Lillian Meighen Wright Maternal-Child Health Learning Institute explores gender-based violence

York University’s fifth Lillian Meighen Wright Maternal-Child Health Learning Institute took place Nov. 1, highlighting the expertise of York faculty, students and community partners on issues that focus on research, practice, policy and advocacy on this topic.

Nazilla Khanlou

The one-day event is held every second year by the Office of the Women’s Health Research Chair in Mental Health, led by Professor Nazilla Khanlou. Participants included members from social organizations (such as Mommy Monitor, OCASI, North York Women’s Shelter, Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre, SickKids, CCMH etc.), researchers, students, and academics from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Brock University, McMaster University, Stong College and York University.

This year, the Learning Institute featured York Professor Deborah McGregor, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Environmental Justice, as the keynote speaker and presenter of two panels addressing maternal-child health, gender-based violence and trauma-informed approaches.

The opening remarks for this year’s event were by York Professor Rebecca Pillai Riddell, associate vice-president research. This was followed by the keynote presentation titled “Indigenous Women, Gender-Based Violence and Decolonization,” aimed to engage researchers and scholars in current Canadian debates on Indigenous issues, and to respond to pressing social issues.

“Our Learning Institute applies an interdisciplinary and intersectionality-informed approach to understanding the broader context of maternal-child health and considering current societal issues faced by women, youth and families,” said Khanlou.

After the keynote presentation, the conference proceeded with two panel sessions. In the morning, panellists informed participants on research and practice in maternal-child health. A range of topics were covered, including: perinatal maternal health; the Black maternal health experience in Canada; child and youth advocacy centres; factors affecting preferences on C-section and vaginal delivery; and health-seeking behaviours in Canadian immigrant women. The panel presentation was followed by a breakout session for questions and answers and collective reflections on implications for research, policy, practice and advocacy, in which participants shared their ideas, feelings and information.

Panel members at the Learning Institute

The afternoon panel session focused on gender-based violence and trauma-informed approaches. Topics covered in the session included: gender-based violence against refugee youth; sex trafficking of underage girls; social organization of how to get out of abusive relationships; the peer champion model to prevent gender-based violence among immigrant and refugee communities; and developing a trauma-informed shelter. The panel presentation was again followed by an interactive session for questions and answers and collective reflections.

According to Khanlou, this year saw a huge response to the call for poster abstracts, and during the event, 20 posters from students, service providers and researchers were displayed. The researchers were also given an opportunity to introduce themselves and present their poster in one minute before the attendees.

This Learning Institute reaffirms York’s commitment to human rights, addressing the social determinants of health, and takes a step forward in reinforcing the role of community organizations and researchers to address key and sensitive human rights issues, said Khanlou.

Funding for the Learning Institute was provided by the Lillian Meighen Wright Foundation Scholars Program with support from the Faculty of Health.