting an array of crucially important topics, including gender identity, consent, cyberbullying, and sexting. Research has increasingly emphasized the importance of using novel, participatory methods to better engage and empower young people as agents of social change. Exploring youths’ perspectives is critical in developing health and policy interventions for community-based challenges, and in finding solutions that are tailored to youths’ needs and rooted in their perceptions of the issues they face. Photovoice utilizes participatory action research methods to empower individuals to use photography to document assets and challenges present in their daily lives and surrounding environments. Participants engage in critical group-based dialogues about the meaning of photographs captured and develop plans for advocacy based on issues discussed. Photovoice has been used in projects focusing on a range of public health and social justice issues and has become a means of facilitating participants’ processes of finding and amplifying their voices through policy advocacy.
Adolescent young women, a group that is often overlooked and underestimated in their capacity to make positive community change, may particularly benefit from participating in Photovoice projects, yet a lack of research has been conducted to find out. Young women face an array of difficult developmental transitions, health concerns, and challenging health decision-making tasks. This project, hosted in partnership with the YWCA Girls’ Centre, aims to engage women-identifying youth (ages 14-18) through group-based Photovoice dialogues and advocacy-planning activities. Through their participation, young women may view and establish themselves as powerful, important, and effective change-makers in pursuit of the sex ed resources to which they are entitled, so they may lead healthier, more self-determined lives.