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July 2014

Barking & Dagenham Mayor and FGM campaigner celebrate the powerful work of the Borough’s young women with Arc

On Thursday 10 July, Arc hosted a celebratory Film Launch and Presentation Evening – the first special event at its new base at Kingsley Hall in Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham.

The event was a celebration of the work our latest girls group Raised Voices has undertaken over the past 10 months of weekly sessions, culminating in the launch of their brand new film and booklet resource for young people, communities, educators and service workers.

Funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (MOPAC) in 2013, Raised Voices is a new, three-year female leadership/peer mentoring project working with over 50 young females aged 11 and over from schools and colleges throughout the Borough.  Directed by Natalie Smith at Arc, it is a powerful new issue-based resource tackling hard-hitting subjects affecting young women today, including body image, self-harm, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and female genital mutilation, while encouraging female empowerment and solidarity.  The project follows on from Arc’s previous work with girls in the Borough, including Finding the Words (also funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation) and Girls Have Their Say (funded by the Home Office CAGGK).

The Raised Voices launch was attended by over 70 people from the local community and beyond, including Councillors, teachers, Metropolitan Police, YOS, healthcare specialists, youth workers, PHF project funders and the families of the girls involved.  After a screening of the new short film, the Raised Voices participants led an interactive Qwizdom session to test the audience’s knowledge of the subjects discussed.  Finally, participants were awarded their Certificates of Achievement for completing the first phase of the project, by Barking & Dagenham Mayor, Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe, along with high-profile FGM campaigner and Co-Founder of Daughters of Eve, Leyla Hussein, whose recent Channel 4 documentary ‘The Cruel Cut’ was nominated for a BAFTA at this year’s awards (click the link to view the film on 4OD).

Raised Voices is also part of the Jack Petchey Foundation Achievement scheme, and two participants also received their Jack Petchey Awards from Ms Hussein, who has been a great champion of Arc’s female empowerment work, having previously visited the group to talk about FGM.

Leyla said of the event; “Wow, what an amazing evening – the young girls and the teachers from Arc Theatre made me so proud tonight – these girls will change the world!”

RV awards RV JPF awards

Mayor of Barking & Dagenham, Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe and FGM campaigner Leyla Hussein award Raised Voices participants with their Certificates of Achievement, and Leyla presents Jack Petchey winners Spendilove Andrews and Ajijia Oweh with their much-deserved awards. All images ©Theresa Snooks, 2014

As a result of the group’s inspiring work, Leyla Hussein also put them forward to take part in the Government’s widely-publicised ‘Youth for Change Summit’ in Whitehall, London on 19 July, which the Raised Voices participants are delighted to be involved with, along with Arc’s Education Director, Natalie Smith, who will be running a session. (The YfC Summit feeds into the ‘Girl Summit’ on 22 July 2014.)

Barking & Dagenham Mayor, Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe has also invited the group, who are now preparing to embark on a comprehensive tour of local schools, youth centres and professional platforms in September, to present their work in the Council Chambers.  She said; “…a most memorable evening with the girls.  I have requested a slot where the girls can perform for all councillors at the chambers in Barking – I was so impressed and that’s why I would like the other councillors to see it too… I’m really proud of the work Arc is doing.”

B&D Mayor at RV Launch

Mayor of Barking & Dagenham, Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe speaks at the Raised Voices Launch

RV participants RV participants

Raised Voices participants at the Launch

Councillor Sanchia Alasia said; “A huge tribute must be paid to the wonderful girls in Barking & Dagenham I met this evening via Arc Theatre.  Young women from the ages of 11-17 told of the struggles and pressures they face in relation to FGM, sexting, naked selfies, body image, domestic violence and grooming.  I never had a mobile phone when I was their age, so it was a real eye opener for me.  We need to raise awareness and support these girls.”

Councillor Linda Zanitchkhah said; “the girls are amazing and totally inspirational in what they are doing. They should quite rightly be very proud of what they have achieved…”

RV Launch

Raised Voices guests at the Launch