International Day of the Girl

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Interview with Lucy, Team Leader for our Education programmes

Hi Lucy! Tell us a bit about your work . . .

I design and deliver Empower’s prevention and early intervention group work programmes working with thousands of young people across London each year with the aim of increasing awareness of consent and decreasing gender-based violence that young women are at risk of experiencing throughout their life time.  

Why is International Day of the Girl important to you?

I think that recognising and celebrating International Day of the Girl is important because it highlights the present situation that young women across the world are experiencing gender-based violence in different forms and that the UK is no exception. In 2014, 59% of girls and young women surveyed for Girlguiding UK said they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year. I often hear from the young women in schools that sexual harassment is normalised and that being touched without Consent or called a ‘sket’ Is a part of life at school. International day of the Girl makes a statement to the world that this is not acceptable and that we need to work towards gender equality to make lasting change. Recognising the day reminds me of the importance of the work that Safer London does and also the significance of the poem by Maya Angelou called ‘And still I Rise’ a testament to the strength and courage that girls show on a daily basis.

This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030”. Any thoughts?

My first thought is – I love it. I often have conversations with my colleagues about what a joy it is to be able of spend most of our working days with young women between the ages of 12- 16. They are phenomenally clever, wise and resilient and have such important perspectives/experiences of society to share. Young women often feel like they do not have any power due to being told/shown that they do not. We need to ensure that young women do have the power to make choices about their own lives and bodies and prove this by having a zero tolerance attitude to all forms of gender based violence/ discrimination. It also reminds me of the book called The Power, written by Naomi Alderman which poses an interesting fictional world where 15-year old young women literally have power in the palms of their hands- well worth a read!

What are some of the helpful tools that young girls can use to build their self-confidence and esteem?

I really believe this quote from Gloria Steinem “…the first step toward self-esteem for most of us is not to learn but to un-learn. We need to demystify the forces that have told us what we should be before we can value what we are.” Teaching critical thinking skills to young women is so important in enabling them to stand up against the narrow and harmful image of what being a girl /woman is and instead focus on their own unique personal strengths, interests and dreams. 

What is one of the key messages you would like to send to young girls and women on this day?

You deserve to take up space. So often young women are told to be less – less loud, less emotional, less passionate, less angry, less fat, less body hair. I want a key message to be – be as much and you are and know that you have right to be here and enjoy the wonders of this world without experiencing harm as much as anybody else is.