Tag Archives: education

Trojan Horse: Ofsted & the media fall short on gender

Following the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations of an Islamic extremist plot in British schools, the press has failed to focus on the fact that Ofsted inspections in fact unearthed findings about the way gender inequality can pervade a school culture. The report describes a culture of fear and intimidation within some of the schools, with some female staff members saying they feel intimidated by male members of the school and are treated unfairly because of their gender. Female Genital Mutilation and forced marriage are not being adequately addressed, and there has been opposition to mixed-gender swimming lessons.

Furthermore, children are being badly prepared for life in modern Britain. In some specific cases girls are discouraged from conversing with boys, undertaking extra circular activities and receive religious education separately from boys. The recommendations emphasise the need for schools to “carry out their statutory responsibility for safeguarding all children”, but fall short of ensuring that there is gender equality.

Where is the debate about the implications for gender equality? The narrative behind separation of girls and boys (in religious education, in swimming, etc.) is that girls are considered to be less equal to boys. Boys and girls are taught different subject material in religious and personal development lessons. If teachers expect certain modes of behaviour from girls – for example discouraging them from talking to boys – and if these attitudes underpin the social values of the teachers and parents alike, what actions can schools, governors, local authorities and the Government take to ensure that gender inequality is not promoted and that boys and girls are being prepared for life in modern Britain?

During the inspections and subsequent storm, I have been asking myself if we really have drawn back the curtain that hides the truth between the expectations of boys over girls. The initial claim was about an alleged Muslim plot to take over these schools; although this was not found to be the case in the Ofsted inspections, the subsequent media storm makes it difficult to separate out the Ofsted inspection, Islamic extremism and these schools.

The ensuing furore and the fallout between Theresa May and Michael Gove about the leaking of a private letter, as well as accusations and counter accusations over who is to blame for what  happened in Birmingham, has meant that the real issues remain under the radar. Add to this the fact that the majority of contributors to news and comments in the national media are men – specifically white men – and it comes as no surprise that the black feminist discourse around the findings and concerns for girls in schools is being missed.

But gender inequality is not just an issue for these schools in Birmingham; the control of girls’ behaviour, particularly when there is a match in attitudes between teachers and parents, has been going on for decades and this is why a feminist perspective is needed.

I attended a mainstream state school not very far from the schools in Birmingham. Not only did I have to deal with overtly racist teachers but I also had to contend with teachers who, though they did not display racism openly, nevertheless had low expectations of me ingrained in their stereotypical view, despite my academic ability. But the biggest challenge I faced on a daily basis was controlling my behaviour to avoid the attention of a male Sikh teacher.

This teacher took it as his ‘duty’ to ensure that Sikh girls ‘behaved’ according to his values and beliefs, which mirrored that of many Sikh parents. He did not consider it an inconvenience, let alone an infringement of child protection, to visit the girls’ homes after school and relay in detail to parents if he had seen or heard their daughter talking to boys, wearing skirts, make-up, etc.  This was not a Sikh school, nor indeed a school with a predominantly Sikh or Asian population, in the same way the schools in the Trojan Horse affair were not faith schools. However this teacher was able to monitor our behaviour and had the authority of the local Asian parental population to exercise his power over us as Sikh girl pupils.

What I was left with was a sense of fear. I did not feel safe at school. I did not feel I could go to another teacher and explain my fears. I did not have the confidence or autonomy to do this. I battled with feelings of ‘letting my parents down’, and the ‘whistleblowing’ of a teacher who not only was a professional in the school but also enjoyed a certain status within the community. I would not have been heard nor supported by any authority figure, be it my parents or the white teachers in the school.

This teacher harassed and behaved in a sexist manner towards me within the classroom. I was always careful to abide by his expectations of personal conduct at school. The last thing I wanted was for him to inform my parents of any perceived misdemeanours, because a very real consequence was that I could lose out on further education and be forced in to an early marriage.

Some of the findings of the Ofsted inspection mirror my own experiences as a Sikh girl pupil in a state school. The findings refer to senior leaders within the school feeling intimidated and fearful. Then what, might one ask, are girls experiencing? Those girls who are expected to behave in a certain way, dictated by the social values of governors and parents, which may be at odds with what the girls themselves would like? The girls and their views have been invisible in all the discussions in the media and in the narrative of an Islamic extremist plot.

If the norm of conduct within a school is that girls’ position in relation to boys is enforced through implicit rules and modes of behaviour, then it seems unlikely that the gendered nature of control of girls will be addressed. Is it therefore surprising that gendered violence, such as female genital mutilation or forced marriage, is not being adequately addressed? Tackling gender inequality and addressing violence against women and girls go hand-in-hand. The two need to be addressed together.

The equalities issue is not being caught in the net of this Islam extremism fishing expedition.  That’s a huge cost and a missed opportunity to society. Where are we talking about the actions and the culture in schools that perpetuates a mindset that girls must behave in a certain way, under the guise of faith – and, more importantly, shaping their own thinking and expectations for the future? What if parents collude in the control of their daughters? How are we bringing up these girls to participate and contribute to society as working adults, as positive role models, and as agents of cultural change?

Kalwinder Sandhu is a freelance consultant, researcher and writer and a local feminist activist in Coventry. Follow her @KindySandhu.

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W*NK: We need to talk about women & pleasure

May is International Masturbation Month, and time to remind ourselves how important it is to keep talking about self pleasure, and pleasure in general. For a long time masturbation has been a taboo subject, and female masturbation even more so.

My first wanking experiences were filled with shame and confusion. Although the clitoris had been labelled in our school sex ed classes and textbooks, no one had told me what it was for and it took me months to realise that my pleasure was mostly coming from there and reliably locate the thing. I am 31: I didn’t grow up in Victorian times – we were close on the millennium when I started wanking but still I had been kept thoroughly in the dark about my own body.

International Masturbation Month was set up by Good Vibrations after the U.S Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was fired for saying that masturbation should be discussed as part of young people’s sex education. This enlightened idea was proposed by her in 1995 and, looking around today, it doesn’t seem that the sex education we give young people has improved since.

The subtext of the prevalent physiological/safe-sex-only approach to sex ed seems to be that by mentioning to young people that their genitals can give them pleasure it will prompt them to go out and have tons of promiscuous un-safe sex. In my opinion this is sensationalist and short sighted. Giving young people the information they need to understand how to start exploring their sexuality solo will equip them with the self knowledge and confidence to move on to healthy and safe sexual relationships as adults.

