In the manner of the national broadsheets, I am delighted this week to welcome a guest contributor. Megan in our Sixth Form came to see me some weeks ago to discuss a proposal. As I have shared with you in the past, our direction of travel is to encourage student leadership and to see the capacity for leadership at every level of the school.
Megan embodies the essence of efficacious leadership: her position is passionately held, articulated with reason and thoughtfulness and she shares a vision to make the world a better place. I am delighted that she has taken the time to set her thoughts in front of you and am hugely proud of her and the team she has built around her to embed virtues ancient and modern. So Girl Up…
Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation initiative which works to support and fund adolescent girls around the world. Through empowering social change, Girl Up aims to get girls into education, provide the healthcare they desperately need and give them access to many things that you or I would take for granted. For example, bicycles to get to school to cut down their travel time, lamps to complete homework after dark and uniforms. Another key feature of Girl Up is helping get girls ‘counted’.
As many as 51 million children under 5 go ‘uncounted’. This means the child cannot go to school, get a job and consequently they are at a huge risk to sex trafficking and illegal adoption. Investing in girls is key to reducing poverty. Girls who receive an education marry later, have fewer children, and are more likely to get healthcare for themselves and their children. Every year of schooling increases a girl’s future earnings by 10-20%.
Girl Up works not only with disadvantaged girls in poorer areas but also with more privileged girls and allows them to use their voice to stand up for minority groups and those that need help finding their voice. One of the main ways we can get involved with the initiative is advocacy. Through advocacy we can help aid underprivileged girls beyond sending supplies or fundraising. Through lobbying MPs and in America’s Congress, we are able to put in place laws that make it a country’s responsibility to protect girls through foreign policy such as the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act in 2013 and, introduced less than a month ago, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.
This term, we have started a new Girl Up club at Embley which is being run by Sixth Form pupils. Within school, the club will aim to raise awareness of issues around the world as well as debate concepts such as masculinity and feminism through assemblies and the tutor time programmes with the support of our Pastoral team. We are aiming to hold a conference on global issues next year with the desire to open pupils’ eyes to social justice. We feel this is such an important issue because there is a national lack of awareness of gender inequality. In the UK we are privileged enough to have a vote and to have a say in how our society is run, yet that is not the case globally.
Many people believe that actually we do not need feminism, albeit not within our school environment. However, nationally and globally there is a call to arms for girls and boys to join this movement. Feminism isn’t just for girls, we fight for boys as well: LGBT boys, boys of colour, boys who feel they cannot show emotion or have been shamed for doing so, boys who get condemned for liking stereotypically ‘feminine’ things, and those who are belittled for not being ‘a man’. Boys’ and men’s mental health will be a focus during our Wellbeing Week and it is part of our role to create a space where they feel as equally comfortable as girls to speak up if they are struggling.
Our next step is the process of building support for the club and shortly our Sixth Formers will be doing assemblies to the younger years. We will also create a Digital Learning Space for Girl Up with suggested readings and films to watch based on our ethos as well as a space for minutes of meetings to go onto and timelines of events we will do in the future.
Keep an eye on this space for the exciting things we have coming. For further information about Girl Up, please visit www.girlup.org
Megan, Year 12, Leader of the Girls Up Embley initiative