How organisations like URPotential are working to improve young women's lives in Blackpool as the town has been named as the toughest place in the UK to be a girl
Blackpool has been named as the toughest place in the UK to be a girl, according to a report by charity Plan International UK.
More than 1,000 girls were asked about key areas of their lives including how safe they feel on the streets, their experience of school, their mental health and body image, and their perspectives on politics and participation.
The town’s lowest ranking came as a result of its place among the bottom ten local authorities for educational attainment, teenage conception rates, the number of young people not in education, work or training and disability-free life expectancy.
The report also includes two case studies describing what life is like growing up in Blackpool.
Nicola, 20, said: “If you were a girl and you picked engineering then the boys took the mick, because they think oh that’s a boy’s thing. Sometimes the boys’ teachers didn’t even let girls on it.”
Gray, 15, who identifies as non-binary, said: “I feel unsafe, every single day. I look like a boy, so if I dare to go outside in anything other than a tracksuit, I will have teenage boys and even adults shouting at me and calling me names.
“Living life as a non-binary person is extremely difficult.”
But community organisation URPotential believes things are looking up for women in Blackpool, with its Girls Matter Programme, funded by Community Foundation for Lancashire.
URPotential Participation Coordinator April Rankin said: “The report looks at the state of girls rights in the UK, and gives voice to many young women across the country. Whilst it is encouraging that so many young women’s voices have been heard, it is unfortunate that the report appears to highlight only the negative statements made by young women who live in Blackpool.
“We recognise that there are many challenging issues for young women in Blackpool. However, over the past few years Blackpool professionals have worked and will continue to work collectively to improve the rights and safety of girls through education, youth provisions, social action projects and targeted girls work.
“URPotential’s recent Girls Matter Programme has been working with girls from across Blackpool to address girls’ safety. We have delivered workshops on; social media safety, community safety, sexual health, awareness of grooming, yoga and self-defence courses.
“These have allowed girls and young women to build on their skills and confidence. Following the project young women reported that they now feel empowered and more confident to deal with unsafe situations.”
Plan International UK is calling on the government to bring a new focus to delivering girls’ rights and deliver gender equality across the UK. It wants gender champions to be created at national, devolved and local levels to ensure these priorities become a reality for girls across the country.
Rose Caldwell, CEO of Plan International UK, said: “It’s extremely saddening, but not surprising, that our report finds girls still feel disempowered and unable to realise their rights. They are told they can succeed, but they face a threat to their safety in public, online and in schools. They are told gender equality has been achieved, and yet they do not feel represented or heard in public life. If adolescent girls are feeling undervalued, unheard and under-represented in public life, we as a society are letting them down. This simply cannot continue.
“The findings in this report should serve as a wake-up call for all politicians and leaders. Policies at both national and local level are currently not going far enough to tackle inequality, but introducing Gender Champions would make sure girls start to see real change at every level of decision-making.”