Congleton Town Council’s White Ribbon Group visited Eaton Bank Academy recently to give talks to encourage students to challenge sexism and harassment, and join the White Ribbon Campaign.
Years 10, 12 and 13 took part in the sessions which were presented by White Ribbon Ambassadors Mike Wesley and Jonathan Dakin, supported by Cllr Kay Wesley.
White Ribbon engages men and boys, in particular, to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that lead to male violence against women.
The talk included an interactive poll to stimulate discussion about sexism, harassment and abuse, and what can be done about it.
Mr Dakin, White Ribbon Ambassador, addressed the young men in the room specifically, saying: “This is a difficult subject for many of us to talk about. When you realise the prevalence of harassment and abuse it is quite shocking. That is why I’m doing this. I’m determined to make a difference, and you can, too.”
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 98% of the girls and 75% of the boys saying they would feel the need to take specific actions to keep themselves safe on a night out in Congleton.
Mr Wesley 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 95% of serious domestic violence is committed by men, and over 93% of murders overall are committed by men – including when the victim is male.
Mr Dakin 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 outlined a set of actions the school and students could take, including making their White Ribbon Promise, becoming a White Ribbon School, and helping launch the Cheshire East SHOUT campaign – ‘Sexual Harassment, let’s stamp it OUT’, which has been developed by young people for young people in the local area.
Miss Podmore, Director of Sixth Form, said: “We were so pleased to welcome The White Ribbon into Eaton Bank to discuss this incredibly important issue with our young people. The statistics were shocking, but powerful. All of the students who saw the presentation were engaged in the interactive element of it, and the comments from the students have been really positive in response to it; they feel more aware and are empowered to tackle the issues surrounding gender-based violence in our community. It was fantastic to see so many white ribbons being worn around school and how many students and staff signed the White Ribbon Promise. Thank you for two great sessions!”
Cllr Kay Wesley added: “It was great that a number of young people came to talk to us afterwards and helped themselves to leaflets and posters. Even more pleasing was that 68 per cent said ‘All of the above’ to a list of follow-up actions that could be taken in school. 48 staff and students made their Promise there and then.”
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.
Chair of the Congleton White Ribbon Group Cllr Robert Hemsley said: “It is fantastic that we have now visited both secondary schools in the area and the response of the young people has been very positive. We have now had invitations to visit a number of clubs for young people, so will continue to take the White Ribbon message out. We will be delighted to take an age-appropriate presentation into any of the Primary schools too – please get in touch if you’d like us to come to your school.”
If any organisations, clubs or employers are interested in gaining their own accreditation as White Ribbon organisations, please contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the White Ribbon Group will get in touch.