National Schools Conference - #TrainToProtect

On 18th October, Youth For Change worked alongside IKWRO and Not In My Classroom to host a National Schools’ Conference on “Honour” Based Violence. The first event of its kind in the UK, activist Sham Makhecha was there to tell us more about it…

During a packed panel discussion in North London, educators and campaigners find themselves with common ground – safeguarding young people against “Honour” Based Violence.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage – the two main issues addressed – are child abuse.. In the UK, mandatory reporting requirements mean that teachers are obligated to report these issues when spotted; however there is a distinct lack of guidance helping them to do so.

This is where the #TrainToProtect campaign comes in. At Youth For Change, we pledge to reach every member of staff in every school to ensure that every young person is safeguarded.

It’s why we are calling on Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, to review training provided around FGM and child marriage. And it’s why we helped put on the first ever National Schools’ Conference.

Welcoming everyone from school governors, police officers, safeguarding leads, teachers, counsellors, to fellow campaigners and young people, we discussed, debated and delivered training on “Honour” Based Violence. People were encouraged to see past pre-conceived ideas of culture, and look at how power and control manifest themselves in honour based violence.

Teachers attended sessions covering the core issues of honour based violence. These workshops provided guidance to help them spot the warning signs, understand their legal position, and ultimately take affirmative action should they identify instances of FGM or child marriage.

Expertly facilitated by Integrate Bristol, IKWRO and Not In My Classroom, the sessions left teachers feeling confident in their ability to identify and tackle incidences of honour based violence. Hibo Wardere, a FGM survivor and current campaigner herself, was the first to praise the sessions’ outlook.

“The first time I talked to colleagues, it was a shock for them to know this was child abuse,” the former Teaching Assistant shared.

“This is a safeguarding issue, and we need to see it that way”.

Youth For Change ran Youth Advocacy workshops with students to introduce them to the issues in more detail. These issues, relevant to each and every student, could so easily affect them or their peers. Students took part in a skills-based session, giving them the tools and tactics to campaign effectively against ‘honour’ based violence.

A highlight of the student sessions was watching them bring their learnings to life. Spoken-word artist Nikkita Da Silva performed powerful spoken-word poetry about Honour Based Violence before helping students create strategies to tackle the issues they cared about.

As students shared their creative solutions, Youth For Change delegates moved the event onwards to one of the most memorable moments of the day; a short speech from Neda Barzegar, a previous survivor of Honour based violence. Speaking from experience, Neda re-iterated just how much was at stake, before passionately making the case for better safeguarding in schools.

The day concluded with a panel discussion, with organisations providing forward-thinking solutions to provide better safeguarding. Expertly chaired by London Live’s Reya El-Salah, representatives from the NUT, PSHE Association, Institute of Education, UCL and various educational institutions took audience questions, and re-framed the original pledge which the day was built on.

The first of its kind, the National Schools Conference was a resounding success and presented a clear path for organisations and the UK government to follow to equip education professionals with the skills to tackle ‘honour’ based violence, FGM and child marriage.

If we are to achieve our pledge - reaching every member of staff in every school to ensure that every young person is safeguarded – activists must be active, teachers must embrace educating themselves on issues, just as they educate their students every day. The conference proved that teachers are more than willing to do so.

However one part is missing: government recognition.

It’s why we at Youth For Change know that the next step in ensuring young people’s safety is asking Justine Greening review and reinvigorate the training teachers currently receive around honour based violence.

It’s why everyone at the conference have signed letters asking Justine Greening for just that.

It’s why you can sign the petition by clicking here.