Category Archives: Guest Blogs

We need to put Sex and Relationship Education on the National Curriculum – for all

An amendment to the Children and Families Bill currently before parliament has been tabled, which would:

1. Add PSHE to National Curriculum;
2. Make age appropriate SRE a statutory component of this curriculum at all 4 Key Stages;
3. Specify that same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent be part of the curriculum on PSHE

The amendment is backed by the One Billion Rising campaign and other groups including End Violence Against Women, the EQUALS coalition and Women’s Aid, and will be debated this coming Tuesday 11th June. Here Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Children’s Minister who tabled the motion (along with Sharon Hodgson MP and Stella Creasy MP), explains why the proposals are vital to ensure both young men and women develop positive and equal relationships with each other.
lisanandy

This article was published by Mumsnet on Saturday 8th June 2013

“We need to do more to protect children. Recent research by the Children’s Commissioner found a shocking number of young people don’t know what a good relationship looks like. This should be a wake up call that we are simply not doing enough to keep children safe.

Making clear, high-quality and age-appropriate sex and relationship education part of the National Curriculum is a vital and important step in equipping children with the ability to protect themselves from abuse now and in the future. This is not just about biology – but about helping young people to develop healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships. A recent report by the NSPCC found that a third of girls in relationships aged 13-17 have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationships, while one in 16 of this group reported experiencing rape. Not only are a third of young women experiencing violence and abuse in their relationships but a third of young boys are the perpetrators of this abuse. This is clearly a significant problem.

We need to break the cycle and education is key to preventing it from happening in the first place. With children and young people increasingly exposed to sexual content online and through social media, the need for information has never been greater. According to the Children?s Commissioner, boys as young as 11 are frequently exposed to pornographic images, and the NSPCC reports calls to Childline by teenage boys who are worried about what it is doing to them. There is strong evidence of a link between explicit images and a rise in sexual aggression and harassment of the opposite sex.

Not only does good quality sex and relationships education help protect children from becoming victims of abuse, it will help children develop healthy attitudes which will prevent them from becoming perpetrators of abuse themselves. It is vital that children can make healthy and informed decisions about their lives, and develop the confidence, skills and resilience to make good choices. This is too important to leave to chance.

That is why on Tuesday we will ask the Government to support an amendment to the Children and Families Bill to deliver age-appropriate sex and relationships education in all schools and give teachers the tools they need to deliver it.

Sexual abuse is not inevitable, and we have a duty to do all we can to prevent it. Children and young people have a right to expect that from their Government. Show your support for making Sex and Relationship Education part of the National Curriculum by contacting your MP to ask them to join me in voting for New Clause 20.”

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Take Sex & Relationship Education Forward Not Back

As Chief Executive of a charity committed to the idea that education is about preparation for life, not just preparation for exams, I was delighted when OBR-UK chose guaranteeing sex and relationships education (SRE) for every school pupil as its main campaign priority.  Yet even as this proposal was being debated in the House of Commons on the 14th of February, the Department for Education was consulting on changes to the national curriculum which, if not challenged, could move SRE backwards for pupils across the country.

High‐quality teaching should be a first line of defence against abuse of children and young people. Even if a pupil is experiencing aggressive or unbalanced relationships outside school, inside they should receive a clear message: ‘it doesn’t have to be like this’. In particular, lessons can be used to provide support for pupils experiencing abuse, helping them to believe that what they are experiencing is unacceptable and that it is not their fault; to believe they have a right for it to stop and that it can stop; and to find a strategy and the confidence to initiate the action needed to make it stop.

For this to happen, children must first have a basic understanding of human biology and the language to describe what is happening; it is only right that this information should be taught in science lessons. But the new science curriculum which the Government is proposing omits any reference to genitalia and sexual health. Without this basic teaching, lessons on how children can respond to sexual abuse and violence will be severely undermined.

These changes risk making a situation which is already completely unsatisfactory even worse: a 2011 Brook survey showed that 26% of secondary school pupils reported receiving no sex and relationships education at all, while just 6% said they got the information they needed in SRE. And we know that even since 2011, many schools have reduced their provision in the face of tight budgets and competing priorities. We need to move forwards from this position, not go backwards.

That’s why we are working with partners across the youth, education and health sectors to campaign for SRE fit for the 21st century and encouraging supporters of OBR-UK to sign up too. Teachers need clear, unambiguous advice on SRE from Government; we fail those teachers and, more importantly their pupils, if this is not provided.

