Our Presence on Twitter

By Heather Stephenson

The Voices against Violence Twitter handle, @ProjectVAV, has been in place since July 2014. Since that time, the presence of the project on Twitter has grown from two tweets a day, five days per week, to the current pattern of three tweets a day, seven days a week. This growth has occurred organically. For example, in February 2015, I increased from two to three tweets to include content about Black History Month, which I thought would be of importance to our followers and in-line with the sort of work the Voices project does.

From Textbook Pages to Institutional Places

By Amanda Aziz

“Structural violence” is not just fancy jargon that inhabits textbook pages, but a socio-cultural problem that is currently affecting Canadian youth in institutional settings. Although it is not yet the mot du jour for young adults in today’s typical workplace, it is important for young adults to educate themselves about this phenomenon in order to understand how it operates within governmental, public, and private settings..."

For the full article, click here.

Gender and Sexuality

By the Voices against Violence Western University Group

Gender and sexuality are important components of youth identity development. Societal structures and institutions such as school, government, social services, media and the family can have significant influences on the ways these identities are developed and expressed by youth, impacting their health in various ways.


By the Voices against Violence Western University Group

Family is always thought of as the centre of one’s core, the providers of love and nurture. Families are usually there to help with one’s problems or whenever one has a bad time. However, sometimes families can be the source of that hard time, or structural violence, and one is left with nowhere to go for support. Other times, although family will provide comfort and support, one might not feel comfortable to approach their family with a conflict for fear of disappointing them, creating insecurity, stress, and fear, and consequently affecting someone’s health.

Mental Health

By Voices against Violence Western University Group

mental-healthThe World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. In other words, health is about much more than not being sick. Youth can be a time of tremendous transition and change, which can bring along a great deal of stress as well. It is not surprising, then, that suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths in Canadians ages 15-24 (Canadian Mental Health Association). It is also estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental health disorder (Canadian Mental Health Association). While there are various policies in place to address mental health in young people, structural barriers are in place that make it difficult to reach out for help. The simple fact that young people have to reach out in order to receive help serves to further stigmatize mental health as something to be ashamed of. Many of the programs and services in place for mental health have exceedingly long wait lists and have become difficult to access.


By the Voices against Violence Western University Group


Educational institutions contribute heavily to the upbringing of children and have a major impact on their views. School-aged youth spend most of their time at school, and their experience at school is highly correlated with their mental health. Mental health policies and programs in schools have come under scrutiny recently due to growing trends of youth suicide. The blame has fallen on schools and school boards, typically due to lack of resources. For example, in the Toronto District School Board, each board-employed social worker may be assigned to 4 or 5 separate schools. Major policy changes need to be made to ensure that students feel safe at school and have health resources at their disposal.


By the Voices against Violence Western University Group

The idea of belonging is correlated with the topic of culture and identity. Youth tend to conform to society's social norms in order to be accepted. This identity may not be who they are, but rather who they are expected to be. For example, when a youth from a foreign country comes to Canada the pressure to adopt the host country’s culture is strong, especially at such an influential age. This also may involve the adaptation of international students when they arrive in a society like that of Canada’s. These students may experience a form of culture shock as they come from a society that may be different from the culture that is present here, in Canada. An example of this is my friend: he came straight from India and started education here, and for the first month he struggled here so he had to adapt to the traditions and culture here. The feeling of belonging in a society involves one’s identity as well. Structural violence in society of youths is evident when youths try to express their identity. An example of this is homophobia or racism against a minority group because these are hate crimes against someone trying to express their own identity. Youth are at a point in their lives that they want to experiment and experience new things to identify their identity. Due to cultural differences and structural violence, these youth aren’t able to express their identity in to today’s society. This separates them from belonging to the society due to cultural and identity differences.


By Eugenia Canas

self-esteemThis blog series was written collectively by youth co-researchers in the Voices against Violence Western Group, which met during the winter of 2014. Working together over a period of 12 weeks, these youth identified salient themes in their shared experiences, as well as how these themes intersected each other in instances of structural violence or resistance against it. Self-esteem and Identity is first in this series.

