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Giving Young People a Voice

During her internship, Laura has been supporting us with our Whole School Approach research - kindly funded by MOPAC - and sheds some light on the work involved.

I have been interning at Tender for almost six weeks now (which I can’t really believe, time passes by too quickly) and while doing that I’ve been able to work with Michelle, one of Tender’s lovely team members, on a Whole School Approach Project, that Tender is developing at the moment. This project, once it is created, will be carried out in a school environment, but it not only involves students, it involves teachers, non-teaching staff, parents and services in the community of the school. By doing that, by being such collective and collaborative, the Whole School Approach Project aims to not only teach young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships, but to create a safe environment with an atmosphere of respect, tolerance, equality and openness for everyone.

Developing a project that reaches out to so many people and can positively change attitudes about gender equality is just awesome and I am very grateful to be a part in the making of it. What I most like about the project is that Tender doesn’t build it merely on its own ideas – no, Tender builds this project on the voices of the people concerned. So, Tender evaluated students’, parents’, teachers’, services’ perspectives, opinions, ideas and concerns and develops the projects by addressing what they feel is important and what they regard as relevant. I have been able to see some of the evaluation work in schools and I found it all really inspirational, but I have to say that the perspectives of the students, of the young people, most struck out to me. They were so clear in what they wished for, so articulate about what themes a Whole School Approach should address – it impressed me extremely. They talked about self-worth, about gender stereotypes and how those must be changed, about peer pressure and the feelings that come with it, about negative aspects of partriarchy, about relevant themes of their generation (like for example that they are exposed to adult issues/content from an early age and don’t feel equipped enough to deal with them) about diversity and the fact that it should be celebrated. The young people clearly expressed their wish for an open conversation with opposite sexes, parents, teachers and services and their request for information and education about healthy relationships.

All of those things they named and expressed are so valuable and it is just awesome that Tender takes the opportunity and listens to it. All in all, I feel like that’s what this Whole School Approach is mainly about: Giving young people a voice. And listening to that voice and creating a project that addresses themes that are relevant for the people that are reached by the project. I have to say this – drawing on the perspective of the people concerned – always was something that is close to my heart, because I think this is the most effective way to really have an impact on something. That’s why I think that by creating this project and including all the aspect named by the young people and others Tender really will be able to shift attitudes, to untighten gender stereotypes and to take one more step forward towards gender equality. How could I not love being a part of this?

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