 

Joe Hayman

Chief Executive, PSHE Association

http://www.pshe-association.org.uk/

One Billion Rising 14 Feb 2013 – Reflections

On 14th February the 28 Too Many team took to the streets of London to participate in a number of One Billion Rising in the UK (OBRUK) events taking place across the capital. Rather than provide an account of the day which has already been well documented in many blogs, on FaceBook/Twitter and in some brilliant YouTube videos we thought we would mull over our day and capture our top 10 reflections on what happened and what we want to remember.

  1. Too many people are ignorant or silent about the scale and impact of sexual violence against women and girls – sexual violence against women and girls has become normalised but it is not acceptable and we should all be loudly demanding that action is taken to end it. One Billion Rising (OBR) highlighted that this is happening every day in every country and, if not you, a women or girl you know will have been beaten, assaulted or raped
  2. OBR is a truly global movement – thousands of events across 200+ countries and millions taking part to show they care and to say no to sexual violence against women & girls
  3. People took part – yes that means lots of women, girls, men and boys raising their voices and dancing together for a common cause
  4. It is a happy and hopeful campaign – there was a great atmosphere at pre-event workshops, flashmobs, rallies and many other events proving that you don’t have to be glum to make some very serious points
  5. Politicians from different parties can dance to a single tune – maybe they don’t all have moves like Jagger but many politicians from different political backgrounds shared a platform and worked together to support OBR. Now they need to stay engaged on this issue and push for action from the Government Ministers who were noticeably quiet on the day
  6. Hearing a new voice – for millions of women this was the first time they have taken part in public events and spoken out about the sexual violence which blights so many lives. We should all listen to what they have to say
  7. Social media was used to empower people – all sorts of social media were used, bringing people together to plan, support each other globally and keep sharing news after events have taken place. New technology enabled more people to learn about the movement and get involved
  8. Mainstream TV news where were you? – with the notable exception of Channel 4 the main UK broadcasters did not treat OBR as major news which was poor service to their viewers and subscribers, many of whom took part in or supported events
  9. Together we are stronger – OBR brought together many diverse groups who focus on specific aspects of violence against women eg. domestic violence, rape or female genital mutilation. Specialisation is necessary for expert work but campaigning together strengthens our voice
  10. There is still time to join the campaign and help with the challenges ahead – the OBR train has left the station but there are many more stops on this journey so, if you are not already on board, jump up and join in to make the world a better place.

These are our take-aways from the day. What are yours?

Blog by Louise Robertson Operations Coordinator, 28 Too Many –a charity working to end female genital mutilation

Visualising One Billion Rising

Great visual put together by the Southbank Centre who hosted a number of One Billion Rising Events and will host the WoW: Women of the World Festival from 6th – 10th March

Southbank Centre

One Billion Rising

One Billion Rising.

Today ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end violence against women and girls.

#WOW2013
www.southbankcentre.co.uk/wow

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Great to hear and see the success of events around the country for One Billion Rising

Mary Griffiths Clarke

The One Billion Rising events in Lambeth on February 14th were a great success! The Ritzy Cinema event sold out, with people packed out of the room and down the stairs! Further screenings are being arranged to meet demand! People came from all over the borough and reflected the true diversity of the residents and workers within Lambeth. Many thanks to Sarah Rabbitts who helped introduce with a summary of the day’s debate in Parliament about making relationship education a compulsory part of the national curriculum.

The flash mob led by Wippersnappers After School Club was really well attended. Ebony Clarke did a fantastic job at organising this.  Whilst it was great fun, it carried a serious message. A wonderful banner was created in the One Billion Rising design, using hand prints from children with special needs. This was a real achievement as some of the participants wouldn’t have even…

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Missed Calls For Help: The Scandal Of Domestic Violence

Yvette Cooper, Guardian.

Somewhere, somehow, the work to end violence against women lost momentum. Despite the improvements made over decades in tackling domestic and sexual violence, the scale of the problem remains shocking. Repeat violence is worryingly high, and there is a risk that we are taking progress for granted when much more could and should be done.

In the run up to Valentine’s Day on 14 February – the focus of the international campaign One Billion Rising to end violence against women – there is more every one of us could do to reduce the insidious, dangerous violence that still haunts too many women’s lives.

