We are delighted that our partnership with Bold Voices will continue this academic year. Bold Voices is a UK-based award winning social enterprise who work with school communities to learn about and discuss gender inequality and cultures of gendered violence, exploring how we can tackle these issues in our communities. They came to HCH last year and delivered a series of thought-provoking workshops to a number of year groups, and we look forward to welcoming them back this year.
Bold Voices: Our Story
When I was growing up conversations about gender weren’t the norm. Stereotypes were givens about how you had to behave, experiences of sexual harassment were normalised, everyday occurrences and sexual violence was hushed up and swept under the rug. Over the years my awareness grew as friends, acquaintances and strangers shared their own experiences. Ultimately, it is the collective experience that motivates and drives this work.
The move from personal to collective was cemented in the year studying for a MSc in Gender and International Relations at Bristol University. The foundation of Bold Voices lies in academia, not just in the education we deliver, but in the motivation behind the business. Studying gender was the most transformational year of education I’ve ever had. As the year came to an end I was left with an immense frustration that I hadn’t had access to this education sooner. Bold Voices grew from that frustration and an urgency to create an educational system within which young people are free from the threat or experience of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Natasha Eeles, CEO and Founder
Bold Voices delivers education on gender inequality and gender-based violence in schools and universities across the UK. In 2021 over 50,000 testimonies were anonymously submitted to Everyone’s Invited by young people detailing experiences of sexual harassment and violence. This led to an Ofsted review that found cultures of harassment and violence are normalised and accepted amongst young people in schools. Our education supports school communities to keep young people safe by delivering key knowledge, and creating space for critical thought and courage to challenge inequality. In 2021 we worked with 56 schools across the UK reaching over 16,000 young people, staff and parents. After our workshops, 86% of students agree that they recognise how they can play a role in challenging gender inequality.
We tackle these issues through delivery of educational talks, workshops, training and resources for young people, teachers and parents. Our education delivers on three key areas: building knowledge around what gender inequality and gender-based violence is, creating environments for empathetic and critical thinking and discussion, and finally building the courage to challenge and disrupt inequalities. Last year we piloted an Ambassador Programme, working with 15 schools to empower student leaders to raise awareness and run campaigns to create change within their schools. On social media we have built a community of people committed to learning and tackling gender inequality.
Why we do what we do:
Tackling violence against women and girls starts with education and culture change. The underlying attitudes, beliefs, myths, stereotypes and actions are inherent to this culture that leads to gendered violence. It is not simply enough to provide more funding to specialist support services (although this is 100% needed) and it is good to see that this has been recognised in this strategy and that a focus on prevention not just response is being prioritised. This education should be on the national curriculum and all young people should leave school with an understanding of what violence against women and girls is, the culture that leads to it, how they can recognise it and most importantly how they can play a role in tackling and challenging it. The eradication of this violence cannot be achieved without every single person learning about and viewing it as their responsibility to tackle it – no matter who they are or what field they work in.
Overview of Programme:
Our work spans Years 7 through to Sixth Form, as well as staff training and parent sessions. We tailor our content for each age group, but our core areas of knowledge run throughout the whole programme. We introduce students and staff of all ages to the idea of a culture of gender-based violence, using different versions of Liz Kelly’s Gender-based violence Continuum to illustrate the idea that sexual violence does not happen in a vacuum; we all play a part in sustaining a culture in which we allow these things to happen. Starting with recognising the gender stereotypes that form the bedrock of this culture, we build up a picture of gender inequality, exploring how stereotypes feed into our ideas, attitudes and language, and that these ideas are reinforced by the structures around us. Understanding that all these elements of a culture lead to violent outcomes of gender inequality is key to recognising that we can all play a part in challenging and tackling gender-based violence. With each age group we focus on different elements of this culture. With younger years we look at how pop culture and language play a role, and as we go higher up the school we go into further depth on concepts like ‘lad culture’ and specific attitudes like misogyny and objectification, with a focus on the university context.
Throughout our academically-grounded programme, we weave knowledge and skills together to deliver informed prevention education that leaves participants feeling empowered to challenge gender-based violence and become change-makers in their communities. Most importantly, we start conversations about topics that often go unspoken in educational settings.
Quote from Founder:
“I can’t emphasise enough, just how important it is to educate the next generation about gender inequality and sexual harassment. For too long we have normalised, silenced and dismissed issues of gender-based violence to the point that many survivors of harassment, assault and abuse don’t even recognise their own experiences of it. Giving young people the knowledge, critical thinking skills and courage to challenge gender inequality and cultures of gender-based violence is vital for long term change. Bold Voices plans to go above and beyond to see these positive changes implemented across the country.”
- Natasha Eeles
“I liked learning about how ‘harmless’ jokes can lead to and are connected to really harmful and dangerous things like harassment and violence.”
- Year 9 Pupil, Hampton Court House, 2022
“An incredibly impactful and refreshing session which really foregrounded the omnipresence of gendered violence in our schools. Sobering and inspiring. Thank you!”
- Teacher, Hampton Court House, 2022