of 1,000 signatures
To The Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi and the Department for Education
An Open Letter to the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi and the Department for Education
In March of this year, UN Women published the findings from a survey about sexual harassment among women living in the UK. The findings show that 86of young women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment, with 71of women, of all ages, experiencing sexual harassment in a public space. While these figures are shameful to say the least, they are not surprising. The findings from this survey have raised questions around what actually constitutes as sexual harassment and assault? Do the systems in place effectively educate young people on these issues? Are we taught about consent in a way that is representative of our reality? And why is there so little clarity on all of these topics?
What we are asking for is not unreasonable: We need effective, inclusive and thorough anti-harassment courses to be made compulsory, as well as lessons focusing on anti-misogyny and consent, with an emphasis on preventing violence against women and marginalised genders.
We are aware that such subject areas are already covered in the updated Department for Education’s “Keeping Children Safe in Education” statutory guidance, but we don’t feel that there is a strong enough focus on utilising education as a preventative tool when it comes to violence against women and marginalised genders. The guidance clearly states,
“We use the terms “must” and “should” throughout the guidance. We use the term “must” when the person in question is legally required to do something and “should” when the advice set out should be followed unless there is good reason not to.”
The term “should” is used when discussing nearly all topics. This is not good enough. It is essential that, as a legal requirement, these subject areas be made an integral part of PSHE lessons within the school curriculum and schools must allow a safe space for these learnings to take place. It is absolutely crucial that when you are implementing these solutions, that all voices are heard and represented. Marginalised communities cannot be excluded from this dialogue.
Young Abuse Support (YAS) have been campaigning for school counsellors to be trained on the effects of young partner abuse so that they can support students and help perpetrators break the pattern. Our Streets Now have already put together in depth toolkits and educational resources for students, teachers and parents, as well as offering a student ambassador programme. Education is the answer and you have all the tools needed to make this a reality. This is completely within reach due to the incredible work of many grass-roots organisations and activists.
We have an opportunity here to change the way people feel, think and behave in their personal relationships and social situations, so that we can move forward into a safer future for all. Given that violence against women, girls and marginalised genders can happen anywhere, no amount of street lighting can solve such a deep rooted, cultural and systemic issue. It starts with education. As part of their Safe Spaces Now campaign, UN Women UK released a short film and open letter calling on our leaders for change. We have written this letter to increase the pressure and to address the Department for Education directly. Enough is enough. The time for change is now.
The 97 March
Issy Warren, Our Streets Now
Zoe Stromberg, Cute Cat Calls
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