Sex education that puts sexuality in context, that tackles respect and self respect, consent, safe sex, pleasure, emotional wellbeing, and healthy relationships can only reduce under age sex, pregnancy and STIs. Knowledge empowers and is a hell of a lot better than letting young people work things out through making mistakes that could effect the rest of their lives.

More widely, we need to talk about pleasure. We need to continue to transform our culture by  empowering women, and all people, to explore their bodies and get to know the way they work by giving them a road map: sex education that talks about masturbation through encompassing the idea that genitals give us pleasure as well as babies; words and images that represent the real and various ways people masturbate; open discussion that does not shame wankers but recognises that knowing your own sexual responses makes you a great sex partner.

My small contribution towards this ideal are a series of twelve drawings taken from real women’s masturbation techniques, mostly using household objects. The work shows real masturbation in a way that was not pornographic, not orchestrated for the viewer but frank and natural and, because of that, erotic. The project started as something private; an excercise in visualising these delightful intimate scenes without making them lurid. But it grew into a book because I wanted to share my joy in these stories and their honesty. To be invited by Sh! to exhibit with them as part of International Masturbation Month was a real honour and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the work. Hopefully it will help to get people talking, sharing their own stories and celebrating themselves as wankers.

WANK - Interior Door by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - Right index finger by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - Teddy by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - TV Remote by Sophie Crow 2012

Click here to find out more about International Masturbation MonthTo find out more about Sophie Crow, visit www.theoysterknife.co.uk or follow @oysterknife

Sophie’s W*NK exhibition continues until 31st May at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, 57 Hoxton Square, N1 6PB London, open every day 12pm-8pm. It is Sh! policy that men must be accompanied by a woman, except on Tuesday evenings.

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Be prepared to compromise or ‘feminism’ will be a dirty word once again

I remember in vivid detail the first time I heard the parent of one of my self-esteem class students use the ‘F’ word. It was summer 2011. It was hot. I was wearing a backless cotton Aztec print dress and cork sandals. We were in a school gymnasium masquerading as a lecture theatre. The double-door was wedged open and the smell of freshly-mown football-pitch wafted on the breeze. The ‘F’ word rolled so easily off the tongue of the fifty-something father who spoke it. He didn’t even flinch. I thought: “We’ve done it! Feminism is officially part of accepted vernacular! Hurrah!”

Yes, for one brief, shining cultural pause, everyone finally seemed to grasp what feminism was and why it continues to be relevant. We were all on board the Feminism Bus, willing to navigate our way to Equality. Women everywhere rejoiced, recognising that this represented an opportunity for a truly open debate, unencumbered by the myth that feminism is synonymous with man-hating and/or the needing of a “good shag”. And then… we fucked it up for ourselves.

The first thing that we did was fail to come up with a cohesive agenda we could all agree on. Hence the weighty issue of domestic violence somehow ranking lower in the public sphere than whether or not a woman chooses to wax her pubic hair as a valid feminist debate. This inevitably led to feminist sub-factions, with each group competing to see who could be the “best feminist”, sneering snarkily on social media at any being or organisation who didn’t match their high standards of feminist-kick-assery.

As well as being criticised for writing for ‘non-feminist’ publications, in the same week I was told I’m both too fat and too thin to be a body image campaigner. I’ve been accused of being “too good looking” to truly understand the cause I’m fighting. I’ve been criticised for my tattoos, which are apparently a sign of conformity. I was even told off for not being a lesbian once. Every week I receive tweets making comment on my hair and makeup, suggesting they aren’t in line with ‘proper feminism’.

Every now and then I get abuse from men but it’s incredibly rare by comparison. Somehow, being told by a male social media user that they wouldn’t fuck me because I’m too fat hurts far less than the mindless barrage of bitchiness I receive from supposedly intelligent women. Luckily, for every one of those I get twenty saying “thank goodness! AT LAST a feminist we can relate to!”

All the hard graft undertaken by high profile women to present feminism in an easily digestible form slowly unravelled. The word ‘misogyny’ was being chucked about like it was going out of fashion – on Twitter, in boardrooms, down the pub. Feminist campaigners began metaphorically stamping their feet, huffily insisting they wanted anything that they considered demeaning to womankind BANNED with immediate effect. They would brook no argument. They would listen to no counter-stance. All reasoned debate had ended, with immediate effect.

In 2014, ‘feminism’ has become a dirty word once more. Men have once again begun pontificating about the non-armpit-shaving stereotype, who bellows at them for opening a door. The majority of teenage boys are completely bemused, as their female counterparts stomp around demanding to be treated with R-E-S-P-E-C-T, but unable when questioned to articulate what form this respect should take. Significant swathes of the female populous are clasping to a vague notion that feminism is about women being assertive, but lack the genuine self-esteem to ask anyone why.

For those unwilling or unable to compromise, we have reached an impasse. For the rest of us, furthering female empowerment will involve compromise.

In the digital era, where everyone MUST have an opinion and MUST be able to express it succinctly in 140 characters or less, any kind of compromise is often mistaken for hypocrisy. Yet, behind every powerful institution is a workforce comprised of human beings. That fact in itself offers an opportunity for negotiation and sometimes progress happens in pigeon steps.

Never is this more true than within my field of body image. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking female genital mutilation here. (In that particular instance, compromise is both impossible and dangerous). But when discussing bodies, health, beauty, fashion and their portrayal in the media, there’s a no man’s land between camps, chock-full of wiggle-room.

In the world of body image, no one is impartial. I’m acutely aware that every word I say or write will be swamped in layers of the reader/listener’s own issues, experiences and prejudices. What one woman sees as objectification, another woman sees as empowering. What one woman sees as the showcasing of a healthier body ideal, another will see as the promotion of obesity. It is a constant battle to be as inclusive and understanding as possible. And, since everyone has a body, everyone should have a voice in the collective body dialogue.

As a campaigner, I have always seen more value in collecting views than presenting them. I think it’s better to make a small change to something visible than push blindly for a huge change that is very unlikely to happen and thus remain invisible. I would rather ask the followers of my campaign, Body Gossip, what they thought on a contentious body image issue than tell them what I think. I would rather encourage the students I work with to reward the retailers and advertisers taking positive steps to promote wellbeing and diversity than unwittingly promote those who aren’t by adopting an “oh look, isn’t this terrible?” approach. I understand, for example, that in a capitalist society, where “all publicity is good publicity”, a surge in profits for Debenhams (who actively promote body diversity) is worth more than 100 protesters outside Abercrombie and Fitch (who don’t).

