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Welcome to the YSMENA Program!

What is the YSMENA Program?

YSMENA is the first community-based research program in Canada to center the voices of diaspora Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) youth in Canada. YSMENA is a peer-led research program that addresses gaps in health services and explores experiences and perceptions of discrimination, racism and health and well-being of MENA youth in Canada. 

Broadly speaking, the YSMENA program applies intersectional, anti-colonial and anti-oppression frameworks, and social determinants perspective in all of its projects. The focus of this research program is on resilience, mental health and well-being of vulnerable MENA diaspora youth populations in Canada. The approach to research is transdisciplinary, where we engage with communities to clear spaces for multiple voices that have been excluded in dominant discourse.

Our Goal

Our goal is to capture the diverse voices of MENA youth across Canada from various communities, including youth who use drugs, gay and bisexual cis men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender youth, cis lesbian and bisexual women, cis heterosexual women and men, and youth from newcomer and refugee communities.


What is MENA?

MENA is an acronym which refers to the Middle East and North Africa.


M – Middle 

E  – East

N – North

A – Africa


It is important to define the term ‘MENA’, and to acknowledge the colonial history of the term ‘Middle East’ that was coined by British colonists. Today, the term ‘Middle East and North Africa’ or MENA is used by international organizations such as the UN to refer to 23 countries in the region who share common socio-historic, linguistic, and religious characteristics such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and more.

The Canadian census uses the terms Arab and West Asian to refer to two distinct groups.


For the purposes of the YSMENA study, the term MENA is used to refer to first or second generation diaspora youth in Canada whose heritage lies among one or more of the countries in the MENA region. 

Recent Resources & Events

Canadian Association for HIV Research (CAHR 2023)

Understanding the epidemiological HIV risk factors and underlying risk context for youth residing in or originating from the MENA region: A Scoping Review

18th European AIDS conference, London, UK

CANFAR2025 Conversions

2021 Summit 'Being Seen and Heard'

Our Funders 

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