19 FEBRUARY 2018

Since September 2017, over 50 young women have been participating in Project Brave. This is an 18-week programme, from Fearless Futures, that supports young women to understand and challenge the root causes of inequality. By focusing on the interconnected nature of inequality, the programme enables the group to explore their own identities, their own power and experiences, and build on this to take action for transformative change in their schools and communities. This is a funded project from The Spirit of Women Changemakers Grants Programme, which was set up by The Fawcett Society and Spirit of 2012.

The groups are drawn from Unity City Academy in Middlesbrough and The Blyth Academy (part of the Northern Education Trust) in Blyth. Each group has been supported by a Fearless Futures Trailblazer - a supportive facilitator who has worked with the group throughout the programme.

On 6th and 7th February 2018, exactly 100 years since some women were enfranchised and able to vote for the first time, the groups celebrated their incredible commitment, achievements and courage by presenting their work at an Awards Ceremony at their school.

The awards ceremonies were attended by their parents, the senior leaders in their schools, teachers, governors and local councillors.

At Unity City Academy the groups spoke about their work over the eighteen weeks, and read a poem (below) to demonstrate their hopes for the future. After the presentation the school budget-holder announced that the girls would receive £200 to add women writers to the library collection, in particular writers who are women of colour and women from the LGBTQ++ communities.

Mike Thompson, a local councillor who attended the event said: “Really impressed by this group of young women. It was an honour to have been there to hear such powerful and positive young people.”

At Blyth Academy the groups spoke about the impact the programme had on them, and there were many young women who had never spoken in front of an audience before, and before the programme had started would never have believed it possible. The Year 10 group have committed to delivering workshops for younger girls at another Northern Education Trust school, North Shore Academy in Stockton-on-Tees. They have also discussed running sessions on stereotypes for the young men in the school.

The programmes have been a huge success, with many young women making serious and thoughtful commitments to action in their schools and communities to support other young people to challenge inequality and the harmful stereotypes that they feel hold themselves and other young people back from being their full selves!

Unity Academy poem

Not like a bear or tiger
But being brave enough to live in the world we do.
Told when young that,
That we aren’t indestructable,
We’re delicate like a daisy
                   Or withering petal.

But dear those who follow the norm,
Those who shun out the different,
Those who after protest and war still put others down to raise
themselves up.
They aren’t fearless.

                      But we are.
And we can be.
We can change their minds.
The minds that praise hate and war
Self-centred thoughts that seek gender inequality and a white-washed world.

We can be the ones that turn the few to the many
Making all sexualities, races, religions and genders visible.
So that even those who are blind can see them

Because we should all be told that:
‘Loving yourself in a world that profits from your self-doubt is a radical act.’

- Unity City Academy