Ms Kanwal Saleem1
1Centre For Culture, Ethnicity And Health, North Richmond, Australia
Multicultural Community Action Network (M-CAN) is a community-led initiative of Multicultural Health & Support Services (MHSS). It is based on community development principles and peer-based strategies. M-CAN enables its members to advocate more effectively for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses (BBVs).
Since its establishment, M-CAN has trained over 150 community members and young people from diverse backgrounds. Our members represent key priority populations and contribute as peer educators and sexual health advocates within their own communities. They raise awareness through community-driven campaigns and promote change through sexual health workshops and forums.
In the past year, M-CAN has organised 16 workshops and engaged over 500 young people and international students in conversations about sexual health promotion. These workshops are co-designed with the M-CAN members to be culturally, gender, and age-relevant. The evaluation shows that these workshops have normalised talking about sexual health issues by taking away the taboo, particularly around STIs. In addition, conversations with peers encourage a safe and judgment-free environment to ask questions on sensitive topics such as sexuality, contraception options, abortion services, and access to services.
On World Hepatitis Day 2020, M-CAN members from Chinese and South Sudanese communities produced six videos in Mandarin and Dinka languages. Being in their own language, the videos successfully promoted hepatitis awareness and encouraged testing during the COVID-19 pandemic within these communities.
In conclusion, M-CAN is a creative platform where young people and international students can access information that is peer-led, culturally appropriate, and stigma-free.
Kanwal Saleem (pronouns she/her) is a Community Engagement and Projects Officer at the Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health. She coordinates the Multicultural Community Action Network (M-CAN), a program of Multicultural Health and Support Service at CEH.
She is an over-seas trained doctor and completed her Master of Public Health from the University of Melbourne, specialising in sexual health promotion. She is passionate about providing comprehensive, inclusive, and accessible sexual health information to all through community education and evidence-based research. She loves to talk about all things health and anything that people shy away from talking and regard as “taboo.”