Canada World Youth’s International Youth Internship
My name is Hannah Turcotte and I’m a current student at Nipissing University. I live in Powassan and am a member of the Mattawa and North Bay Algonquin First Nation. This past spring I had the opportunity to participate in Canada World Youth’s International Youth Internship. This internship is funded through Global Affairs Canada and offers Indigenous youth the opportunity to gain professional experience by working collaboratively with partner countries in the fields of international development, environmental sustainability, gender equity and social justice.
This year, with the pandemic, Indigenous youth from Canada partnered virtually with youth from Peru. My Peruvian counterpart and I chose to focus on promoting gender equity by addressing gender-based violence in each of our communities. I gained leadership and facilitation skills through organizing a discussion on gender-based violence for the rural and remote community of Queccayoc. We provided the women of this community with the knowledge and resources they need to be able to recognize the cycle of violence and the signs of abusive behaviour, and to access help and safe housing during instances of violence. We arranged for a lawyer and a psychologist to be present at the event. After the discussion, one woman felt safe enough to approach the lawyer and disclose that she was currently facing violence at home. Being able to assist this woman in escaping a violent environment overwhelmed me with gratitude. I felt fulfilled and accomplished, knowing that our work was able to change the life of at least one person.
After this experience, I wanted to bring awareness of gender-based violence to my own community. I again had the opportunity to strengthen my confidence, public speaking, event planning and networking skills through organizing a Zoom discussion on violence against Indigenous women in Canada. The great part of this internship is that we had the freedom to pursue our own interests throughout the project, and the missing and murdered Indigenous women crisis is something I am deeply passionate about. Prior to the internship, I had been working on an independent awareness-raising project for the MMIW crisis through my bead work page, @hannahsbeads, and was able to incorporate the knowledge I had gained from this into the internship projects. I contacted Nipissing University professors, women’s counsellors, and local Elders to speak at the Zoom event to cover topics such as how colonization has created the conditions for this crisis, Indigenous women in sex trafficking, what non-Indigenous people can do to be allies, and how to use cultural healing modalities to restore balance in our lives after experiencing violence and trauma. A highlight from this was Elder Dot Kennedy Beaucage sharing her story of the violence that she has endured through growing up with residential schools survivors. This allowed attendees to gain an intimate understanding of how intergenerational trauma inflicted onto our communities continues to harm Indigenous peoples today. I was especially grateful to be able to speak on the traditional, highly-honoured and highly-respected role of women in Indigenous societies pre-contact. Through this, attendees were able to recognize how female oppression, sexualization and degradation is a colonial construct that must be unlearned within us all.
Through this internship, I have come to recognize that my actions have the power to create a positive impact on our world. Now more than ever, I am inspired to use my power to address global social issues and contribute to a more equitable and harmonious society. Thanks to Canada World Youth, I have the experiential knowledge and skills I need to pursue a career that will enable me to make these positive differences. I encourage all Indigenous youth interested in doing the same to learn more about this opportunity at canadaworldyouth.org.
Link to recording: Discussion on Violence against Indigenous Women: https://www.facebook.com/