A few years ago, the team at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre began to see a critical need in the community.
We recognized that most sexual health services were targeted to women, and that while teen pregnancy rates had dramatically dropped, STI rates continued to rise. We knew that domestic and sexual violence rates were also rising. We saw disturbing trends around the cultural and media messages about what it meant to be a man. We continued to see bullying and homophobia occurring in schools. Could there be a link? What were we teaching our young men, and how could we change the conversation? As a result of these questions, WiseGuyz was born.
As an organization with a long-standing tradition of effective, innovative programs in our community, we saw an opportunity to deepen our impact and tackle an issue at its root.
The WiseGuyz Program began in February 2010 with a focus to engage young men in a sexual health program that would address their specific needs.
The research report we produced in 2008, Promoting Sexual Health for Young Men, confirmed that young men face significant barriers in accessing sexual health information. We knew we had to learn the best method to present material and how to create a safe space for the group to discuss sexual health, relationships, and masculinity. Information was presented in styles ranging from a casual drop-in basis, to a facilitated group discussion, to a structured program. We reached 52 young men in various settings during this phase of the project.
After piloting the program in various settings, we decided that focusing on the junior high population would have the most impact. The transition to high school is significant. If young men are equipped with tools to help them deal with the pressures, decisions and multiple stresses teens face in high school, we are confident that they will have better outcomes overall.
The program is currently running in three public Junior High Schools in Calgary.