Kids these days!
Two 13-year-old girls are proving that youth doesn't equal ignorance with their inspiring, not to mention successful, campaign to amend Ontario's sexual health curriculum.
We Give Consent, led by Toronto eighth-graders Tessa Hill and Lia Valente, targeted the Ontario Ministry of Education, requesting that consent education be taught throughout the province in an effort to combat rape culture. The pair launched a Change.org petition and leveraged social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, to rally support for it.
"The curriculum needs to teach what clear, enthusiastic and affirmative consent is and what it looks and sounds like. We want health education that teaches our peers 'Yes means Yes,'" the petition reads. Apparently, Ontario officials would tend to agree. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that consent would indeed be included in an updated curriculum.
This will be a welcome change. As ThinkProgress reported, Ontario's sex ed classes have been in place since the 1990s and are widely considered outdated. Social conservatives derailed a 2010 attempt to update the curriculum and until Hill and Valente launched We Give Consent, no progress had been made.
The girls conceptualized the campaign while collaborating on a school assignment that explores rape culture. "The idea for We Give Consent started from a media studies project. We're creating a 20-minute documentary about rape culture in the media [which includes] a call to action," Hill told Mic. "One day in a Queer Straight Alliance meeting ... our teacher brought up the fact that the Ontario health curriculum was changing ... Lia and I decided on creating We Give Consent."
Their decision was met with enthusiasm from the start. "Our teachers have been especially great at spreading the word and connecting us with other sources. Even our lunchroom supervisor, supply teacher and principal have given us loads of support," Valente told Mic. "Many of our classmates are also very encouraging and have been a big part in what we're doing, so we couldn't be more grateful for the people in our school environment."
The campaign's potential impact should not be underestimated. As in America, sexual violence in Canada is widespread. According to Ontario's Sexual Assault Center Hamilton Area, 1 in 4 Canadian women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and half of these assaults will occur before age 16.
By educating youth on the importance of affirmative consent, a cultural shift — one that rejects rape culture and instead embraces "Yes Means Yes" — is entirely possible.