After the fabulous news that we have received funding from the Forced Marriage Unit of the government to continue our work on Forced Marriage we had a great meeting this week with our partners Stockport Without Abuse, Sameem Ali (Manchester City Councillor and forced marriage survivor) and Jo Lane, a freelance worker teaching people about their rights and responsibilities. Our work in this area has forced us here at Act On Info to think more about young people’s rights and in particular the rights of young women in our country.
Especially after Malala Day on the 12th July we have been reading about some horrific things happening to young girls across the world – girls facing sexual violence on their journey to school or the practice of “breast ironing” to prevent them being perceived by school staff as sexually available. That wouldn’t happen here though right? But in 2010, a YouGov poll found almost one in three 16‑ to 18-year-old girls stating that they had experienced groping or unwanted sexual touching at school, so sexual bullying and harassment is rife in UK schools. We don’t think this is an unfair exaggeration as being in school’s a lot ourselves means that we have witnessed firsthand girls being on the receiving end of this behaviour.
We of course cannot compare Malala’s experience to those of girls in UK schools, but it comes under the same banner of girls having problems accessing education across the globe. Wherever the risk comes from, be it their peers, families or terrorist groups all girls are entitled to protection. There was a report published last month on the government’s action to prevent violence against women and girls which shows that we still have a long way to go. Young people’s increased access to social networking, internet pornography and sexual exploitation are changing the landscape that schools are seeking to manage. We need in schools coordinated support to address this sufficiently. In the meantime, with our Forced Marriage work, our bids for funding to do work on domestic abuse in teen relationships and our continuing anti- bullying drama workshops we will try and do our small part to change this landscape.