I would rather encourage Page 3 to use a wider range of shapes, sizes and races than bark more and more outlandish, misanthropic reasoning for its banning in the direction of an institution that, for its own reasons, loves it and is adamant it should remain. I would rather slightly dumb-down my opinion on a body image matter to bring it to the four-million strong audience of This Morning than write it in a broadsheet like The Guardian, whose readership are the choir to my proverbial preacher… It doesn’t offer the same sort of instant popularity but it does offer the opportunity to change minds by presenting what might have been alien ideas in a relatable form.

Sometimes our propensity for being offended has to be put aside for the greater good. I view the raising of £8 million for breast cancer research through the taking of make-up-less selfies, for example, as positive, because whilst insensitive to some it will indisputably save lives.

There is a middle ground to be explored, so long as one has the humility to rethink principles which might have seemed concrete when one’s world view was more black-and-white. As a socialist, I never thought I’d write for right-wing tabloid The Sun, until I entered into a dialogue with the people who work at The Sun Woman’s desk and found them just as passionately enthusiastic about bringing a healthy, diverse message on the subject of female beauty as I am. Now I have the opportunity to work with them to bring that message to their 6 million readers. For that I have received threats, accusations and endless social media trolling delivered under a ‘feminist’ banner.

I worry that a movement chock-full of women who genuinely want to see change and are ready to negotiate to get it is being eclipsed by a militant minority who care not a jot about the day-to-day life of the average woman in the UK and simply want to sound-off. It’s harming our cause and the perception of the feminist movement and actively encouraging a reticence towards change in some sectors.

We can start by trusting each other. Deriding cultures we don’t understand by claiming that their women have “no idea they’re being oppressed” (and we therefore know better) only serves to raise tension and broaden division. We are all, to a greater or lesser extent, the products of our environment. We therefore need to work together to make that environment more conducive to allowing genuine freedom of choice. I believe women who say they genuinely want to pole dance for a living. I believe women who say they choose to wear a niqab. I believe that those two types of women can co-exist peacefully in an equal society.

Please believe me (and Mary Poppins) when I say that a spoonful of sugar is sometimes the best way to make the medicine go down.

Natasha Devon is Director of the Education Program at Body Gossip. She is Cosmopolitan Magazine Ultimate Woman of the Year, 2012, in Ernst & Young’s Top 50 Social Entrepreneurs 2013, Mental Health Association ‘Business Hero’ Award Winner 2012 and Shortlisted for UK Parliament First Annual Body Confidence Awards. Follow her at @NatashaDevonBG

Photo: UTV.com

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Not into trains: Gender bias & Asperger’s Syndrome

When I tell people that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I get a variety of responses. Some of the less impressive ones have been: “But you look alright at the moment,” and “I know I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think you have got it.” These have been from people who should know better – people who are, by profession, linked to the world of autism spectrum conditions.

It is perhaps not surprising though, given that almost all of the research, literature and diagnostic criteria have evolved from a starting point in the 1940s when Hans Asperger first identified the condition through studying groups that consisted solely of young boys. He noticed these children were all high-functioning but had difficulties with social communication and displayed repetitive behaviours.

Most people will recognise the same stereotype that is still perpetuated by the media – The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper or Coronation Street’s Roy Cropper.

My son was diagnosed last year at the age of seven, with his love of lining up toy trains and regurgitating strings of facts. But during the long assessment period I came to learn that one size doesn’t fit all. My son doesn’t mind eye contact, he has a great sense of humour and he is extremely loving and affectionate. It was when I stumbled across some information on women and girls on the autistic spectrum that it suddenly dawned on me: Asperger’s can look even more different, and I have it too.

Clinical psychologist Professor Tony Attwood writes: “Girls and women who have Asperger’s syndrome are different, not in terms of the core characteristics but in terms of their reaction to being different. They use specific coping and adjustment strategies to camouflage or mask their confusion in social situations or achieve superficial social success by imitation.”

Many women with Asperger’s appear to have no problems on the surface. These girls, perhaps helped along by a higher than average IQ, use intellect to work out how to interact rather than learning it intuitively.

The disadvantage of this is that none of it comes naturally. A conversation with a friend may be accompanied by an interior monologue: Am I making enough eye contact? Don’t forget to ask her something about herself. Keep nodding and laugh at the right times… It is in essence, an act, a conscious effort, which is literally exhausting.

Asperger’s was barely heard of when I was a child, but I can’t help but wonder what difference a diagnosis would have made to me back then. I was lucky I had a large group of girl-friends in high school that I could hide amongst. But when one of my two best friends left for a different college and I had a falling out with the other one, for reasons I never fully grasped until years later, I was left on the edge of a group that I was starting to feel more and more distanced from.

Everyone else was growing up emotionally and socially, but I found the unstructured setting of free periods in the common room to be something far too excruciating to bear. I couldn’t understand the reason for social chit-chat or see the point to a lot of the conversations. I didn’t know how to be part of that. I suffered a kind of breakdown. I was depressed and anxious and most days would either fall asleep in lessons or have to leave the classroom in floods of tears. Years went by of failing to make meaningful friendships, self-medicating, bulimia and eventually, suicidal thoughts.

Many women have similar stories to tell. It is essential girls understand why they feel different to everyone else – they are not defective and it is not their fault. It has only recently started coming to light just how many undiagnosed women and girls remain, and how many young girls are still slipping through the net, despite increased awareness of autism in schools and health and social care settings.

This is because many of the myths of Asperger’s are still circulated as fact. I have attended training sessions that put far too much emphasis on the outmoded theory that autism is a manifestation of the “extreme male brain“, a term first coined by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen.

I also often hear the phrase: “people with Asperger’s have no empathy.” This is not true for many men with the condition, and even less so for women. Many women with Asperger’s join professions such as nursing and teaching, and research now suggests that people with Asperger’s experience higher levels of concern for others when witnessing their distress than neurotypical people do.

Although the medical profession is making advances in its understanding of Asperger’s, it takes years for new knowledge to be disseminated and for mindsets to change. In the mean time, the best all of us can do is talk about women with Asperger’s as much as we can, and hope fewer little girls will have to face a future of mental ill health and unnecessary struggles.  