Inequality as the root of poverty and death

By Alia El-Tayeb

When we think of the term ‘violence,’ often our mind leads us to terrorism, racial violence or genocide; all of which are forms of violence. Structural violence however, is more dangerous than any of the things listed above because it’s not a term that we hear in the news when people speak of danger or death. But to be honest, it’s more dangerous than any overt act of violence because it acts slowly and targets people who do not even know they are targets.

Our Racism is not Invisible

By Catia Aguilar

Each person is unique and can be defined in the way that they choose. Each individual can identify however way they like and it is our responsibilities to ask, NOT assume we know someone’s cultural identity.

There is this talk about the Golden Rule and yet we ignore that all the time. We assume what society tells us is right and think it is okay to call someone a name because of their physical appearance or skin colour.


By Emanuela Bringi

On August 24th 2013 I had the most amazing opportunity of competing in my very first pageant, Miss Africanada. This pageant was not like any other pageant that we see on television, the main focus was drive to create change in our communities here in Canada and potentially back home in our chosen country.

My Talk with the Governor General

By Emanuela Bringi

Governor GeneralThis past May, I had the opportunity to attend the Governor General Youth Engagement Roundtable held at Western University. The roundtable was a group of youth who sat down looking for ways to engage other youth to be active members of their communities and find ways to meaningfully contribute to their local communities. It was also a way we could directly speak with someone who was a member of the government and have them hear in on what we had to say about our experiences and what changes we want to see.

Alia's Reflections on Coordinating the Youth Board

By Alia El-Tayeb

Being 22 years old and co-coordinating the National youth Advisory board seemed a bit intimidating at first. Thank God for the support of the project team and the amazing NYAB crew, I was no longer intimidated by the role and quickly realized how much of this role is collaborative and a great way to meet awesome youth and really cool academics!  Needless to say, my role as national youth co-coordinator has been a true blessing and a true honour.

Our Youth Advisory Board – A Year in the Making

By Eugenia Canas

This past June marked the first year anniversary of the Voices National Youth Advisory Board, and we’re still looking for a name that’s more compelling than NYAB. Reflection on both these things prompted some thoughts about this experience so far, and the continuous learning that working with young adults provides me.

Arts-based research: what theatre does and can do

By Michelle Brake

I’m really interested in arts-based approaches to research with a focus on music and theatre. They are both ways of expression that I have used for years, and that have been used in society for thousands of years.

Research groups and methods that interest me

By Michelle Brake

Back in October, the National Youth Advisory Board met in Montreal along with the researchers and contributors for the project. At the time, I didn’t have a full understanding of what kind of research groups had been completed up to that point. I found it interesting to find out that there were groups that looked at the arts as a means of expression, everything from spoken word to drawing.

Life on Disability and Social Assistance

By Jayson Tower

Life on disability is not easy. People have to make choices concerning their lives while dealing with the issues that got them on welfare in the first place. If anyone says the government gives us enough money to live off of, they are ignorant of how much we receive. I have chosen to use most of my welfare cheque towards my apartment, which gives me very little to live off of after rent. This gives me the opportunity to live amongst the working class instead of in a lower income area ridden with crime. Living in a nicer area helps with my goals toward getting off welfare. It also helps with my mental health, knowing that I am not in a high crime area.  I am lucky to have the social and cognitive skills nessecary to live in the area I do. Many people living on disability do not.

Structural Violence: The social assistance example

By Alia El-Tayeb

The problem of structural violence hits home as well, in Canada. Take into account the Ontario Works system, where families in financial need rely on government funds to get by. The system creates dependence because of the policies in place which do not allow recipients to make earn more than a certain amount of money on their own. If they do, the or they will be taken off assistance. People fear over-earning when they are on assistance because, should they be cut off from assistance, often the amount of money they earn will be nowhere close enough to what is needed to support themselves or their families.


By Helene Berman

Welcome to the Voices against Violence: Youth Stories Create Change blog!  

It is my honour and privilege to be a part of this truly unique and profoundly important project. As a research project that ‘pushes boundaries’, I am deeply grateful to our funders, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, for having the courage to take a chance and the confidence that working in different ways with youth can indeed make a difference.