PRESS RELEASE: Empowering young people to end violence against women and girls thanks to The Hemraj Goyal Foundation

Young people in Wolverhampton are being empowered to end violence against women and girls thanks to The Haven Wolverhampton and new funding from The Hemraj Goyal Foundation.

The charity’s MENgage and EmpowHER preventative programmes, delivered in schools and youth settings, critically explore the realities, causes of, and solutions for gender-based divisions and inequalities in society. They explore and question a range of issues including traditionally established gender roles and stereotypes, gender discrimination, the impact of gender roles on relationships, consent, body shaming, signs of abuse in relationships, and how to seek help.

The funding boost will ensure the programmes continue, at a time where education on violence against women and girls is more important than ever. In fact, on average, two women in England and Wales are killed every week by a current or former partner and 1 in 5 women has been subjected to a form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

The Haven Wolverhampton has been supporting women and children who have been subjected to abuse for almost 50 years. During that time, they have seen first-hand how power dynamics play out in abusive relationships. The MENgage and EmpowHER project was launched in 2020 to help reduce the incidences of violence and abuse in the longer-term. It does this by encouraging young people to unpack and unlearn these power dynamics in the hope that, one day, The Haven’s services will no longer be needed.

The programme has already started to impact young people; after a session with year 9 students at a local Wolverhampton school, one young person said, “Today’s session has made me feel more passionate about gender equality.” When asked what lessons students would take away from the programme, one student said, “To be who I want to be and not listen to gender ‘norms’.” Another said they had learned “to call out harassment if I see it.”

Staff feedback has been equally positive, with one teacher commenting, “For many of our students, it was an eye-opening experience that challenged opinions about the real world and encouraged them to develop realistic expectations in many areas, including body image, gender stereotypes and wellbeing.

“Overall, students left the experience with a new perspective and an understanding of realistic expectations and how this differs to what is portrayed in the media and on social media.”

After the sessions, the majority of students said that they were not previously aware of the prevalence of abuse and violence. It is this lack of awareness that can create an environment that enables and perpetuates abuse.

Popinder Kaur, CEO of The Haven Wolverhampton said: “We are incredibly grateful to The Hemraj Goyal Foundation for funding the delivery of MENgage and EmpowHER in Wolverhampton. We want to see young people developing a greater understanding of how gender-role expectations can lead to violence against women and girls, and we hope to see them commit to making a change in their life after these sessions, whether that be their own perceptions, bystander intervention, or campaigning for change.

“Not only this, but we also hope young people have a greater level of confidence to assert their rights and challenge unacceptable behaviour. With Wolverhampton reported to have the highest rate of domestic abuse of all West Midlands local authority areas, it is vital we challenge gender inequality, sexual stereotyping and abuse through preventative projects now.”

Anita Goyal MBE, chair of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation, said: “We are delighted to support The Haven Wolverhampton’s cutting-edge work in schools to reduce violence and abuse against girls and women.

“Young women repeatedly say that sexual consent, harassment and violence top their concerns and hold them back from achieving gender equality.

“We hope that this project will equip young women and young men to challenge abuse wherever they see and experience it. And we believe that the MENgage and EmpowHER programmes should be available to schools across the country.”

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