Dehab is an 18 year-old Eritean woman, who immigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba with her mother and younger sister several months before becoming a participant in “What Risk? Whose Voices?” project. After leaving Eritrea, she spent two years in the Sudan before her family was reunited, as her father immigrated to Canada several years prior. Dehab attended a local public high school and enjoyed spending time at the various downtown organizations which offered activities and services for newcomer youth.
As she spent the majority of her teen years in Eritrea and the Sudan before coming to Canada, Dehab was in a good position to reflect on what it was like to negotiate sexual health messages in multiple countries (and contexts). Soon after she arrived in Winnipeg, her school was having a “safe sex” workshop and a close friend of hers suggested they attend. Dehab described the workshop as “student-driven,” focusing on relationships and sex. She felt that having access to this type of information was a good thing and that it was better to learn at a younger age. Dehab had attended a similarly focused sexual education workshop in Eritrea during the seventh grade – however, in this case she stressed that it was important for these topics to be discussed in school, as “sex is not an open thing in the Habesha community” and would typically not be talked about at home.
While it was clear to Dehab that sexual health information was being given within more formal settings (schools and clinics) in both countries, she felt Canada could learn a thing or two from the way HIV/AIDS is publicly discussed in Eritrea. She saw a lack of visibility in Winnipeg, pointing out that in the several months she had been living here, she had not seen or heard anything about HIV/AIDS. Dehab described the ways in which information was circulated in Eritrea, which included a “day of HIV” where youth “took to the streets” to hand out brochures. In Dehab’s perspective, a key difference between the way Eritrea and Canada was the manner in which it was discussed. In Eritrea, those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS give public testimonials, both on television and the radio, to share their experiences. She felt that while it was good to have the clinical information as to how people can protect themselves, the testimonials offered a “personal touch” which was missing in Canada. Dehab not only reflected on the similarities and differences between Canada and Eritrea, but expressed how she envisioned the best path forward.