“Knowing when to take and give space for others is the very first step in taking a stance against gender inequality.”

-Emilie Duchesne

Age: 25

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta

Currently Residing In: Edmonton, Alberta

Affiliations: Youth Empowerment and Supports Services (YESS), Comité Francoqueer de l’Ouest, Francophonie Jeunesse de l’Alberta (FJA)

What influenced you to become a change-maker?

Who I am is shaped and moulded by my belief in equity and inclusion for all types of people. I am a passionate, part-time social work student currently working with youth experiencing the difficult realities of homelessness, addictions, mental health struggles, and histories of trauma and complex issues. In my role as a youth worker, I strive to advocate and walk alongside youth with compassion, and to create spaces where their voices are heard and validated. As a young queer-identifying Franco-Albertan, my involvement with the Francoqueer comittee inspired me to use my own voice and experience to advocate and initiate change to bridge the LGBTQ2S+ community and the Francophone community.

How does your work promote gender equality in Canada and around the world?

It is imperative when addressing gender equality to also include gender and sexual minorities, as these intersect in concrete ways. Excluding folks who exist outside of the cisgender norm hinders the fight for equality or equity. The Francophone community is one where LGBTQ2S+ realities are rarely highlighted. Through my work with the FrancoQueer comittee, I have assisted in creating workshops and guides to raise awareness of LGBTQ2S+ realities within the Francophone community, the Francophone school system in Alberta, and Francophone minority communities. Furthermore, in my work with communities and high-risk youth populations, I engage people in creating safe spaces by initiating conversations around inclusive language and practices. I am currently spearheading a Queer-Straight-Alliance initiative within YESS in order to create a queer safe space that accommodates the specific and unique needs and interests of the youth served at the agency.

What valuable lesson have you learned through your experience?

The youth I work with challenge my perspective on the world daily, which keeps me grounded and allows me to learn something new every day. They never cease to remind me that there are so many ways of knowing, and that every way is valid. The rawness and sheer humanity of their experiences, and their stories of resilience despite extreme hardships, inspires me to create equal opportunities for all types of minorities. This has also taught me the immeasurable value of a person’s story and the impact it can have to listen and empower their lived experience.in order to create a queer safe space that accommodates the specific and unique needs and interests of the youth served at the agency.

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