The Consent Project making a difference
High school student opening the conversation about consent
CHARLIE JOHNSON firstname.lastname@example.org @QueerRealty Charlie Johnson - Halifax’s Queer REALTOR® / Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Consultant. Follow @QueerRealty / send story leads to email@example.com.
After a student walkout incident at school, Grade 12 student Jelynne Samson (she/her) started The Consent Project. This project aims to create awareness and conversations about boundaries, consent and sexual violence. Since starting the project in 2021, there has been overwhelming support from Samson’s school, West Kings District High School, peers, and the Nova Scotia Government. The Consent Project received the Sexual Violence Prevention Innovation grant from the Nova Scotia Government to help fund the initiative. A portion of the grant went towards hosting an all-day school event on April Title: Dear Mrs. Bird Author: A.J. Pearce In London, 1940, Emmy Lake wants to do her bit for the war effort. While she has a job as an evening volunteer telephone operator, she dreams of a career as a war correspondent. When a newspaper needs a junior secretary, Emmy jumps to join. But not all is as it seems. To her (hilarious) dismay and bewilderment, her newspaper job is with their ladies’ 29 for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Students signed up for educational presentations of their choice. They assembled to share safe spaces while learning about the importance of boundaries, consent, sexual and gender diversities, healthy relationships magazine. She’s receiving and sorting letters for an advice column run by Mrs. Henrietta Bird. And our dear Mrs. Bird is an insensitive and judgmental writer who gladly shares her advice on rationing and women’s church group gossip, but won’t answer letters about grave issues, like domestic relationships, political opinions or the world war. But all these unanswered letters are from women facing impossible predicaments or heartache. They have nowhere else to turn. Emmy starts responding to them as Mrs. Bird. She gently tells them how to cope and have hope for better times. She risks her treasured and more. Samson says her awareness approach helps youth connect because “teachers teach but I’m talking with them. It’s one thing when an adult is talking to a youth about sexual violence and consent, but when one of your peers is talking to future in journalism to answer another call to action caused you about it, it feels more relatable,” Samson says. “I’ve cried with girls thanking me for doing this.” A significant challenge Samson and others encountered when discussing the sensitive subjects that surround sexual violence is the pushback from parents about teaching these subjects in the school systems. “I only learned about consent in one class in Grade nine and we watched a video called Do You Want Some Tea? but never learned about it again. It doesn’t make sense to me that we need to send a slip home to be signed by parents to learn about consent but not any other subjects.” Another concern is the “red zone.” “Students call the first eight weeks of the university year the “red zone” because there are so many parties and people are at a much higher risk of sexual violence.” If it is public knowledge students are at an elevated risk of by the war. Emmy is a quiet hero. I found myself devouring the chapters, hoping Emmy would get away with it. I was cheering for her and her new friendships with the other dynamite women in the story. And while I liked the many funny and light scenes of Emmy’s work and Mrs. Bird’s personality, I appreciated that her story did not gloss over the sad realities of war. I was with Emmy and her friends during sleepless nights in crowded shelters and when they navigate bombedout buildings, loss, uncertainty and exhaustion as the war expanded and intensified. Dear Mrs. Bird is a timely sexual violence, schools need to take more responsibility for keeping their students safe. An effective way to do this would be by increasing mandatory education surrounding subjects such as consent, boundaries, sexuality and gender for both students and educators. A long-term goal for The Consent Project is to have it active in schools across the province. Having youth start the conversations and learning “just because there isn’t a clear ‘no’ doesn’t mean there is a ‘yes.’ It doesn’t take a lot to get consent from someone,” says Samson. The Consent Project is growing in numbers and has daily posts on various subjects surrounding consent. You can follow the project on Instagram at @TheConsentProject. NS. delight. Author A.J. Pearce has an energetic and upbeat style that encompasses meaningful themes of women’s independence and their courage to fight a war in their own ways. You’ll like it if you enjoyed The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen or The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes. Librarians at Halifax Public Libraries enjoy a good story and always have reading ideas to share. They’d love to get you set up with a free library card and help you find your perfect book, no matter your age or reading tastes. Visit halifaxpubliclibraries.ca to learn more.