Huge thanks to Trishna, the winner of our logo design competition, who is responsible for the fantastic logo that will brand this campaign and allow organisations to show their support for children's rights.
The Right Year for Children (RY4C) is a year of action to strengthen children's rights in England. It started on 16 December 2011, the 20th anniversary of the UK ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
By Helen Cammock
The Having Our Say Too exhibition was part of the Brighton Photo Fringe Photography festival this October. It was a great opportunity for PhotoVoice and the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People to present photographic and written work by young people at risk of, or who have experienced sexual exploitation. There are many young people around the UK managing to make sense of difficult experiences and this project is an opportunity for some of them to explore those experiences and contribute to the dialogue around sexual exploitation by offering their perspectives on the issues involved.
The issues are certainly current in the media and very much bring into mainstream debate the situations faced by both young people – also adults, as demonstrated by the number of latent disclosures by adults in the recent Jimmy Savile case for example. As with all forms of abuse, there are a number of different factors that make someone more vulnerable to being abused but ultimately the responsibility lies with the abuser or exploiter – it is never the fault or the responsibility of the young person. Even if a young person is sexually active already, even if a young person appears confident and in control, even if a young person believes they are in a relationship with an older person (or person in a position of power) it is ultimately the adult who is responsible for forcing a young person, or coercing them or responding to a their apparent crush when the young person is not emotionally in a position to have equal control in that relationship. Many young people don’t recognise or acknowledge sexual exploitation and when they do have this realisation often don’t feel able to disclose it. If they do disclose they may not be taken seriously. Interestingly Peter Rippon of the BBC Newsnight show has recently been publicly exposed for deeming young women to be ‘not too young’ and the incidents of exploitation ‘weren’t the worst kind of sexual offences’. I wonder why Peter Rippon feels he is in a position to make this judgement. The allegation that he shelved a programme looking into the Savile allegations because of this judgement, and that it also clashed with a commemorative programme on Savile that was being made at the same time, have called for Rippon to stand down from his job pending an enquiry. It has spurned a much wider debate around sexism and power in not only the media context but also in society.
As a society we present contradictory messages all the time and we need to come to understand that all young people have the right to be free from all forms of exploitation. Sexual exploitation seems still to be something that we find hard to discuss – often imagining that it something that happens abroad through International trafficking or through internal trafficking by particular and specific communities or identified paedophiles. It is of course far more widespread and complex than this and continues to affect young people and children in varying degrees and in many different contexts.
Through working with the young people on Having Our Say Too project it has become more and more apparent that the young people affected by sexual exploitation need to be part of the dialogue that informs policy makers, the practice of adult professional support staff and most importantly offers other young people insight into their experiences and situations that may impact on their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.
The telling of stories has a way of making situations real, and sharing experiences and perspectives with others, in order to both inform and support can be a powerful part of moving forward. So the digital stories being created by the young people on this project have an important role for their process but also for informing others. It has been important therefore for the project to looks at personal experiences but also perspectives on the contributing factors to young people becoming vulnerable and into the kinds of attitudes and perspectives that need to change within families, schools and society around particular issues and norms.
Participating young people explore different themes that offer a context to sexual exploitation including gender, power, relationships and sex. They have the opportunity to represent their thoughts, responses and experiences through photography, text and music, creating their own digital stories.
PhotoVoice are partnering with the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People in running five participatory photography projects over the next year. All projects will run in partnership with specialist support organisations (all the participating partner projects support young people at risk of sexual exploitation) and the young people involved will have the opportunity to participate in a 3 month photography project. So far projects in Middlesbrough and Blackburn have been completed and another is running in Walsall at the moment. We start a project in three weeks in London.
PhotoVoice and project participants will work with the National Working Group to develop the digital stories into a resource pack for a diverse range of professionals to use in their support of young people in specialised as well as mainstream support services for young people throughout the UK. This resource pack will be piloted in mid 2013 with 500 hundred packs subsequently being distributed to schools, youth projects and a range of specialist support services. It is intended to be a resource for service providers and professionals to deliver projects informed directly by the experiences of young people and will as a consequence support many other young people to understand the issues and context of sexual exploitation and to safeguard themselves.
An online resource and independent website with a gallery and resources will also be developed to support young people, their families and professionals.
There will be a national launch and celebration for participating young people (and their friends, families and support agencies) from all projects.
My next blog will explore some of the reasons why young people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation to begin with.This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← National Youth Advocacy Service’s Report on their CRC20 Celebration Day RY4C debates whether the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should become part of UK law →
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Organisations that support the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in England, can become a partner or supporter of The Right Year for Children.