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Opening up spaces to talk

The topic of gendered violence and gendered inequality is complex and emotive but one young woman, Natasha Eeles, has made it her mission to challenge and change it.

Bold Voices is about creating space to hold uncomfortable conversations, “explains Natasha. “Day-to-day life is fast moving but we recognise how crucial it is for young people to take a moment to consider and reflect on the wider issues at play and how seemingly small and unimportant actions can affect and damage other young people’s lives. It’s about helping people, whatever their age, to join the dots and begin to see that if we all play our part, we can change inherently damaging societal attitudes.”

The good news is that the government’s recent emergency review brought to light how crucial this education is. As with a number of safeguarding and PSHE topics, guidelines also highlight the increasing success of external facilitators to carry out this work. Natasha has direct experience of this: “No matter how well liked or respected individual teachers are within a school environment, there are situations when an empathic, anonymous face can cut to the core of an issue so much more effectively. Young people feel less judged, and they are often more likely to raise an opinion or reflect on an experience, with the knowledge that they have shared it with someone outside of their normal daily contact.”

Guiding our young people

With the summer holidays about to start, what can be done to support young people while the school gates are shut? Natasha suggests the ‘little and often’ approach. “We can’t expect a one-off talk on these issues to change the way our teenager thinks or to have a hope of challenging both the attitudes they are learning as they grow up from media, pop culture, pornography and their own circle of friends. It can also be a case of reflecting on the types of conversations we are having. Are we giving teenagers the opportunity to discuss the decisions they might have to make before they are in the situation of making that decision? Are they aware of the potential consequences – not just for themselves but also for those around them?”

Aside from the conversations themselves, the Bold Voices’ approach is to encourage parents to look at their own responses when a teenager makes an ill-considered decision. Natasha explains: “Do we give space for conversation and reflection about why a different decision might have been better and potentially what factors contributed to that decision? There are many varied issues within the topics of gender inequality and gender-based violence, however, overall, we need to ensure that any disciplinary actions sit alongside continued conversation and an openness to hear from teenagers about their actions and those of the people around them.” 

Ultimately, with young people, teachers, parents and their families listening, learning and working together, there is real hope for future generations to experience an education free of gendered violence and inequality.

For details of Bold Voices work and their ground-breaking national schools’ Ambassador Programme go to their website www.boldvoices.co.uk

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