With development funding from The Smith Family, the early intervention program will empower young girls and gender diverse young people aged 10-12 with the tools to stand up for their equal rights and build healthy relationships for their future selves and communities.
UNITY is a sister project to the thrice successfully evaluated RESPECT program, which has been running across public schools in Bankstown for 8 years to educate young boys about domestic violence, gender stereotypes and respect for women. The program has been proven to increase awareness and understanding of Domestic Violence & healthy relationships in 98% of participants.
This time, UNITY will provide young girls with the knowledge, skills and strength to healthily address key concerns including healthy relationships, consent, body image and bullying.
The program comes in response to recent widespread issues around negative gender, cultural and social stereotypes. In fact, national counselling service Kids Helpline reported a sharp surge in searches for ‘sexting’ and ‘cyberbullying’ by teens aged 13 to 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic and image-based abuse leapt by more than 172 per cent last year.
Finn O’Branagáin, CEO and Artistic Director of Outloud says, “We’re increasingly seeing young girls and gender diverse students face what seems to be an impossible situation – they feel immense peer pressure to take part in activities they don’t feel safe doing, and then are punished for doing them. It is critical to invest in early intervention to give young people the tools to deconstruct social messages and normalise positive behaviour patterns. This allows children to lay down a baseline of boundaries and expectations of how they should be treated, rather than waiting to unlearn thought patterns later on.”
“Through our commitment to build on strengths rather than fears, we are working closely with young girls, teachers, social workers and community leaders to ensure the project is collaborative and evidence-based to adequately address the complex needs of young people.”
UNITY will run over two terms across different public schools in Bankstown and will provide girls with the autonomy to take what they’ve learnt in these workshops to write a song under the guidance of professional musicians. The song is produced, a complementary music video is filmed and the musical piece is presented at school assemblies to classmates, teachers and parents, and shared to the public online.
The launch of the program on November 4 acknowledges World Youth Day. Outloud will be hosting a webinar with speakers including Chanel Contos, Zena Dabaja, principal of Birrong Girls High School, and young participants of the consulting group.
Outloud welcomes interested parties to join. Register to join here.
Jason Clare, Local MP and Member for Blaxland, Western Sydney
“The launch of the UNITY Program is a fantastic initiative for girls in our local schools. Programs like this allow for important and sensitive subjects to be discussed in a safe environment that engages young people.
I’m excited to see what comes out of the program across different schools in the local area. Thank you to Outloud for continuing to work with schools in our community to run important projects like UNITY.”
Craig Taunton, RESPECT Program Manager
“The Respect Program has been working with boys in schools now for 8 years and we have often been asked by the schools about having a similar program for the girls. So the UNITY Program is very exciting for me because creating healthy relationships in our younger generations means equipping all young people with the right tools. I’m really proud that we are evolving and now able to offer the same kind of support to young girls. It’s been a long time coming.”
Zena Dabaja, Principal of Birrong Girls High School
“It’s really important that we invest in our girls and future women. By explicitly developing their skills to feel empowered, safe and confident in themselves, they can carve out a clear path to supporting each other and demand safety, respect and consent.”
Yasmin (12 years old) was a participant in the working group
“I think a program like UNITY is useful and valuable for girls who are getting bullied or are having some issues in school, because it might help them feel happier about coming to school. It’s good for girls to stick together and make sure they feel respected and comfortable. Being treated equally and fairly by other peers and students makes me feel safe.”