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CANADA: Young aboriginal mothers learn pregnancy health through comic book art
Aboriginal students at University of Saskachewan CanadaAboriginal students attend a transitional studies class, a class that will help them jump from post-secondary education to full enrollment at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on July 13, 2009. Image: Scott Bell/University of Saskatchewan

Women News Network
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Working to reach indigenous Aboriginal youth, as well as other Canadian youth, through comic book literature, the Canadian based Healthy Aboriginal Network is reaching the public with the launch of their latest new comic book, “It Takes a Village,” which outlines how young Canadian indigenous women can keep good health practices and habits during their maternity.

“The Healthy Aboriginal Network is a non-profit organization that creates comic books on health and social issues for youth. We’ve enjoyed a great deal of community support by telling relatable stories, which we’ve ensured by using First Nation writers and Indigenous illustrators,” outlines Healthy Aboriginal Network Director Sean Muir.

With a style that can help both male and female teens who often face decisions in life that can help or hurt them, the latest published comic honors Aboriginal tradition as it shares maternal and child health knowledge through best diet throughout pregnancy along with a safe respect of health and traditional medicines.

The comic book also highlights how spiritual connectivity with the growing baby both during pregnancy and after childbirth are important to young mothers, as well as young fathers and all members of the family. While speaking through a mother’s perspective, the comic book addresses healthy behaviours and a father’s role in childcare.

Topics covered in Healthy Aboriginal Network comic books include positive ways for Aboriginal youth to deal with peer pressure, sex and sexual health, gang violence, suicide prevention, drugs and alcohol use, pregnancy health and life for young mothers, stay-in-school importance, as well as respecting elders and yourself. Honoring Aboriginal traditional history and ways is also highlighted.

In April 2011 the Government of the Northwest Territories of Canada and the Department of Health and Social Services launched a program for Aboriginal youth called Respect Yourself that highlighted the needs for youth on issues covering birth control and personal options. For the program the Aboriginal Healthy Network launched a comic book called “Kiss Me Deadly,” highlighting the dangers of sexually transmitted disease. The Respect Yourself program also included education on hetero and gay sexuality, as well as helping youth sort through personal and family relationships.

“We focus [and] group test the draft stories by turning the rough pencil sketches into short videos, which we test on our YouTube channel with professionals and in person with youth,” continued Muir. “We’ve had two very successful evaluations – one on the sexual health and the other on the integrating gang youth back into [the] community books.”

“We get emails from people who say they can’t get their kids to read a book, but they will read our comics over and over again, and even write a book report on it,” outlined Muir. “I received an email from an older gentlemen once who said ‘I really don’t like your books. They’re too dark. But my grandson was having a tough time once and he loved reading your books. He said they really helped him. So now I think they’re okay.’ That was a cool email to receive,” he continued.


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