Nunavut uses comic book to do sex education
“To improve and maintain sexual health in the territory”
Grade 8 students in Nunavut can now learn about sexual health with the help of a comic book, Eva Aariak, Nunavut’s premier and education minister said this week in the Nunavut legislature.
Aariak called the comic book an “exciting and innovative curriculum resource that promotes good sexual health for adolescents in Nunavut.”
The comic, developed with the Department of Health, is aimed at helping young people make informed decisions about their health and well-being, she said.
The “Choices” comic book deals with sexual health issues such as healthy relationships, gender identity, sexually transmitted infections and the impact of alcohol on decision-making.
The comic, which includes some Inuktitut idioms, such as “atii” and “akuluk,” will be part of the Grade 8 Aulajaaqtut curriculum used in schools all across Nunavut.
The comic follows Inuit classmates Jessie, Annie, Jimmie, Davidee, Sam and Miala in a northern setting that looks similar to Iqaluit: the view of houses overlooking the tundra, a kayak hung on a wall in the high school, similar buildings, polar bear license plates, boats down by the beach, people driving around in four-wheelers and playing hockey.
The students talk about their lives after a party on the weekend and talk to each other about how to deal with their issues, including pregnancy, being gay, and feeling pressure to have sex and wanting to learn about birth control options such as the pill or condoms.
The comic follows Annie to the health centre, who may have had unprotected sex at the party and is fearful of pregnancy.
There, she talks with a nurse, after her older sister suggests she go and doesn’t need to make an appointment first: “It’s not their job to judge you, I think you should get tested for sexually transmitted infections… we’re going to get it all sorted out, sis.”
Annie learns that the pill doesn’t protect against STI’s but condoms do.
Another character, Sam, calls the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, to talk about his sexuality: “You can see whatever you need to, I am not here to judge you,” the volunteer tells him.
Later, another character, Jessie, talks to her grandma after supper about how she feels major pressure by her boyfriend, Davidee, and his friends to have sex before she feels ready.
“Life is so different now from when she was my age. Would she even understand” Jessie wonders.
At the end of the comic, there are 14 questions to encourage open-ended conversations about sex.
Examples include “what would you want to change in your life after reading the story?” and,“whenever you find yourself getting into a situation in which you are not the one making choices or decisions, how can you help yourself take back your power to make those choices and decisions that affect you?”
The comic also asks how alcohol and drug affects choice.
“The story was developed in Nunavut and reflects the lifestyle and environment of our young people… we now have a made-in-Nunavut resource that will help our young people gain the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to make healthy life choices,” Aariak said.
“Rates of sexually transmitted infections are very high in Nunavut. ‘Choices’ provides information on this health concern in a way that our youth can clearly understand and speaks to the social issues they face,” she said.
The release of the comic book follows the release earlier this year of the GN’s Sexual Health Framework for Action, for 2012 to 2017.
The sexual action plan’s goal: “to improve and maintain sexual health in the territory.”