The Power of Advocacy

This week I attended our seventh Giving Forward final. It is an advocacy project set up in the school, by our Charities coordinator, Miss Heather Dawson (Biology Teacher, CAS & Service Coordinator). Girls in Year 10 have to make a pitch to a panel explaining why their local Bedfordshire charity should be given £1000.  In the time that the project has been running over £10,000 has been donated to 20 different local charities in Bedford and the surrounding local community, helping to support a diverse range of social issues.

For me, the beauty of this project is that it encourages our students to engage with a local social issue that they feel passionate about and in doing so inspiring them to make a difference to their community. It also offered them the opportunity to develop skills which can be applied across the curriculum, in higher education and the work place, such as research, leadership, collaboration and public speaking.

Miss Dawson introduced the event and spoke movingly about the power of the student voice. A year ago, she gave a whole school assembly, which began with a photo of Greta Thunberg.  Not many in the assembly hall could identify Greta but a year on, after Greta spent three weeks protesting outside the Swedish parliament, demanding that the government undertake a radical response to climate change, she has become a household name. She now has over 2.9 million Twitter followers and has become a global star, speaking to the media, the UN and numerous governments and empowering and inspiring a generation about Climate Change, but at her heart she is a teenager who is passionate about an issue.

Miss Dawson reminded the girls about Amika George, the teenage student who founded the #FreePeriods organisation. Amika was at the forefront of persuading our government to fund sanitary protection for school age girls to avoid them missing education. Last year, this inspired one of the Lower Sixth Campaign Challenge groups to highlight period poverty and donate sanitary products to The Red Box, who worked with Amika in launching her campaign.

Miss Dawson ended her introduction by saying “The media is intent on showing that the young people of today are self-obsessed, that they are not accepting of the differences of others and are not willing to give their time and energy to support those who are less fortunate than themselves. At every step of the Giving Forward process, I have seen the exact opposite, and by the end of this evening I hope you will feel as proud as I am of the passionate and caring young women here this evening”.

As a member of the panel I was just that. Incredibly proud of the girls’ passion for their charity, incredibly proud of their commitment and incredibly proud of their conviction. They fought for their cause to be awarded the money; they realised the power their charity had in changing lives. As a school we want  our girls to be bold, we want them to stand up for what they believe in, we want them to have the self-belief that they can make a difference to other people’s lives. On Monday night, the girls certainly did that.

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