Authentik: Th e voice of real girls—a for-girls-and-by-girls Quebec-based English magazine—has just released its first issue. Th e publication, which is distributed across the province,1 a joint initiative of Maison des Jeunes Bordeax-Cartierville and Laval Liberty Community Learning Centre, is funded in part by Canadian Department of Heritage, Th e Solstice Foundation and Caisse Desjardins de Chomedy. Th e English edition follows in the footsteps of the award winning French language publication—Magazine Authentik—which is now in its third year.2 Th e goal of the magazine is to encourage critical thinking, selfesteem and creative expression among girls between 12 and 17 years of age. Th is youth-based, participatory publication focuses on creating a platform from which girls can work together as agents of change and create something that can have a positive infl uence in their lives and in the lives of other girls. “We all did bits and pieces and we took all the pictures,” said 17 year-old Joanne.
In the call for articles for this special issue on girls’ health, we highlighted that “[g]irls’ health is an ongoing and evolving issue with ties that go beyond medical analyses to include a wide array of social, educational, political, and environmental discourses (among others!).” Th at a number of different perspectives might contribute to or strengthen the interdisciplinary focus of an issue as crucial as girls’ health was important to me as guest editor. Th is issue demonstrates that the relationship of girlhood to health—sexual health, in particular—is of critical concern to us all. It is an area full of challenges and barriers, most of them, as is evident in this issue, understood and often expressed by girls themselves. The articles presented here point to the many perspectives from which to approach this topic. Girls’ sexual health is linked to an array of intersecting issues including the pedagogical influences of popular romance literature; the ways in which girls use blogs to construct counter narratives about their sexual identity; how girls’ increased inclusion in citizenship discourses can increase their capacity to address sexual objectification; what girls do to negotiate power within their heterosexual relationships; how barriers to water access in Africa can lead to the awareness of the risks—which range from being perceived to be promiscuous to being raped—that young women face; as well as how the (mis)management of menstruation can affect girls’ education. This issue points to the global and local specifics of sexual health, and to health more generally. Th e concerns discussed here are geographically wide-ranging: Cameroon, Lesotho, Australia, the United States, and Canada provide the settings—some urban and others rural. Th e authors present a wide range of methodologies from which they explore girls’ health: literary analysis; autoethnography; and participatory methods such as digital storytelling, mediamaking, listening to what young people have to say in various research paradigms, blogging, and photovoice.
Katie MacEntee, Lukas Labacher and John Murray
Young people use activism to advocate for their sexual health rights and to counter the social, political, and environmental threats to their health and well-being. By fully integrating themselves into the process of civic engagement—by incorporating pieces of themselves—youth can bring about successful change. Young community members can use civic engagement to speak out about their perceptions of how they are aff ected by health-related issues or how they are stigmatized by the community. In doing so, they are able to counter the ways in which policymakers, often distanced from the ramifi cations of inadequate social policy, portray the issues (Shucksmith and Hendry 1998). An interactive photo project that took place at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, shows how civic engagement or what we think of as speaking out can move beyond rallies and online video and audio messages directed at policymakers and into the realm of digital photography and body language. Surprisingly, in a digital world in which body language and body parts are continually at risk of being sexualized, this interactive project illustrates how digital photographs of girls’ hands can be used to speak out in a positive, creative, and empowering way about girls’ and young women’s perceptions of sexuality and HIV.