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We Deserve #SREnow

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Powered by Girl is a girl-driven activist movement. Many of our team are young women living all over the UK. As a group who have been directly affected by the UK government’s inaction on Sex and Relationships Education, we’re here to speak out. We’re victims of a sexist, derogatory and dangerous culture of sex. As young women, we feel it’s vital that gender-based violence and information about consent is made available to every child and every teenager. That’s why we support the End Violence Against Women and Everyday Sexism Project’s petition for ‪#‎SREnow‬. Here are just some of our reasons:

Healthy relationships develop through understanding – not only about healthcare, but also about mental care. There is too much ignorance surrounding issues of consent and sexual orientation, and the best way to tackle this is by education. This is why we must support the campaign to make SRE statutory in UK schools – so everyone can enjoy happy and safe relationships – Issy, 20

Sex and relationships can be one of the most exciting things about growing up. Unfortunately it can also be one of the most dangerous. Young people need to be educated not just in safe sex, but on safe relationships, in order to equip this most vulnerable group in society to deal with these issues – information for everyone, no matter their sexuality – Amy, 16

At a time when children and young people are bombarded relentlessly by so many confusing and potentially dangerous messages about sex and relationships, comprehensive and in-depth SRE is vital. Biology does not suffice- exploring relationships and sexuality are often key aspects of adolescence and young adulthood- however, as we hear more and more of these experiences being negative ones, tackling the relevant issues through education is of paramount importance. By introducing SRE as compulsory, we can build fantastic foundations for not just adolescence, but for a lifetime of happy and healthy relationships – Cora, 16

It is vital that young people across the UK receive a decent SRE covering all key areas. Merely focusing on STIs, as was my one term of sex ed, is not sufficient. Consent should be central to SRE however schools are not required to teach it. When it comes to consent there are no ‘blurred lines’ and that needs to be clear. A 17 year old should not be learning about consent through discussion online before being taught about it in SRE or PSHE. Statutory SRE should teach responsibility and respect for people of all genders and sexual orientations and provide a safe environment to do so. We need to improve SRE and we need to do it now – Chloe, 18

With every minute that passes, roughly one incident of domestic abuse is reported to the police. That’s 60 incidents per hour; 1440 per day. Over a year, this amounts to around 525600 incidents- and those are the reported ones. It’s believed that far far more cases of domestic abuse go unreported. These are really shocking figures, yet they’re rarely talked about. School sex education lessons- even those titled ‘sex and relationships’- choose to focus on the biology of reproduction and ways of preventing pregnancy and/or infections. Whilst not saying these issues aren’t important, there is far more to ‘sex and relationships’ than this. There is little or no education delivered around consent, or sexuality, or happy and safe relationships. Young men and women are let down by this; they’re lead to believe that there is no choice but to go along with unacceptable behaviour, lead to believe that it’s not okay to be different or to speak up. This leads to so many problems further down the line that could be reduced with some basic education. If nothing else, the message could be delivered that it is okay to talk about these things. We no longer live in an age where we can pretend this isn’t happening, and transfer the problems to someone else. We need to act, to lay down the correct building blocks in the formation of happy, healthy adults, engaging in happy, healthy relationships. Legislation around this would be a hugely important step – Becky, 17

You can get involved by Tweeting using the hashtag #SREnow, and signing the petition here :)

SREnowpetition

We Are More Than Just a Distraction

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By Lily Scott

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The sun is getting hotter and the days are getting longer, summer is finally here! That means bare legs in the grass, floaty tops and warm sunshine on our tummies right? Nope, not quite if you’re still in school or college. Across the country, school administrators are trying their hardest to cover up any parts of the female body that are deemed ‘inappropriate’. In many schools, this includes: legs, shoulders, cleavage and midriff. Exactly the parts of the body that suit the summer weather.

Last week, I walked into the front gate of my school and was pulled aside by a male teacher. He told me that the bit of skin showing between my high-waisted jeans and baggy crop top was not acceptable and I must go home to change immediately. Walking home, my frustration grew at the dress code that humiliates and shames girls in school when they should be in a lesson, getting the same education as the male half of the school. At most schools, dress code violators are either sent home or made to change into any item of clothing thrown at them from the lost property cupboard. It’s embarrassing being targeted like this, leaving many girls with loss of self-esteem. Although there are rules for boys, they are not as frequently enforced and only state that t-shirts can’t reference drugs or anything sexual. It is unequal that boys can walk around freely showing their underwear beneath saggy jeans, yet the slightest glimpse of a bra strap and teachers practically faint with shock. Everyone is aware that most girls do in fact wear a bra underneath their clothing, so why are bras treated as such a mysterious taboo that must not be seen or mentioned? Bras have become the Voldemort of the clothing world.

The rules for women will never, ever be simple. We are expected to conform to both the media and school’s expectations and tread a very fine line of being pretty and appealing but not revealing. We are told that we must be pleasing to the eye but not too suggestive or sexy. These guidelines tell men that it is okay to slut shame and eventually leads to the idea that when a women is sexually assaulted, it is the clothes that she was wearing that are to blame. In other words, ‘she was asking for it’. Girls as young as 13 are being told to change when simply showing their legs in shorts, or bare shoulders in vest tops. These students are too young to be sexualised in any way and are taught from such an early age that their bodies tempt men and it is their responsibility to stop leering or harassment.

It is unlikely that school uniform policies will be relaxed as authorities are intent on their belief that they are doing what is best for the students. It is clear that what they are doing only benefits males as the distraction of female bodies are taken away, making it easier to concentrate on learning. However, we could argue that young men are very capable of exercising self-control and will not always go wild at the sight of a girl’s bare shoulders. If it is absolutely necessary to apply dress codes, it should be equal for boys and girls, so that the system doesn’t favour one gender over another. It should not be the concern of a female to change the way she looks or dresses so that a man won’t view her in a certain way. What needs to change is the attitudes that girls are simply sexual objects to be hassled or catcalled. We should be taught to be confident and proud of our bodies, not policing ourselves for the male gaze.

VivaDressUp

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vivadressup

Have beautiful dresses hanging in the back of your closet that you haven’t worn in ages and will probably never wear again? Know anyone with the same problem? There’s a solution…

After seeing a link on the Girl Up website, I have decided to host a VivaDressUp dress drive at my school. VivaDressUp is an online consignment platform where charitable organizations can raise funds by donating gently worn special occasion dresses, which in turn are sold through flash sales. A dress drive is a chance for you to get your family, friends, and anyone you may know to donate a dress (or several!). It is a chance to raise money for a worthy cause. Most importantly, it is a chance to give back.

VivaDressUp sends you all of the supplies you will need to carry out the dress drive. All donors will have to do is bring in a gently used dress and fill out a form. At the end of the drive at my school, which will last for three weeks, I will ship all of the dresses to VivaDressUp in San Francisco. Afterwards, the dresses will go up online and be sold in a flash sale.

For my dress drive, I have decided to give the portion of the money raised from the sales to Turning Point, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. According to their website, Turning Point’s mission is threefold:

  1. Work toward the elimination of domestic violence.
  2. Increase community awareness of the problem.
  3. Empower victims of domestic violence by providing shelter and support services.

Visit www.turningpointlv.org to learn more about the amazing work that Turning Point does every year.

I’m so excited to start this dress drive, and I encourage you all to give it a try! Discover more at www.girlup.org, or check out www.vivadressup.com to find out what you can do to start a project for the causes most important to you!

by Kara Chyung

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