Michelle Parsons worked for five years for a charity that supports unpaid carers. She has two children with Asperger’s Syndrome; one is a little girl who is yet to receive a diagnosis. Michelle has a degree in Cultural Studies and Creative Writing and has just started blogging at aspergersanxietyadhd.wordpress.com 

Photo: Stephen Woods

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The end of orchestral sexism?

Classical music has a bad track record on sexism. According to one Russian composer, Yuri Temirkanov, women conductors are “against nature”, and Vasily Petrenko, conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, last year claimed that musicians are distracted by “a cute girl on a podium” and that women conductors are less dedicated when they have families.

That attitude could all be set to change, as Morley College today announced the launch of a pilot course for women conductors, to run this month.

Led by conductor Alice Farnham, the course is open to young women aged 16-19 who are currently studying at one of eight UK music conservatoires and plan to continue their musical education at university level. It will cover topics from conducting technique and body language to leadership and communication.

Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House said: “Morley College is doing something fantastic: a programme for women conductors taught by the very gifted Alice Farnham. A chance to explore the issues, musical and interpersonal, faced by the leader of an orchestra who happens to be a woman!”

Currently, not one British orchestra has a female Music Director; just 4.1 per cent of commissions for new works were awarded to women composers in 2010; and, according to one study, women are 50 per cent more likely to progress when orchestras use blind auditions to select their musicians.

Students on the course will receive masterclasses from Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, and a key-note talk on ‘Women and Leadership’ from the Southbank Centre’s Jude Kelly.

They will also be offered the chance to work with Southbank Sinfonia, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Welsh College, who are partnering with Morley for the project.

Andrea Brown, Director of Music at Morley said: “Having been involved in recent round table discussions and conferences on the subject of gender imbalance in the music profession, I felt the best way I could support addressing this issue was through education.

“Morley has a long history of new and experimental music and this is another way in which we can lead the way and develop future musical talent.”

If the pilot is successful, Morley plans to roll out a longer conducting course open to 16-25 year-olds in the next academic year.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Profile: Maanda Ngoitiko

This is a guest post by African Initiatives.

Born to a traditional Maasai pastoralist family, Maanda Ngoitiko grew up moving around with the community cattle in the remote Ngorongoro region of northern Tanzania. Today she heads up the country’s pioneering 6,000-strong, all-female Pastoral Women’s Council, which she founded and which is transforming lives in Africa.

This remarkable mother of 15, who travels the world campaigning for the rights of Maasai women will be one of the influential people on the podium at the International Women’s Rights Conference which is taking place in Bristol on 1st March.

Maanda will tell the amazing story of how the mobilisation of women in male-dominated Maasai society helped to bring about an extraordinary land rights victory for 20,000 Maasai threatened with eviction from their ancestral lands in Loliondo, just east of the Serengeti national park – lands the Tanzanian government had wanted to grab to turn into an exclusive wildlife reserve.

“Women helped lead the way. Maasai society is known for being a male-dominated society, but women are beginning to assert their rights and assume a greater social leadership role,” says Maanda. “On land issues, Maasai women in Loliondo have been at the forefront of generating community-level mobilisation and solidarity, many walking dozens of miles across the bush to assemble the community for demonstrations and meetings.”

It was Maanda and the Pastoral Women’s Council who challenged these women to mobilise. The Pastoral Women’s Council is focussed on helping women to become self-reliant, whether via the distribution of micro-grants or the transfer of land titles for widows. Education is at the heart because, as the Swahili proverb says: “When you educate a woman, you educate a whole community.”

The Pastoral Women’s Council invests heavily in girls’ education. They sponsor their schooling and they build hostels so the girls avoid the dangers of a 15-mile walk back home in the dark. Their most difficult task is in changing perceptions about the importance of educating Maasai women.

For Maanda personally, getting an education meant escaping her family.

“I was lucky because my family let me go to primary school for years – traditionally the Maasai don’t believe in educating girls ­– but then when I was 12 years old they decided it was time for me to leave school and get married,” she says.

“I was only a young innocent girl of 12 but something inside me wanted more. Without an education I would have been married off in exchange for cattle. I would have spent my days rising early to milk the cows and walking miles to find water and firewood to carry back home. I would have had no choices…so I ran away to secondary school!”

Helped by a pastoralist organisation, Maanda completed her secondary education and further studies. “I then won an educational sponsorship from the Irish Embassy and went to Ireland to study for a diploma in Development Studies,” she says. “Ireland was very different from Tanzania!”

Following her time in Ireland, Maanda returned to northern Tanzania to work for a Maasai community organisation. “Although I enjoyed the work and loved being back in my homeland, I realised that there was an urgent need for an organisation led and managed by Maasai women, dedicated to addressing their human rights and practical needs,” she says.

“Getting an education gave me the tools to question male domination within Maasai culture and to fight for justice for Maasai women. I wanted to help girls who’d been in the same situation as I’d once been, desperate for an education but unable to access one.”

In 1997, at a meeting with nine other women, she founded the Pastoral Women’s Council, which she is still Director of.

The Pastoral Women’s Council addresses the needs of pastoralist women who are financially dependent on men because of their lack of education, lack of property rights and lack of access to income- generating opportunities. These women are deprived of the right to access basic needs such as healthcare, a balanced diet for themselves and their family, school for their children and respect from the local community.

“Because Maasai women have very little decision-making power, community agendas are determined by men,” says Maanda. “Issues of concern for women, such as domestic violence and forced marriage are not a priority.

“Maasai women have it very tough. Not only are they citizens of a country that undermines or disregards pastoralist values, but they are also members of a patriarchal culture that effectively denies them the ability to make decisions about their own lives.”

Maanda challenges Maasai women to take charge. At election time she tells them: “If you care about your children and their future you have no option but to mobilise”.

With Maanda’s rallying call, Maasai women are standing up and demanding their human rights.

If you would like to help fund Maanda and the pioneering work of the Pastoral Women’s Council, you can do so via Bristol-based NGO African Initiatives. Call African Initiatives on 0117 915 0001 or visit www.african-initiatives.org.uk

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Feminist Toolkit: How to make a Citizen’s Arrest

Last week Twiggy Garcia was working in a trendy Shoreditch restaurant when he realised Tony Blair was holding court in the private dining area. Seeing a once in a lifetime opportunity Twiggy acted out a citizen’s arrest by placing his hand on Blair’s shoulder and saying:

“Mr Blair, this is a citizen’s arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq. I am inviting you to accompany me to a police station to answer the charge.