Complacency has been part of the problem. Campaigning by women in the 1970s and 80s meant things such as domestic violence or rape within marriage were finally recognised as crimes. In the 90s and noughties, the government backed institutional change, including more refuges, courst to deal with domestic violence, and police training.

As progress has been underway, it has become easier to assume that everything possible was being done and we could all move on. But the truth is much more disturbing. The scale of violence remains hidden or taken for granted, and the basics are still often missed.

First, some facts. Two women a week are killed by a husband, partner or ex. In some areas, one in five 999 calls to the police each week are for domestic violence, including those abused by parents or siblings, and male victims (although the majority are women). One woman told me how she fitted a lock to a bedroom door, and she sheltered with her children in a single room every night, afraid of what her husband might do while they slept.

Perhaps even more worrying, the same families are calling for help again and again, yet the emergency services can too often deal only with the immediate crisis, and no serious follow-up action is taken.

Many forces do not have a system for keeping track of repeat calls, so cannot easily say who the most dangerous repeat perpetrators are. The scale of government cuts to independent advisers, specialist police teams and training risks making that much worse.

Only 6.5% of recorded domestic incidents end in successful prosecution. Only the highest risk victims get systematic help

To read the rest of the article, see:http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/05/scandal-domestic-violence-999-calls

The Government Must Make Ending Violence Against Women A Priority

By Stella Creasy, Politics Home

Article: http://centrallobby.politicshome.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/the-government-must-make-ending-violence-against-a-women-a-priority/

Today is a test of the true intentions of this Government when it comes to women. With a billion women – one in three -beaten or raped in their lifetime, the One Billion Rising campaign is calling for all to make ending violence towards them a priority. At 11am today Thandie Newton, Ruby Wax and The X-factor’s Jahmene Douglas will lead a flashmob in Parliament Square along with MPs and Peers in support of compulsory sex and relationship education for both boys and girls in schools. Yet despite cross party support- Fiona MacTaggart is leading a debate on this today with the backing of Amber Rudd, Tessa Munt, Valerie Vaz, Annette Brooke, Jessica Lee, Caroline Lucas and Karl Turner – the Government is prevaricating.

Indeed, there are worrying signs that despite the evidence of its prevalence, rather than a renewed determination to tackle violence against women, efforts are slowly and surely being downgraded. From ministers who publish guidance telling women to watch what they wear to avoid being attacked, to a Secretary of State suggesting a caution is an acceptable penalty for rape and a Home Secretary unable to commit to ensuring victims of sexual violence have counselling ahead of appearing in court. In standing with One Billion Rising the Government has the opportunity to send a message this is not the case. So far ministers have dodged this, but today’s vote means they can no longer avoid the question.

Across 203 countries activists are seeking cultural, political and economic change to ensure everyone can lead lives free from fear. Here in Britain our focus is on changing attitudes of our children – when so many think violence against women is justified if she’s late with the dinner or had an affair it’s time we taught not just the mechanics of sex, but the importance of respect and consent.

A third of 16-18-year-old girls say they have been subjected to unwanted sexual touching at school, and a third aged 13-17 have experienced physical or sexual violence in relationships, while 1 in 16 reporting experiencing rape. High profile cases – whether in Ohio or here in Battersea- show what can happen when sexual abuse and violence goes unchecked and unchallenged in schools. The NSPCC report children as young as twelve “worried, confused and, in some cases, upset by the sexual and ‘sexting’ pressures they face”.Yet provision is woeful at best – with free schools and academies able to avoid it all together if they wish. A quarter of secondary school pupils report getting no SRE whatsoever and 26% of those who do say their teacher doesn’t teach it well. As the charity Brook highlight, the lack of relevant information in schools and at home means 81% of teenagers are getting most of their sexual health knowledge from less reliable sources, leaving them ill prepared to navigate their way through relationships. Labour’s plans to change this became a victim of the ‘wash up’ ahead of the 2010 election. Many have rightly held us all to account for this- now it is time to ensure this does not happen again.

