Prairie Post (West Edition)

Lethbridge and Med. Hat colleges helping youth be the VOICE against gender-based violence

- CONTRIBUTE­D

Alberta’s government is committed to preventing gender-based violence by empowering youth to advocate for change.

The Valuable Opportunit­ies to Inspire Change through Empowermen­t (VOICE) program is helping to chip away at the root causes of genderbase­d violence, one mentor at a time.

Through the program, profession­al athletes connect with young Albertans through high schools and community groups to face gender-based violence head on.

They use their platform to inspire youth to build relationsh­ips, cultures and environmen­ts that empower communitie­s to address stigmas, challenge behaviour norms and inspire change.

Funding to help VOICE reach more students

Ensuring youth feel safe, supported and respected in communitie­s across this province is a priority. This is why Alberta’s government is providing an additional $500,000 to the VOICE program, bringing total government funding to almost $900,000. The increased funding means more mentors can be trained so the program can reach more schools, communitie­s and campus organizati­ons.

This will include expanding the scope of the program to fraterniti­es and sororities, and deliver programmin­g to two schools (St. Albert Catholic High School in St. Albert and Bert Church High School in Airdrie), three Indigenous communitie­s (Fort McKay, Maskwacis and Paul First Nation) and five additional post-secondary institutio­ns (Olds College, Mount Royal University, University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University and Medicine Hat College).

“When young adults are inspired to get involved in their communitie­s and foster healthy relationsh­ips, they build a better future for themselves, their friends and future generation­s. Every Albertan deserves to feel safe in our province, and programs like this provide important tools for our youth to navigate difficult situations and inspire change.”

Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk, Associate Minister of Status of Women

“Any act of violence is already one too many. Unfortunat­ely, as a former police officer, I came to realize that recurring violence is a tragic reality for many.

I am thankful to see initiative­s such as VOICE take steps toward ending gender-based violence in our province. The mentors’ rigorous training and understand­ing of generation­al norms make them an excellent resource for young Albertans to learn about healthy behaviours and practices.”

Brad Rutherford, Minister and chief government whip

“Thank you to the Government of Alberta and the Ministry of Culture and Status of Women for their continued support and investment in VOICE. This announceme­nt is one more step towards ensuring all Albertans have the access and opportunit­y to be engaged in our programmin­g. Education and mentorship is a major source of connection for youth, and we look forward to working alongside our partners to end gender-based violence across our province.”

Colleen Pirie, director and founder, VOICE

Quick facts

• VOICE began as an annual training session for athletes and staff of the Edmonton Elks and the Calgary Stampeders as part of the Canadian Football League’s commitment to address and prevent gender-based violence in its organizati­ons.

• Since its inception, VOICE has gained attention from athletic organizati­ons across the province, particular­ly over social media. Alberta-born players who play for teams in other provinces as far as Ontario have joined the movement, giving the program a national reach.

• As of September 2021, the VOICE program has trained more than 34 ambassador­s, connected with more than 21 schools and engaged with almost 3,000 students across the province.

• The program is expected to reach more than 11,000 Alberta youth by December, including K-12 schools in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Athabasca, Bonnyville, Brooks and several First Nations and Métis communitie­s.

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