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White Ribbon Group visits Congleton High School

Congleton Town Council’s White Ribbon Group visited Congleton High School recently to give a talk to Years 12 and 13 to encourage students to challenge sexism and harassment, and join the White Ribbon Campaign.

White Ribbon engages men and boys, in particular, to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that lead to male violence against women.

White Ribbon Ambassadors Cllr Robert Hemsley and Richard Walton together with White Ribbon Champion Cllr Kay Wesley, were invited by Assistant Leader of Post-16 Paul Franklin to give a presentation. The talk included a number of polls and questions to stimulate discussion about the prevalence of sexism, harassment and abuse, and what can be done about it.

Councillor Robert Hemsley, Chair of the Congleton White Ribbon Group, said “It was great to be able to talk to young people about this difficult subject, one that was familiar to everyone in the room. It was very gratifying to see how many students were keen to challenge these behaviours.”

In April 2021 a national survey by Victim Focus found 94 per cent of girls under 18 have been catcalled in the street by men. In Cheshire East, a 2021 survey of women found that over 90 per cent do not always feel safe on the streets.

The polls conducted at the school reflected similar concerns, with 94% of the girls and 61% of the boys saying they would feel the need to take specific actions to keep themselves safe on a night out in Congleton.

Cllr Hemsley used further data to explain the scale of the problem, showing that in Congleton there is a sexual assault reported weekly and an incident of domestic abuse daily, on average. Nationally, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner, and over 93% of murders overall are committed by men – including when the victim is male.

Richard Walton then explained that the White Ribbon Campaign was about men and boys challenging definitions of masculinity that include aggression, sexism and exerting power over women and others. He said “I became a White Ribbon Ambassador when I realised that, statistically, one of the women in my immediate family is likely to be attacked. I find that horrifying. We need to recognise that male violence is not a women’s problem, it is a men’s problem. Only men can stop this and that is why the White Ribbon Campaign is so important.”

Paul Franklin said “This talk was part of a morning in which we explored healthy relationships, consent and how we can all take responsibility for challenging sexism, harassment and behaviours that can ultimately lead to abuse. I’m delighted to say that the students are interested in continuing this work and we will be having further sessions in school to build on this initial discussion. Many thanks to the White Ribbon Group for their stimulating presentation.”

Cllr Kay Wesley added “it was great that a number of young people came to talk to us afterwards and quite a few made their White Ribbon Promise there and then, took a white ribbon to wear and helped themselves to leaflets and posters. Even more pleasing was that more than a fifth of those present were interested in becoming a White Ribbon Ambassador or Champion and more than sixty per cent said ‘All of the above’ to a list of actions that could be taken in school – such as calling out sexist behaviours, becoming a White Ribbon Supporter school, and making the White Ribbon Promise.”

The White Ribbon Promise is “I promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.” Individuals can make their promise at any time online at www.whiteribbon.org.uk.

Congleton Town Council is a White Ribbon Accredited organisation whose ambition is to eradicate male violence against women and all gender-based violence in Congleton. The White Ribbon Group consists of Town Councillors, Council Officers, and volunteers from the community who are White Ribbon Ambassadors. If any organisations, clubs or employers are interested gaining their own accreditation as White Ribbon organisations, please contact the team via info@congleton-tc.gov.uk and a member of the White Ribbon Group will get in touch.