Blair’s response was to talk about Syria and Twiggy, upon realising the plain clothes security were about to feel his collar, legged it from the restaurant leaving Tony, and his job, behind. He is the fifth person to try and arrest Blair and the fifth person to fail, but you have to admire his pluckiness.

We can imagine all kinds of situations where we might want to place someone under citizen’s arrest, and not just alleged war criminals, so we went to top barrister and feminist Julian Norman to get an indispensable guide on how to take justice into your own hands. Turns out you probably shouldn’t.

How to make a citizen’s arrest.

The first rule of citizen’s arrest is of course don’t do it. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how. Daydreaming of grabbing a tube-train groper and arresting him to the admiring cheers of your fellow commuters can be very satisfying. So here is your toolkit guide to a technically accurate daydream.

# 1: Don’t do it
Why not? Before we get started on how you would if you could, really, it’s a bad idea. People who have tried it tend to get arrested themselves for assault and false imprisonment. And even when they are acquitted, they had to go through that telephone call to their boss / their mum / their spouse explaining that they were in police custody. So keep this for revenge-based daydreams and absolute genuine emergencies.

#2: When to do it
The rules on citizen’s arrest are covered by s.24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which lets a person “other than a constable” arrest anyone who is in the act of committing an indictable offence or anyone whom she reasonably suspects of committing an indictable offence. Where that offence has already been committed, she can arrest anyone who is guilty or anyone whom she reasonably suspects is guilty of it.

So what’s the catch? Well, first, be sure your offence is “indictable” – that is, could be heard at a Crown Court. Some less serious offences can only be heard by magistrates (“summary only offences”) and these include most driving offences such as speeding, common assault, and some public order offences. If our heroine tries to arrest someone who’s been abusive and slapped her, she’ll be the one arrested, because she didn’t have the power to conduct a citizen’s arrest. See Rule One.

Let’s assume though that we have a more serious offence. Back to Mr. Gropey – she’s just seen him grab a stranger’s crotch, and there is no way it was consensual. Sexual assault is an indictable offence. The next obstacle is that arresting him must be necessary in order to stop him from causing physical injury to himself or another person, suffering physical injury, causing loss of or damage to property or making off before a constable can assume responsibility for him, AND it is not reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest instead. Could she call the police to meet the train at the next stop rather than arrest him? If so, it is reasonably practicable for a constable to make the arrest and she should not do it. However, if he is about to be set upon by a dozen angry bystanders and there is no constable in view, then she could perform a citizen’s arrest as being necessary to stop him from suffering physical injury.

#3: How to do it
Disappointingly, there is no set form of words for the person performing the citizen’s arrest. However, she must inform the person she is arresting of what she is doing, why she is doing it and what offence she believes the other person has committed.

She is allowed to use ‘reasonable force.’ What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances, but as a general rule you are allowed to defend yourself but not to attack. If Mr Gropey responds to the citizen’s arrest by attempting to punch her, she is entitled to judo kick his legs out from under him and sit on his chest, but once he is restrained she can’t carry on. If he runs away she can use ‘reasonable’ force to detain him but this must not turn into anything the court could construe as an assault.

Once he is arrested, she can ask him to accompany her to the police station or she can call the police to come and get him.

#4: Really, don’t do it.
Citizen’s arrest is a bit outdated these days. It’s the same power that PCSOs have, you need a thorough knowledge of criminal law so as to be sure whether your offence is indictable or not, plus it’s risky both in terms of annoying a potentially dangerous criminal and in terms of getting yourself arrested accidentally. In the age of the iThing, it’s safer just to video an offence taking place if you see it and hand the footage to the police (assuming that the offence couldn’t have been prevented, obviously, don’t just sit there and watch if you could stop it without risk to yourself), or place the offender in the Youtube stocks, like Racist Croydon Tram Woman.

#5: Checklist

  1. Is someone in the act of committing an offence?
  2. Or, has the offence already been committed and do I know (or reasonably suspect) someone to be guilty of it?
  3. Is the offence indictable?
  4. Could a constable practicably do this instead?
  5. Do I have to arrest the suspect to stop them hurting me, themselves, anyone else, or being hurt, or damaging property, or running away?

If the answer to these is ‘yes’ then you can perform a citizen’s arrest. If it’s ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure,’ then don’t.

Julian Norman is a barrister, professional law nerd, feminist and writer. Follow her @londonfeminist

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Your dinner’s been spiked

Everyone loves fish and chips, right? Hot and battery, the vinegar fumes gently scorching your eyeballs. Or maybe you’re more of a sushi person, riding the Yo Sushi conveyor belts with raw abandon. Or perhaps you’re more of a shellfish type, happiest scooping mussels from a garlicky bucket or ripping the exoskeleton off some hapless marine insect.

Whatever your inclination, you’re not alone in your fish love. The average person eats around 17kg of fish each year – that’s equivalent to consuming a 4-year-old human child, and we’ve all done that. Today we’re sliding twice as much fish down our oily gullets as we were in the 1960s. Kudos everyone.

Fish is a great source of protein so we should all be extremely chuffed with ourselves. It’s also a fabulous source of flame retardants, which is excellent news if you’re a sofa.

A new study reveals that plastic in the ocean is breaking down into microscopic particles which are harmful enough in themselves, but which also act like tiny lifeboats for grisly toxins from industrial byproducts like PBDE (the aforementioned flame retardant) and PCB (a coolant). The toxins clamber aboard and drift aimlessly, like Robert Redford in All is Lost, until devoured by marine life, and voila – it’s in the food chain.

Pollutants become more concentrated the further you move up the food chain. The tiddlers ingest the plastic and are in turn consumed in large numbers by their predators. These predators are then consumed by a higher level predator (it’s the circle of life, haven’t you seen The Lion King?) and so on, right up to the herb encrusted tuna that’s steaming fragrantly on your plate. I’m afraid someone’s spiked supper.

Many plastics contain chemicals already known to affect human and animal health, mainly affecting the endocrine system. Some contain toxic monomers, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, but the actual role of plastic waste in these conditions is uncertain and there currently isn’t enough evidence to start splashing Daily Mail style hysteria across the globe. But scarily, even less is known about the effects of the toxic hitchhikers.