One Billion Rising is the largest volunteer campaign the world has ever seen- with some calling it a ‘feminist tsunami’. . Supporters range from Julia Gillard, Robert Redford, Charlize Theron, to the United Nations and Herman Van Rompey. From South Africa to Peru, through Bute, Manila and Luxembourg via San Francisco, Nigeria and Tel Aviv, activists are organising flashmobs, performances and seeking policies to ensure equal protection within society. You know something special is going on when hotbeds of radical activism as different and distinctive as Bute, Watford, Peterborough and Kirklees are joining the call for change. I welcome and have campaigned for financial education to be part of the national curriculum. But this raises the question- if we can ensure children are aware of compound interest, why can we not also ensure they are aware of consent? We know there are supporters of this in Government. Our message today is we want to work with them if they are willing to challenge those – whether in the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice or in Michael Gove’s Education Department- who stand in the way of making our schools a safe space for all. For all the strategy plans and warm words, its action that counts. And today it is time to rise.

Amber Rudd MP: Children Should be Taught about Relationship Violence and Sexual Consent in Schools

Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, tells Mumsnet why she’s supporting the One Billion Rising campaign.

In the UK, the campaign’s efforts are being focused on young people, relationships and violence. A cross-party group led by Stella and Amber is asking for parliamentary time on 14 February to vote on making “personal, social and health education a requirement in schools, including a zero tolerance approach to violence and abuse in relationships”.

What do you think – should it be compulsory for children to learn about relationship violence and sexual consent in schools?

The variety of questions and requests that MPs receive at their weekly surgeries to help constituents has no boundaries. From assistance with genuine problems such as benefits or pensions, to the slightly bizarre request to contact Argos who haven’t delivered the TV, the weekly surgery is full of surprises.

But one of the recurring themes at my surgeries as an MP are stories about abuse against women and girls. It has become a distressingly common theme in my surgeries, and I know other Members of Parliament have the same experience.

This violence affects many women; young and old; gay and straight; of all religions, wealth and ethnicities. Thankfully there are organisations out there, which are determined to see an end to this abuse. One Billion Rising in Britain and its campaign to end violence against women and girls in Britain and across the world is an example of the work being done to eradicate this violence from our communities and homes.

To read the rest of the article see :http://www.mumsnet.com/bloggers/guest-blogs/one-billion-rising

We must strike for One Billion Rising in memory of Damini

Many of us are still shocked by the brutal abduction, gang rape and murder of Damini, a female student, on a bus in Delhi this December.  I was in India during the New Year, and I witnessed a nation’s anger and a country forced to openly acknowledge its unfavourable attitudes towards women.

It’s often acknowledged that Delhi can be a particularly unsafe city for women.  My British friend, who’s happily worked in India for many years, was the victim of an attempted kidnap in the city.  She regularly runs marathons, and chose to run down the side of a Delhi highway during the 8am rush hour – on the premise that it would be safe.  However, a car door opened, and a group of men tried to drag her inside – nobody in the other cars took action but she managed to escape.  That’s not always the case.

Police Commissioner Kumar has admitted that instances of rape in Delhi are at a 10 year high.  Worryingly, the Hindustan Times has reported that there were 706 rapes reported in the city last year – and that 40 happened a few weeks after Damini’s death.  Kumar says that the number of convictions is rising, but they’re clearly not providing a deterrent.

Personally, I felt at ease in Mumbai during a week’s visit.  I travelled around the capital alone without any problems. However, there are plenty of women who live in India who talk about being judged for being in open public spaces.

I recently read an article called the ‘Virtue of Visibility’, by Chaya Babu.  Babu reflects on her love of Mumbai, but how she always felt watched.  In her words, she says that “the romance of modernisation and glamour in Mumbai hides a culture that can make women feel restricted. Policed. Robbed of choice”.  What she’s explaining is that women in public spaces are seen as fair game and are even stared at for walking with a man.  

In Why Loiter?, the authors talk about the prevailing notion that women who inhabit open spaces are seen as the opposite to ‘private women,’ and are commonly referred to as ‘public women’ or ‘prostitutes’.  Why Loiter?  explains that the “freedom to be seen and the implications of that visibility” are that you’re in some way “consenting to sexual behaviour”.   Indeed, rape victims are frequently criticised for being in public spaces, – including Damini.

It’s timely that following Damini’s death, One Billion Rising is telling the world that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime and that one billion women will be violated in an atrocity.  On the 14 February, or V-Day, men and women will be actively demanding an end to violence against women by encouraging people across the globe to organise local events and to share testimonies online.

In the spirit of OBR, a wave of women is rising across India and taking to the streets to loudly protest and to quietly reflect in vigil for Damini and other victims of sexual violence.  OBR was launched in Delhi in November, and women will rise again on V-Day to raise awareness.

