I was back at the London School of Economics this year, this time in the Institute for Inequality to work with this year’s cohort of the Atlantic Fellows. If you don’t know this programme already then you should. It’s brilliant. It brings social sector ‘leaders’… Read More »Campaign Communications Workshop at the LSE Institute of Inequalities
I was so excited to be running a workshop at the Women’s Voice Women’s Votes Festival for women at the University of Suffolk. I didn’t know what to expect before I arrived, but WOW it was something else. Feminist conferences have a terrible and often… Read More »Why Economics is a Feminist Issue – Women’s Voices Women’s Votes
It was great to be back at the London School of Economics and Politics again running a day-long workshop for Masters students on Gender Budgeting for Change and Campaigning for Change. They are such a fantastic group of people to work with – challenging and… Read More »Gender Budgeting and Campaigning for Change at LSE
In February I took part in a 2.5 day innovation process to help Oxfam come up with some great ideas for how to solve women’s poverty. It was amazing, exhausting and emotional. You can see me in my various states of dress in this video… Read More »Oxfam Social Innovation Boost
It is always great to have a whole day to work with students, so I was really excited to go up to York and to the Archbishop’s Holgate School. We started with a whole year assembly on gender and gender identity. We talked about sexuality and gender… Read More »Gender and identity at Archbishop’s Holgate School, York
I was excited to go to King Alfred school and discuss pornography and sexting. I held an assembly on the issue, which was a bit tricky, but the students were very receptive and we ended up having a good chat. We examined what porn is, why we… Read More »Porn! At King Alfred School, London
Last month I was delighted to be invited to join Forward (Foundation for Women’s Health and Development) as an educator on female genital mutilation.
Forward have been working on this issue for decades and working in schools for four years. They run a youth programme working with young people across the country empowering them to speak out about it. Over the last few years the issue of FGM has grown in public consciousness and they have been increasingly asked to give talks in schools.
In order to manage increasing demand, they have employed 15 educators to work across schools in London, I am delighted to be part of that team.
I had great fun doing a two hour workshop with A-Level English Literature students at Oaklands School, Tower Hamlets. We were looking at the male gaze in Jane Eyre which they were studying for their course. This video is an excellent introduction to how the… Read More »The male gaze in Jane Eyre
Today I’m running a workshop at Highbury Grove School, London on women in the media. This is obviously a broad topic and a lot to cover but in the end I decided to focus on advertising. The aim is to leave these young women of… Read More »Women in the media workshop – Highbury Grove School
Like most adults in the UK my school sex education was rudimentary. By law, the science curriculum must cover puberty and reproduction and then in secondary school give information about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. I was one of the lucky ones who had a dedicated sex and relationship education class with the brave Mrs Stickland who taught us 13 and 14 year-olds about sex, contraception and consent. Outside of the national curriculum, schools can offer as much or as little as they want but most choose not to and, scarily, 26% of secondary school pupils report getting no sex and relationship education (SRE) at all. Which leaves young people desperate to know more but unable to access reliable sources. A staggering 80% of young people get their sex education from elsewhere…their friends, TV and increasingly pornography.
So what is anyone doing about it? Well an old friend of mine, Sarah, and her husband Matt run a programme in schools in Bury St Edmunds called The Love Life Project. They have been running these workshops for years and I have been promising to come for just as long, so this summer I went back to school…
In terms of my faith, I fall somewhere near agnostic, though has never stopped Sarah and I being friends. I respect people with faith but as a feminist I have found some aspects of religion problematic for women’s rights. The role of the Catholic church in the HIV/AIDs epidemic in Africa, the picketing of abortion clinics by Christian groups and the emphasis by the religious on abstinence though its efficacy is widely questioned has left me wondering what role, if any, religion should have in sex education. So it’s fair to say I approached these two days with a little trepidation.
But my fears were totally unfounded. Sarah and Matt have designed the programme to have minimal faith content. They actively don’t proselytise and apart from discussing the non-religious benefits of abstinence there was no even vaguely Christian content. What their course does have is some great activities that got the young people talking and thinking about sex and relationships. What’s more, as a husband and wife team they come prepared to be totally honest about their love lives, giving examples to the young people of where they made mistakes and what they would do differently.
They warmed up with a discussion of the non-religious reasons for abstinence which got the young people thinking about all sorts of issues. They covered STI transmissions, consent (using this really cool description) and a frank discussion about porn. The truth is, no one is talking to young people about porn. Schools, for fear of seeming to endorse it, tend to ignore the subject totally. But when The LoveLife Project surveyed 13-14 years olds across the Bury St Edmunds they found that 90% of boys cited porn as the most influential factor in their sex education.