Transforming relationships and sexuality education

Transforming relationships and sexuality education

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Relationship abuse, sexual harassment and
gender inequalities have a massive impact on young lives and the lives of others. For just over 20 years I’ve been researching
how gender and sexuality shapes children and young people’s lives – in schools, online,
and in public spaces. My name is Emma Renold, and I am Professor
of Childhood Studies at Cardiff University. Over the last decade I have organised events
that bring together young people, academics, practitioners, policymakers and NGOs all focusing
on sexism and sexual violence. Each event has used participatory methods to create new
ways of listening and acting on children and young people’s own concerns. This work has
culminated in an interactive toolkit created with young people to help them raise awareness
of gender-based and sexual violence in their schools and communities. The aim was to address difficult issues like
violence against girls and women, transphobia and homophobia, through gender equality, social
justice and children’s rights, in ways that engage them, and at their own pace. With ESRC funding I got support from Welsh
Government, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, the NSPCC Cymru and Welsh Women’s
Aid to bring together a young people’s steering group and a range of practitioners to create
the AGENDA toolkit. All too often issues around gender and sexual
violence are framed in ways that shame and blame people. AGENDA counters this approach
by offering an affirmative, inclusive and rights-based approach to engage with a range
of issues, from feminism to slut-shaming. Emma’s work is creating the change that has
badly been needed, so that our future generations build better, positive, kind relationships
where people listen to each other and can be change-makers for the world. It really allows the pupils to speak, to interact,
and especially with pupils who are very shut-down to education and very shut-down to the traditional
format of a lesson, AGENDA allows them to explore things in a different way. In workshops we talked about themes like street
harassment or unwanted touching. In an activity called ‘What Jars You’, young people write down
issues that ‘jar’ them about gender and sexual discrimination. STOP/START plates have
been used to create a ‘line of action’ on what needs to be changed. Skirts made from
graffitied rulers have been worn in youth conferences to speak out about sexually abusive
banter. Since AGENDA’s launch in November 2016 we
have embedded it into practice through outreach work in schools and youth groups, and practitioner
workshops at local, national and international levels. In the first year AGENDA has reached more
than 3,000 young people and practitioners, and we’ve trained more than 40 AGENDA youth
ambassadors. What’s important to me about Emma’s work
is that it draws on children’s experiences, she works with children to develop her research
and any materials coming out of it. She was selected by Welsh Government to lead an expert
panel on sex and relationships education; they came out with a quite transformative
and far-reaching and quite radical set of suggestions last autumn – and our Cabinet
Secretary for Education announced that she would be implementing the recommendations
in full on a statutory basis in Wales. And I would like to take this opportunity
to thank the expert panel members and its chair Professor Emma Renold for their excellent work. AGENDA and its impact on society is the result
of extensive long-term partnerships with schools, youth groups, third sector agencies, activists,
artists and Welsh Government. We are exploring the development of a UK-wide version and strengthening
AGENDA’s international reach. It’s making a real difference to how young people together
are learning about, communicating and challenging sexism and sexual violence.

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