Some bonkers cosmetic products come with ready-made teeny tiny plastic particles. Exfoliants, shower gels and even some toothpastes contain micro-beads so small they are designed to go down the plughole and straight out to sea. Many companies such as Unilever have pledged to exorcise the evil beads, but not until 2015, so the clever people at Beat the Microbead have stepped in and compiled a nifty list of products for you to avoid  until they’re happily bead-free.

But all this is just the tip of the plasberg. Plastic production has increased 560 fold in just over 60 years and if we continue at this rate we’ll be dumping 220 million tons of the stuff every year by 2025. It doesn’t take a scientist to work out that this can’t be good news for man nor beast.

And it hangs around for so long too. In 2005 a piece of plastic found in an albatross’s stomach bore a serial number traced to a World War II seaplane shot down in 1944. It’s hard not to be a tiny bit impressed by this plucky plastic.

That is until you consider its role in the deaths of hundreds of species – fish, birds, dolphins, whales – who die of starvation, their stomachs bursting with plastic water bottles, carrier bags and the like; or those strangled, poisoned or cut up by our waste.

Something to think about the next time you gob a fish finger. I really hope I haven’t spoiled your appetite.


Rachel Salvidge is a freelance journalist specialising in the environment, with a background in book publishing. Find out more @RachSalv.

Photo: Dan Century

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New Year Message from a Crone: Woman’s Inner Time

I’m calling on Dames, Matrons, Crones and Hags, Witches and Medicine Women – “Granny” can be rather patronising and too comfortable – to set up a network of ‘WIT Eldership’ collectives, supported by trusted and respected people of other age groups and genders.

Eldership is a source of strength, especially in old women who acknowledge our species is self-destructing (destroying many other species along the way) and who recognise that true teaching is a receptive process; knowing what the Earth needs requires solitude and quietness.

I often feel lonely and irrelevent, and in the great tradition of older people, feel concerned that the younger generation is losing its way. From the perspective of age we can see what’s important. It’s our role to steer us all back onto the path of intuition and deep listening.

Yesterday at Oxford Antiques Market I got talking with a Moroccan who sells old stuff that appeals because of its mystery. He has no idea where it comes from, we know nothing of its history. I picked up two horses that were skillfully made with leather; I could feel the way the person who made these objects loved and respected animals. This knowledge came from a sense that is beyond words.

Both of us have been watching our grandchildren using their iPads and computer games, and realise they appear to be disconnected from their heritage. They feel masterful in their own worlds, but are they able to reach out to each other and communicate complex & subtle emotions? In a time of urgent and evolving crisis for our beloved Earth, these skills will be paramount.

Young people need to be listened to. I want us to move beyond patriarchal authoritarian concepts of ‘the expert’ to a deeper place where people search within themselves for their own innate skills and capacities, which the alienating forms of exam-based education tends to squash. All human beings have amazing capacities, which older people can draw out with patience and insight.

It takes a village to raise a child” – Proverb with African Roots

How do we construct that “village” in our world of super speedy communication? How do we find communion between different ages and levels of society? I request that we invest in old women who feel ‘called’ and have been moved by the sixties/seventies liberation struggles, by that age of interactive self-exploration.

I’m an old hippy and I’m remembering how earlier in my life I was so full of hope, as so many of us were. Aware we had work to do and willing to pledge and honour that sense of being called; but now I’m questioning myself and sometimes feel powerless and daunted to the point of numbness, but I know that it’s not hopeless. The Work is increasing in its depth and demands.

We’ve just moved through solstice time, nurturing our bodies and developing communal bonds. We’re also at a stage in our human development where we need to nurture the inner realms we sometimes call ‘soul’. I’ve developed the concept of WIT (Woman’s Inner Time); as contemporary Medicine Women, we would not be teaching children, but rather supporting adults who teach kids, including parents and professionals.

We older women would develop the art of listening without imposing agendas, judgement or opinion, but rather create ‘sacred’ space for uninterrupted personal exploration. We would be a resource and would begin with ourselves and our own ego-nurturance, in order to move beyond old wounds and the habits of internal conflict and self-sabotage.

Raga Woods is a frequently-photographed, much-travelled mad Crone . If you’d like to find out more about WIT email her: ragawoo@gmail.com

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Feminist Events Listings: January 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in January.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


6th of January || The History of Radical Women in Greater Manchester at Aquinas College, Stockport.

This 10 Week course,  beginning on the 6th of January is an introduction to the history of radical women’s movements in Greater Manchester. This area was at the centre of the social, economic and industrial upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, which gave rise to radical political movements. The course will look at women’s role in movements and events such as Peterloo, the Luddites, Owenite Co-operation, Chartism and Votes for Women and will also include three walks in Manchester city centre.The course is being tutored by Michael Herbert.

For more information please contact Sheila Lahan at Aquinas College, telephone 0161 419 9163, email : Sheila@aquinas.ac.uk.


17 January  || Policy & Parliamentary Training, Sheffield.

Does your organisation want to make its voice heard in the policy making process? Does your organisation want to influence decision makers but have no idea how? Are you a community group that wants to lobby your local MP Voice4Change are holding a one day policy and parliamentary training session in partnership with the Parliamentary Outreach Service. The session is aimed at BME voluntary sector organisations who have little or no experience of lobbying or policy activity. This course will cover; Parliament, the policy making process and how to get your voice hear and how to plan your lobbying or policy work.

MORE INFO: www.voice4change-england.co.uk




8 January || 1 Billion Rising for Justice @ Southbank Centre.

Looking at the state of female justice in the UK hosted by Jude Kelly (artistic director of the Southbank) Featuring: Sophie Barton-Hawkins (Poet and former prisoner), Marissa Begonia (Justice for Domestic Workers), Stella Creasy (Labour MP), Helena Kennedy (Baroness, Barrister, House of Lords) Rahela Sidiqi (Women for Refugee Women), Eve Ensler (V-Day Founder).

Free Admission. 7.30pm. This event will be live-streamed.

