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Facilitating Activist Networks for Change: Action Now Atlantic

An interview with Holly Foxall and Emma Kuzmyk from Action Now Atlantic, a campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence at universities in Atlantic Canada through education, advocacy and community engagement.

Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Camille, Holly and Emma smiling at a coffee table. Holly is holding up a Safe Response Toolkit Book.
Left to right: Camille Schloeffel, Holly Foxall and Emma Kuzmyk

Holly Foxall and Emma Kuzmyk were so kind to me by organising a trip up to St. Francis Xavier University (which I wrote about here) so I could understand the full picture of sexual violence prevention and response across the university system. Having had this amazing trip a few days prior and learning all about Foxall and Kuzmyk's activism to date, I was able to sit down with them and do a deep dive into their work at Action Now Atlantic.

They took me to a cafe with Australian-quality coffee (it was DELISH) in a beautiful part of town in Halifax. This was certainly the moment that I felt like I could have stayed there for many weeks exploring the sights.

We Worthy Women

Action Now Atlantic is a We Worthy Women initiative. In 2018, Foxall co-founded We Worthy Women, a non-profit organisation fighting for the rights of women and girls through education, advocacy and community engagement. In 2021, We Worthy Women was granted funding by the government agency Women and Gender Equality Canada, to establish Action Now Atlantic to develop and implement a consent campaign and a network of youth advocates to address the root causes of gender-based violence on university campuses.

After receiving this funding, Foxall and Kuzmyk established a Youth Advocacy Network comprising of a collective of students and recent graduates from institutions across Atlantic Canada coming together to make change. The Youth Advocacy Network has ten active members from across universities in most Canadian provinces. Foxall and Kuzmyk assist their members by:

  • Providing funding and administrative resources to support them

  • Connecting them with each other to build partnerships

  • Providing education and training

  • Facilitating workshops and meetings about problems unique to the province

  • Facilitating solutions and opportunities about actions to address these problems.

Some of the outcomes of the network have included:

  • Developing advocacy campaigns to increase campus safety measures

  • Developing ‘purple folders’ (responding to disclosures packs) for each institution

  • Creating a database of actions by different institutions to create social pressure to stop indifference

  • Making policies and reporting processes easier to understand for victim-survivors

  • Uplifting voices through social media campaigns

  • Developing a poster campaign

  • Hosting events.

“Action Now Atlantic gives students who are already doing work a platform to connect with each other and resources to make these things happen.”

- Holly Foxall

They also have been working with the athletic community across Atlantic Canada by establishing an Action Now Athletic Network. The Network promotes a culture of consent within athletics and leads campaigns to end sexual and gender-based violence. Foxall and Kuzmyk facilitate monthly meetings with a group of 30 student athletes to discuss the culture of athletics, power dynamics, resources and support. The purpose of this engagement is to have open and honest conversations about athletics culture and to provide them with the information and tools to lead these conversations in their own communities. Lastly, they also developed a social media consent campaign and resource hub on their website that anyone can access at any time.

I admire the way in which Foxall and Kuzmyk have split their work into three streams - Education, Advocacy and Community Engagement - and how their focus is on filling gaps and providing linkages between existing work across Atlantic Canada. If we had an organisation (with funding to pay its people) that delivered similar work in Australia to educate, connect people and advocate for change, then I think we would have a stronger and more collaborative anti-sexual violence movement in higher education.

Activists leading change

I asked Foxall and Kuzmyk about how they approach activism and what activism means to them in the context of this work.

“I personally didn't engage in activism about sexual violence on campus when I was a student, but I see my role as bringing these conversations to the forefront and amplifying the voices of people doing this work.”

- Holly Foxall

Foxall's leadership in developing Action Now Atlantic through We Worthy Women has been integral to bringing together student activists and ensuring that they are heard. Her dedication to being the facilitator of change through forming connections across Atlantic Canada and beyond is inspiring.

“I was very involved in campus activism during university. It's not what I wanted to do originally but it needed to be done. I was so burnt out, angry and frustrated, but I also kept going so that future students aren't the ones having to fight for a safe learning environment.”

- Emma Kuzmyk

Kuzmyk spoke about how she was sucked into this work out of necessity and continues in her role with Action Now Atlantic in a new capacity supporting current students with their work on campus. Kuzmyk is dedicated to creating safer campus communities through forming collectives and providing support in ways that she never experienced when she was a student activist. I am so inspired but also proud of Kuzmyk for her work, as I strongly relate to her experience and know that her work is making a massive difference.

We need more of this in Australia!

In solidarity,

Camille Schloeffel

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