by Ella, YES! Youth Staff
On May 16-18, I attended the Shift NC conference on Adolescent Sexual Health. I was the only youth in a room full of adults who all brought their ideas and knowledge to the table. This conference was very affirming to see so many adults that cared so deeply and were out there doing on the ground work and creating policy change. There were some interesting new ideas, but due to this event being catered to adults, I found much of the content to just skim the surface of all the potential conversation that could be had. It is imperative for youth to be involved because of their unique first hand experiences. Because this is a topic that directly affects youth, next year’s conference should include youth in the narrative and decision making processes.
My generation is already very keenly aware of many of the disparities that surround sex education. We are more aware of sexuality at a young age as it has become more of an apparent part of the media to have different displays or examples of LGBTQ+ relationships. We are more understanding of consent as we have seen more and more women on TV coming forward with examples of sexual assault and rape as seen in the #metoo movement (which was organized and led by a woman of color). This is why my generation should be part of this conversation. We know first hand the experiences or lack of experiences, of the sex ed programs in our schools, and we know specifically what we’ve learned and what has been left out of a curriculum. We’re acutely aware of different gender identities and sexual orientations because we and our peers are figuring those out for ourselves.
Youth empowerment is an essential key component to adolescent sexual health and we have a lot to contribute to these conversations, and deserve the opportunity. I feel that this conference has given YES! a jumping off point and I’m so excited to see where this takes us as an organization. YES! as an organization hopes to not only learn and develop ourselves as we expand into the sexual health movement in North Carolina, but also to contribute and build upon this movement using a lense of youth empowerment. Carter Shotwell, one of the facilitators of “Empowering Males to prevent Sexual Violence”, said “Rape and sexual assault are not women’s issues, they are human issues”. This problem is not limited to women, just as this problem is not limited to adults. This conference is one of the main arenas for conversation on adolescent sexual health in North Carolina, and youth should be not only in attendance, but should be leading this conversation in the years to come.
Click here to learn more about the great work at SHIFT NC.