RSVP: monique@vday.org or rossana@onebillionrising.org


14 January || NUS National Summit on Confronting Lad Culture in Higher Education at London South Bank University.

Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, is confirmed as one of the keynote speakers and other participants include Lucy Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign. The agenda will feature workshops and plenaries from a diverse array of organisations dealing with issues related to ‘lad culture’ and will feature an opportunity to shape the direction of a national strategy to respond to ‘lad culture’ in higher education. From 10am -5pm. Students Union Delegate: £25, Sector Delegate: £50.00

MORE INFO:http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/ents/event/896/


16 January – 22 February || Blurred Lines @ The Shed Theatre, London.

A play created and devised by Carrie Cracknell and Nick Payne. A blistering journey through the minefield of contemporary gender politics. With songs. Nick Payne’s plays include Constellations, Wanderlust (Royal Court) and The Same Deep Water As Me (Donmar Warehouse). Carrie Cracknell is Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre. She was previously Artistic Director of the Gate. Recent work includes A Doll’s House (Young Vic and West End) and Wozzeck (ENO).

MORE INFO: http://theshed.nationaltheatre.org.uk/events/blurred-lines#.UsV4cfRdVth


25th January || London 70’s sisters, The Feminist Library. 

Feminists who were active in the 60s, 70s & 80s are invited to an afternoon of connecting with other feminists and  joining in discussion around themes of ageing, ageism,  and activism, as well as offering the chance to form new ongoing  groups if you would like to. Women from outside London welcome. 2pm to 5:30pm. Tel: 020 7261 0879

MORE INFO: http://feministlibrary.co.uk/


Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for January.

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VIDEO: Afghan Women’s Rights – A teacher’s story

To coincide with International Human Rights Day, Amnesty International today launches two short films on women’s rights in Afghanistan, telling the stories of two women: a teacher and a doctor.

The first tells the story of Parween, an Afghan headteacher, recounted by Jo Dibb – the headteacher at a school in north London.

Parween, a headmistress from Laghman province, was targeted for running a girls’ school. After receiving repeated threats from unknown men warning her to stop working, her son, Hamayoon, was abducted and killed. Here, she tells Amnesty International her story.

In April 2009 my young son Hamayoon, who was 18 years-old at the time, was kidnapped by unknown men. They are the people who are opposed to the progress and are the enemies of this country. Three days later I received a call from the kidnappers who told me that I could talk to my son for as long as I wanted as this was the last time I would speak to him.

My husband spoke to them and asked them why are you doing this to us? They said ‘because you’re working for the government [running a girls’ school] and for the Americans. Your wife is working, she was a [parliamentary] candidate, and was awarded the Malalai gold medal by Afghan-Americans. And you still say you have done nothing and ask why we are cruel to you?’

They handed the phone to my son and he asked me to come and take him back home. My son said that the kidnappers had told him to warn your mother and father to stop working otherwise they would face far severe consequences. That was the last time I spoke to my son.

A year and three months later, after heavy rainfall, a flood brought my son’s corpse to a Gardel desert. His body was caught in a tree. Nomads living close by found his body and contacted the government and police who contacted us. My husband went to the police station and recognised the body as our son’s. His body was taken to the public health hospital. We received his body from there and buried him.

The hospital gave us the post-mortem report. My son had 12 gun shot wounds to his body. The doctors told us that he had been killed at least three months before.

Before that, when we had been searching for him, we saw some 30 other corpses. My husband and his brothers, other relatives and villagers, whenever they heard that a corpse had been recovered, went rushing to see if it was my son’s body. We even opened some unknown graves to search for my son’s body. We saw corpses which were half-eaten by animals, rotten bodies, some corpse had ropes around their necks, some had been strangled by strings which were still wrapped around their necks, others had gun shot wounds to their heads and other parts of their bodies. We suffered a lot of torment searching for my son. We are still receiving death threats but we continue with our work.

We registered the kidnapping of my son with all the government agencies, like the police, the National Directorate of Security [Afghanistan’s Intelligence Service]. The NDS said that all the mobile numbers [of the kidnappers] originated from different provinces, like Kabul, Mazar, Laghman, Logar, and were linked to fake ID cards, making it very difficult to trace these people. We don’t have a strong government to investigate and find these people.

I also went to human rights organisations, but no one listened to what we had to say. Nobody cares what is happening to us.

On 21 February 2012, when I was returning home from work by car, they detonated a bomb and my husband received serious wounds to his face and hands. The children and I had a lucky escape and received minor injuries but the car was completely destroyed.

We don’t feel safe anymore now and we don’t know what to do. We have left our house. We are always on the move from one place to another and from one house to another. We are all living in a fear. Whenever there is sound at the front door I get scared that something bad may happen to us. My children are always scared, even in their sleep and while awake. Whenever the kidnappers traced our new mobile number they made threatening phone calls. I don’t know what to do. We are all suffering from mental health problems because of the continuous threats.

My father was a liberal and educated man. He gave us an education and religious lessons and told us that we should work for the progress and prosperity of our country.

If we want we can also leave this place and run away, but this is not our aim. Our main goal is to serve the people of this country by promoting education for children and rebuilding the country.

When my father was dying he took a vow from his children that we would serve the country even if this meant sacrificing our lives. So we are committed to fulfilling our father’s wish and the only way to fight ignorant people is to promote education in this country.

For more information about the film campaign, follow @AmnestyUK

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Trish Harrison: Feminism is…

Trish HarrisonName: Trish Harrison

Age: 68

Location: Oldham, Greater Manchester

Bio: Retired, worked in manual jobs, no education to speak of. I love living

Feminism, well apart from the obvious equal rights agenda, I truly believe a good education is an essential requirement . Money or the lack thereof, holds people back. Feminism is not just for posh people who have a university education (no offence).

Feminism means freedom to choose and freedom from oppression. We need more support for working class people, young and old.

And no more page 3.

Email your response to the question “what is feminism?” (in no more than 200 words) to editorial@feministtimes.com, with your name, age, location, a one-sentence bio and a photo of yourself.

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

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A is for Apathy: Why is Mr Gove not championing Abuse campaign?

This is Abuse, the landmark Home Office campaign, is a laudable effort to change the attitudes of young people, aiming to prevent violence and foster respect in their relationships. This multi-million pound campaign is ongoing and you might have noticed the infomercials on TV – though of course they are aimed at teenagers, and smart partnerships with the likes of E4 mean some of us over 21 might not have seen them. As This is Abuse goes into its third year, we ask why this campaign is not being followed through into our schools, an obvious place to tackle young adults’ attitudes towards women and girls.

