FINDING A VOICE - Encouraging pupil-led initiatives

Alongside the routine cyclical Spring term events such as mock exams, the early weeks of this particular term have proved to be lively ones in College for us as a community. I am delighted to see various pupil-led initiatives coming to fruition. 

Saturday morning enrichment sessions for UC5 and Sixth Form have featured a collaboration between the SFC1-led Forum 42 (inspired by the TED talk format) and Empower Her Voice, the NGO set up this year by Amira Fateh, Hannah Hilditch, Phoebe O’Hara, Radha Jain and ‘Tofe Ayeni (SFC2) www.empowerhervoice.org, enabling lively and challenging floor debate to follow short presentations on the little-known topic of intersectionality, everyday sexism and the rise of e-misogyny.  There can be no doubt that these complex areas allow for diverse perspectives, and I was very pleased to see that when the limits of time brought the session to a close, many hands were still raised in the air and conversations were in full flow as over three hundred girls exited from the Princess Hall heading for lunch. Hannah Tong, Emma Jing, Gabrielle Mathews and Rachel Kwok have ‘curated’ almost 20 short talks so far since launching ‘Forum 42’ in September, and would welcome participation from parents too, so please get in touch if you are interested Forum42@cheltladiescollege.org.

Mariah Greenstreet, Polina Levyant and Titi Adesanya (SFC2) have hosted the first of their 'Global Connect' Skype live lectures, allowing those gathered in Cheltenham to link up first with the University of Ghana to speak to those on the front line of current medical challenges and then this week, direct to the Ukraine to learn more about the political and economic effects of recent upheavals there. The girls are keen to continue to develop this concept, so please let us know if you have any contacts or suggestions for the future. This week I enjoyed hearing from the six girls who had enrolled in a three week summer school last year at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, insights from which they will be sharing in a Prayers presentation after half term.

I have spoken often of the crucial importance of ‘lighting the fires’ of interest and enthusiasm in young people.  Such dynamism and engagement is the antidote to apathy, scepticism and disillusionment.  Their responses, voiced and unvoiced, to the ethical questions around the acceptable boundaries of human behaviour, will shape the societies in which we will all grow old. To what extent the rights to freedom of expression for some should be allowed to impinge on the comforts and beliefs of others is a fundamental principle which each new generation considers afresh.  The right to offend gives those offended the unfettered right to reply, and if we have sufficient faith in the reasonable judgement of the majority of well-informed people, we can live in a world of mutual respect where the right to offend does not mean we have a duty to offend. Our most precious, fragile, dynamic equilibrium for a rich and diverse co-existence is established when we have these rights but choose not to exercise all of them at the extreme, out of respect for our neighbours and fellow citizens.

As the CLC girls live, learn and grow together side by side, they come from well over 800 different families, speaking over 30 languages and presenting very different perspectives on life, mindful that sometimes the most differing views can manifest in siblings from the same household! Decisions they make and the value systems they develop will affect their actions as consumers, voters, workers, employers, mothers, daughters, leaders, legislators, regulators, innovators and politicians. They are shaping each other day by day, and through this, eventually, the society in which they will raise their own families. I hope you enjoy their company as much as we do.

Eve Jardine-Young