I’ll be attending local events in Brixton and Central London – and I hope that you will too.

A blog piece by Sarah Rabbitts, a campaigner in Lambeth. 

V-Day: Then and Now

A blog piece by  Louise Robertson, Operations Coordinator, 28 Too Many –a charity working to end female genital mutilation

As we get ready for V-Day 2013 on 14th February and all the many exciting One Billion Rising events taking place across the world I find myself remembering a cold wet, rainy day in 1999 and the very first V-Day event in the UK.

V-Day officially began on Valentine’s Day (February 14th) in 1998 when Eve Ensler organised a star-studded cast to perform her play, the Vagina Monologues, in New York City to raise money for local anti-violence organisations. It was a great success and so in 1999, as well as many events in the USA, Eve also decided to make V-Day international and assembled another starry line-up to perform the Vagina Monologues at the Old Vic Theatre in London, this time raising money for UK charities.

Back in 1999 I was a volunteer at the London Rape Crisis Centre (LRCC) and, as is sadly still the case today for so many women’s projects, we were in desperate need of funds to maintain our services. LRCC was selected to be one of the beneficiary charities for that first V-Day UK event and it was quite literally a life saver, providing vital funds to help us continue our counselling support to rape and sexual abuse survivors during a very challenging time.

On the day of the performance I was a volunteer member of the front of house team, helping to sell programmes and making sure people got to their seats in good time. The instructions beforehand were a bit vague; arrive at the theatre early afternoon and wear something in the V-Day colours of red and purple. Once there we were quickly given security passes, a health and safety briefing and had our various duties explained. Then we had some free time to sit in the theatre and watch the rehearsals. It was at this point, watching Eve help the performers in their final run through, I began to realise that something very special was happening.

Although The Vagina Monologues had received awards and great reviews in the USA, it was little known in the UK. Even in the rehearsals the stories were very powerful and throughout the day there was a growing feeling of excitement. During the performance the purple and red clad cast was incredible and included Kate Winslett, Gillian Anderson, Cate Blanchet, Meera Syal, Natasha McElhone, Thandie Newton, Melanie Griffith, Isabella Rossellini and Sophie Dahl. The audience also played their part. Not only had they bought tickets and made additional donations but many also turned up wearing fantastic purple and red outfits, some looking more glamorous than the cast! At different parts of the show the audience giggled, belly laughed, gasped, cried or sat in shocked silence. The evening ended with music from Des’ree and everyone on their feet for rapturous applause for Eve and all the performers.

That first UK V-Day event was a huge success and an unforgettable night for all of us who were there. It raised a lot of money for worthy causes, was educational, challenging, thought-provoking and also a lot of fun. At its heart was a fierce passion to make a difference and the vision that the world should be a place in which women and girls are free to thrive, rather than merely survive.

Now, 14 years later, V-Day is a major international movement celebrating its fifteenth anniversary. It would be wonderful if this could be a year of celebration but the stark truth is that it is still the case that one in three women will be raped or beaten her lifetime. Therefore in 2013 V-Day is organising its most ambitious campaign yet with One Billion Rising events taking place in over 170 countries. Women and the men who love them are being urged to rise up on February 14th and demand an end to the horrific and widespread violence against women and girls. There will be marching, dancing, Vagina Monologues performances and as ever at V-Day events much laughter.

In the UK One Billion Rising is being led by Stella Creasy MP who has brought together a terrific team of volunteers who have been running workshops in towns and cities across the UK. These workshops bring together campaigners and activists and get their input into 5 key areas to bring about practical and effective actions so that women and girls can live without fear of violence. In addition, many UK based events will be taking place on or around February 14th to raise awareness about violence against women and girls and raise money for local charities.

It is easy to get involved and support the campaign – just visit the One Billion Rising UK website and find an event taking place near you. Maybe you want to have a say in one of the workshops, join the London Rising Dance Celebration on February 4th or take part in a local march/dance on February 14th.

At 28 Too Many, we are joining One Billion Rising to make sure that tackling female genital mutilation is a priority in the UK and globally. We are also pleased to be part of such a great coalition of activists and organisations who all care passionately about every person’s right to a safe life and who are prepared to stand up and make their voices heard to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

I feel honoured to have been part of the V-Day movement for many years and once again I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s activities. Each year it gets bigger and better and I have no doubt that this year will be the biggest we have seen so far. Rise up and be part of it!

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