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Education Programme: Schools programme (one year on)

By Shauna from Savera UK

As part of the Women and Girls Initiative funding that Savera UK received from the Big Lottery in 2016, Savera UK has partnered with Brook to deliver education sessions to schools across Merseyside and Cheshire.

Brook has been at the forefront of providing wellbeing and sexual health support for young people for over 50 years. Their services in local communities, education programmes, training for professionals and campaign work means that young people are better equipped to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices.

With Brook’s expertise in sexual health and Savera UK’s around harmful practices, together we were able to develop a bespoke educational programme for Savera UK that cover, harmful practices (forced marriage, honour based abused, female genital mutilation and other related practices and traditions) whilst reflecting what healthy relationships are. These sessions were originally held with small groups, but with the demand and the request from schools, we were able to adapt the sessions to meet the school requirement e.g. deliver to larger groups or during schools assemblies.

For most of the students, this would be the first time they have ever heard of such topics but the training has created a relaxed, safe and confidential space where the young people can engage and feel free to ask questions. The activities allow the young people to understand where in the world harmful practices happen (they are often shocked it happens in Western countries), the effects of harmful practices but ultimately the students know that it is okay to speak out about these taboo subjects and know where to go to report it if they or someone they know may be at risk.

Earlier this year, the UK Department for Education reported that there will be changes to education for primary and secondary schools in relation to health and relationships by the year 2020. Attendance is set to become compulsory at secondary schools who will learn about female genital mutilation and honour based abuse as well as sexting and mental health. Although the government received some criticism by introducing these changes, from delivering these kinds of sessions to schools across Merseyside and Liverpool showed that there is a massive gap in knowledge in young people about these topics. It is vital to raise awareness and empower young people to be the voices of the future and break the silence.

The feedback from schools has been very positive about how the training is able to tackle these taboo practices sensitively and without the young people feel uncomfortable in taking part. One teacher said:

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Thank you so much for doing this really important session today. It is not an easy topic, but on the other hand it is very important to educate the girls about it and as you say, if they learn later about FGM, it would be too late. A lot of the girls said that they found it very interesting and very worthwhile.

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Savera UK and Brook have enjoyed delivering these sessions and are looking forward to completing further sessions throughout 2019.

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