A new organisation has been launched to help tackle gender inequality in Welsh schools and help make Wales the world’s first gender equal nation.
Announced to celebrate the International Day of the Girl by Cardiff-based social enterprise, Full Circle Education, Girls Circle has been developed in direct response to research conducted last year, within which girls aged between 11 and 21 across Wales expressed a need for better services to help overcome gender-related barriers.
Girls Circle works with schools and communities across South Wales to empower, educate and elevate girls and young women using innovative projects and curriculum-based approaches. These include Girl Empowerment workshops and Personal Social Health Education (PHSE) sessions which explore a range of key themes and issues affecting girls and young women such as: online bullying, gender equality and positive mental health.
To mark the launch of Girls Circle, founder Nikki Giant has released findings from the organisation’s inaugural research report, Fundamental Rights 2017: The Voices of Girls in Wales, which surveyed over 800 girls and young women aged between 11 – 21.
Of those questioned less than 10% currently feel there is enough support for girls and young women across Wales with respondents attributing these feelings of isolation to a lack of positive role models and relevant network groups. Worryingly, the research shows that over half of the country’s young female population don’t feel they have the same rights and opportunities as boys and young men (59%).
Despite legislative enforcements on schools across Wales to actively promote equality and address inequalities, 57% of respondents said that they had not been taught about this in school or in college.
Commenting on the launch of Girls Circle and the recent research findings, Nikki Giant, founder and director of Girls Circle and Full Circle Education, said:
“Our research speaks for itself and the message is loud and clear; there is simply not enough support for young women and girls across Wales. While schools have a responsibility to ensure equality is an issue addressed as part of the curriculum, this is simply not happening and with tightening budgets and limited staff resource, this is not surprising. With Girls Circle we wanted to create an organisation that will work alongside our existing school based organisation, Full Circle Education, to help alleviate pressure on teaching staff but while ensuring the gender agenda is being addressed.”
Body image remains a big issue for those questioned, with 90% of girls admitting they struggle to feel positive about their physical appearance. Additional findings from the report highlight mental health as a growing concern among young girls with 66% stating that they are affected by mental health problems in one form or another and almost 80% confiding that they feel huge pressure to do well and achieve academically.
The report invited further comments from respondents as a way of helping to sculpt the guidance and services Girls Circle provides. Certain comments included references to the sexual harassment experienced on Welsh streets daily, with more than half of the girls surveyed admitting they’ve experienced sexism and sexual harassment in their schools and local communities.
Girls Circle will undertake annual research as a means of measuring how the experiences of young women and girls in Wales are progressing.
Nikki Giant continues:
“Most importantly we want to give young women and girls a voice and a platform to air their views and suggestions for creating a fairer, more equal Wales. The research and work we do directly with schools and colleges across Wales will ensure their opinions are reflected in the services we provide and that we constantly evolve to meet their changing needs and requirements.”
The launch of Girls Circle was marked by an event held at the Senedd yesterday (Friday 13th October) and attended by more than 200 young people and professionals from schools across Wales, including Blackwood Comprehensive and Coleg Gwent. The event was attended and supported by Julie Morgan AM and Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales who spoke about children’s rights and girls’ empowerment.
Commenting at the event, Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales said:
“Gender inequality and sexism are some of the most common concerns raised with me by young people across Wales. The International Day of the Girl is an opportunity to highlight these issues and to support, empower, and inspire girls everywhere to realise their rights and to be the best they can be. Last year, my office worked on a resource with NSPCC Wales, Cardiff University, Welsh Women’s Aid and Welsh Government to empower pupils to tackle gender inequality and gender based violence in schools. I have already seen the changes that can make to young people’s confidence, understanding and relationships.”
A number of young girls also took to the stage at the event to talk about their own personal experiences of being a girl in Wales including Masie Allen (17) a pupil at Y Pant School in Llantrisant and Rachel Marshall (16) a pupil at Radyr Comprehensive in Cardiff.
In total five girls and young women spoke at the event, all of whom are members of the youth advisory panel set-up to support the work of Girls Circle.
Girls Circle offers a number of services for schools across south Wales including:
- PHSE Workshops – Girls Circle workshops explore a range of topical issues in an age appropriate manner and are also suitable for mixed gender glasses. Points of discussion include; bullying, sexual harassment, gender equality, health relationships and online safety.
- In-house training and one-on-one support – Girls Circle provides bespoke training packages including: Understanding Girl Bullying and Relational Aggression, Girl Empowerment group training which explores equipping young women with leadership skills, confidence and drive to ensure they aspire to their full potential. Girls Circle also offers Gender Equality training which looks at the challenges limiting both girls and boys and the impact of gender stereotypes.
- Girl Empowerment Groups – Founded and coordinated by Girls Circle, these groups give young women the opportunity to be leaders and role models in their school communities and to address the issues they feel are most prevalent for other girls. Pupils in Years 9-13 are invited to participate in the groups and receive training on leadership, communication and teamwork, while learning about the issues affecting other girls. Each group creates their own identity and chooses an issue to campaign on, such as poor body image, bullying, unhealthy relationships and domestic abuse, or online safety.