Lisa Zimmermann is project manager of Integrate Bristol and in this post she discusses the story behind #Useyourhead – a song about empowerment, about youth making change and about their demand for education around gender based violence to be statutory in all schools…
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It has been a brilliant year for the young people of Integrate Bristol. Their campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation has gathered unprecedented momentum and they have been making headlines, advising Ministers and the Director of Public Prosecutions, meeting with the UN Secretary General and Malala Yousafsai, and that’s even before the PM’s international Girl Summit takes place next month.
While I’m being dragged, sleepless and overworked, from conference to meeting, to interview, to consultation, trailing behind school and college students who have endless reserves of energy, they want more. I am resigned to the fact I won’t be getting a full night’s sleep until all schools in the country are training their teachers and educating their students on gender-based violence. But then again, the young activists will probably decide to take on yet another issue. Young people have a voice in a way that they’ve never had before. They have strong opinions too. A wise politician would listen to them and take their demands seriously.
The campaign to end FGM has had great allies in this Government, and not surprisingly, our biggest supporters have been its few women. We all cheered at the news of Jane Ellison’s appointment as the new Health Minister back in September; as an MP, Jane founded the All-Party Parliamentary group on FGM and has always been our most avid supporter. Within her first few months as a Minister, Jane made it compulsory for all hospitals to record and report cases of patients who have had FGM or have a family history of FGM. This seemingly simple change has been a major campaigning ask for years.
Both Jane Ellison and International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone have always said that Integrate Bristol’s young people are some of the most inspiring campaigners they have met and that they see in them the possibility of change. Inevitably then, our young people will play a major part in the upcoming Girl Summit that aims to mobilise international efforts to end FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage. Lynne Featherstone and Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, have finally turned the spotlight on FGM in the International arena. This is an outstanding development, but should not conceal the fact that we still have a long road ahead of us in the UK.
A recent NHS-led study in Bristol estimated that 99% of women from FGM-affected communities have had FGM. This means that there are thousands of girls in Bristol alone that are at risk from the practice. As a teacher, I’m most worried about those girls from affected communities whose parents sign them out of SRE because these are the ones most likely to need it. When Integrate Bristol’s young people met Michael Gove, they ambushed him into action and he agreed to write to schools about FGM. That, of course, was only a small first step. At the same time as celebrating their small victory, the young people were busy outlining their next demands.
This is where our latest video, ‘Use your Head’ comes in. It is a celebration of all our young people’s achievements and their amazing allies; Jane Ellison, Lynne Featherstone and Stephen Williams can be seen dancing in it, as can our Mayor in his spectacular red trousers, our brilliant police force and doctors and an amazingly supportive local community. But it’s also our next call to action: the education of all students around the country on gender violence and FGM. Please get behind our young people and help them spread the message by sharing our video, and have a look at our website for more ways to help. With young people like them at the steering wheel, change is possible.
Watch the most uplifiting thing you’ll see this summer, then share, share and share!!
Any comments, questions or feedback for Lisa? Please share in the comments below or via twitter (and do share the video as widely as you can!)