As part of International Women’s Day, we highlight the work of 16-year-old Derby school pupil Amelia who is taking the initiative to break down the taboos around sexual harassment and assault.

Amelia has held a pilot series of awareness raising and self defence workshops for her peers at Allestree Woodlands School which she hopes to expand to other schools and potentially workplaces across the city.

Amelia was sexually assaulted as a child and spent many years feeling alone.  Under a programme led by charity Supporting Communities, Amelia was keen to provide a safe place for fellow pupils to talk about their feelings and experiences of sexual harassment and assault.

She said: “I have tried to use my own experiences to open up the conversation and show that it is alright to talk about your feelings and experiences.

“In the workshops we highlight what is intimidating and threatening behaviour and provide a safe space for young people to talk about their own experiences. We also do some self defence sessions which are very empowering.

“Other girls at school have talked about how unsafe they feel walking home at night and how they have felt intimidated and harassed by boys or even older men.

“There is an unspoken rule for us all that we can’t go out on our own or even at all after dark and that is not right.

“The workshops have opened the conversation between us all about how we feel about violence against women and girls and what would make us feel safer.”

“I am very grateful to Supporting Communities and Allestree Woodlands who have been so supportive in making these workshops happen.  I hope that we can introduce them in other schools and across different workplaces.”

Amelia has been mentored by Supporting Communities’ worker Mimina Bligh who said: “Amelia is an inspiration for women and girls. By calming and openly talking about her own experiences, she is encouraging others to speak out as well and raising awareness of the issue.”

Safe and Sound CEO Tracy Harrison added: “Having workshops that are led by a young person with lived experience is incredibly powerful both to other young people and adults alike.

“Amelia has shown that, by talking about feelings and experiences, we can challenge situations that have become the accepted norm and hopefully make changes that will improve the lives and safety of women and girls across our city.”