If ever someone deserves the term ‘girl power, it’s Maya and Gemma Tutton.
These two sisters have single-handedly created a new campaign to encourage schools to teach kids about sexual harassment and violence to keep them safe on the streets.
Gemma, now 15, was just 11-years-old when she was first harassed in the street, with Maya, now 21, saying: “Hearing that as a big sister was the most upsetting thing in the world. And knowing there is nothing I could do about it was heart-breaking.”
Naming the project Our Schools Now, Maya and Gemma are now on a mission to see a cultural and educational change to reduce shame and tackle victim blaming.
The sisters also hope to prevent boys from becoming perpetrators by understanding the long-term impact harassment has on victims – by feeling “powerless, objectified, hurt, and angry” – and to promote bystander intervention too.
Speaking about their initiative, the Our Schools Now founders said: “We hope to raise a new generation of girls who never blame themselves for the harassment they will likely face, and a generation of boys who never become perpetrators of this everyday violence.”
Their powerhouse statement continues: “We need to make sure that the next generation of children in the UK understand the prevalence and impact of public sexual harassment.
“As children and teenagers go back to school and the government’s mandatory sex education curriculum is introduced, we are urging schools to include public sexual harassment within their mandatory PSHE/RSE [relationships/sex education] lessons.
“The rise of online and offline abuse as a consequence of the pandemic must not be allowed to further proliferate with the reduction of adequate sex education in response to schools being under pressure because of COVID-19.
“In this country, you can get fined for dropping a cigarette on the street but not for harassing and intimidating a young girl on her way to school.”
In their efforts to help schools teach the right information, the sisters have collated a variety of resources to guide teachers in taking a stand against unwanted attention.
They also released data from a study of 150 students and school leavers showing that 47% said they would not report an incident of public sexual harassment to their school either because they did not know how or feared not being taken seriously by staff.
Maya and Gemma are also urging the public to sign the Change.org petition for public sexual harassment to be made a criminal offence so people are held legally accountable.
Street harassment is illegal in France, Belgium and Portugal, let’s hope the UK follows.
To sign the petition, click here: Our Streets Now.