It started in 2010 when the Government produced a strategy to end violence against women and girls, in response to the evidence of crisis levels of domestic and sexual crime. The publication is a grim snapshot of female life in the UK: in one year there are one million female victims of domestic violence, 300,000 women are sexually assaulted and 60,000 women raped. In our lifetimes we have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of domestic violence and 70% of teenage mums are in a violent relationship. Globally, the report concluded, violence against women and girls is at “pandemic” proportions.

They promise to “develop a cross-government communications strategy”, emphasising that “violence against women and girls is a gender-based crime which requires a focused and robust cross-government approach” and they commit to “work together across government… to ensure that our response is cohesive and comprehensive”. The ambition is clear. So why then is this campaign, part of the strategy set out by the Government and aimed at teenagers, only championed by the Home Office as a criminal issue and not being taken into every school in the country as an education issue?

Holly Dustin, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said: “it is extremely disappointing and quite baffling that schools have not been told directly about This Is Abuse.” Baffling is exactly what it is; it’s a vital opportunity missed. “This is a critical initiative at a time when abuse and harassment of girls is at an all-time high. It is vital that all parts of government pull together on tackling violence against women and girls,” she added. It seems obvious that by copping out the Department of Education risks compromising the success of the campaign and the whole strategy.

At the time of publication the Home Office had declined to comment on why the Department of Education were not rolling out the campaign in our schools. A Department of Education spokesperson suggested it’s down to teachers to find out about the campaign, pointing out that the teaching resources were all available online. “We expect teachers to ensure that all pupils develop an awareness of the issues around physical violence and abuse as part of sex and relationship education. We trust in the professional judgement of teachers to do so appropriately,” the Department of Education said. But even if Gove won’t prescribe it, how about flagging it up to the teachers? Drawing their attention to it? Teachers, like many of us, are busy, tired and unlikely to be watching E4.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper did respond to the Feminist Times saying, “it’s hardly surprising that there’s a block coming from a Department run by Michael Gove. A third of teenage girls in relationships have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationships, yet Michael Gove is living in a time-warp; he doesn’t even think sex education should be updated to teach children about online safety and how to deal with exposure to online pornography.”

Campaigners like the teenage girls behind Campaign4Consent, and the Telegraph’s campaign for #bettersexed have an uphill battle on their hands if Michael Gove won’t even roll out an existing, multi-million pound Government campaign in UK schools.

The only way for the government to fulfil it’s own promise for a cross departmental strategy is to make sure every teacher knows about This is Abuse, where to get the materials to teach it and understands why this campaign is critical to the safety of women and girls across the UK. You would have thought a pandemic was too important to leave to chance.

Contact Mr Gove

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Natalie Bennett

Natalie Bennett marks International Day of the Girl

Following her criticism of the cabinet reshuffle earlier this week, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has marked the UN’s International Day of the Girl Child with a statement, sent exclusively to Feminist Times, which is to be read today to girls at the Royal High School, Bath.

Dear pupils,

I am sorry I can’t join you today to pass on in person how pleased I am that you are paying serious attention to the International Day of the Girl.

When I was five years old, it was brought home to me that I was indeed a girl. Was told that I couldn’t have the bicycle I passionately wished for, because I was female. Riding a bicycle was “unladylike” I was told. But had I had a brother, he could have one and I might be allowed to ride it some time.

Ever since that day, I have been passionate about women’s rights.

Of course we know many girls in the world today suffer vastly great deprivations – lack of food, lack of a chance for an education, risk of violence and abuse – simply because of their gender.

We need to say – and I hope you will say, as you step out into the world and start to take over the world – that no discrimination against girls is acceptable.

And I hope you will celebrate the many achievements of girls – from the high profile, such as the magnificent Malala, to the unsung girls around the world who labour to feed their families and themselves. They should be in school, but they are doing their best with the hand society has dealt them.

The future world is your world – you can shape it, make choices about its direction. Maybe one of you will be a prime minister, one of you might be a Supreme Court judge – and we certainly need more women there. Maybe you’ll be a chef, or a farmer, or an engineer. And we need more women doing all of those jobs too.

Whatever you do, I hope you’ll be thinking about not just your own progress, but also that of other girls and women around the world.

When we work together for the common good, we’re all stronger, all happier, all more secure.

I hope you have a great day today, a great celebration, one that you will remember in the years to come.

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Campaign 4 Consent

The Campaign for Consent started off as a conversation between three teenagers. We felt, as young people and schoolchildren, that perhaps there ought to be something in our curriculum about sexual assault, something that one in three girls experience in UK schools, but only 15% speak out about.

I can’t speak on behalf of fellow campaigners, Lili and Georgia, but I’ve been a victim of sexual assault myself. What was apparently just “harmless fun” had a detrimental effect on the way I would view my body for the next few years, my mental health and my trust in others. I was 12 years old. My assault happened in a classroom environment. For all those reasons and many more, I don’t believe consent should be made a required part of the UK’s Sex Education curriculum, I believe it has to be.

Walking down the corridors in my secondary school last year, I would hear at least three rape jokes a day. People would refer to rape as a substitute for other words, laughing as they did so. “lol it’s like he’s raping her!” “you just got raped!” “haha what a rapist!” … at least three times a day. Girls were catcalled in the canteen, compared to Page 3 models in the common rooms, made to witness boys huddling round computer screens, watching pornography in the library (until the teacher told them off, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging). Sometimes boys would watch porn at the back of the classroom on their phones and nobody said or did anything.

I believe the porn culture of today is causing sexual assault to become even more common. We’ve seen the detrimental effects pornography can have on young people’s relationships with their own bodies and with other people. School is becoming a more and more scary place – for younger girls especially – when it comes to sexual mistreatment and disrespect.

We, like so many other young people, have been victims and observers. But it’s not just limited to us. At the moment, one in five women will experience sexual harassment in her lifetime. Education is a vital tool in bringing this statistic down.

By putting consent into the curriculum we will give young people the knowledge and the power to stop something that has affected so many for far too long. We will give a voice to the 85% of serious sexual assault victims who never go to the police. If we make ourselves heard now, we’ll give hope to a future generation, and start paving the road to change.


Yas Necati is a 17-year-old activist, campaigning for better sex education with 15-year-olds Georgia Luckhurst and Lili Evans. You can read more about their campaign at http://campaign4consent, or find out more @YasNecati.

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