#IsThisOK: Mayor Andy Burnham gives pupils a lesson on unacceptable behaviour towards women

It is now hoped that similar workshops will be rolled out at schools and colleges across the city-region as part of attempts to end violence against women and girls.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has taken the city-region’s ground-breaking gender-violence strategy into a school to speak to students about unacceptable behaviour.

Mr Burnham paid a virtual visit to a Rochdale secondary school for a workshop educating boys about how attitudes can lead to violence and the importance of checking language and behaviour.

Greater Manchester has a 10-year strategy to tackle gender-based violence and a key part of it is educating boys and men about how they act towards women and girls - an aspect Mr Burnham promised he would lead personally.

It is now hoped that similar workshops will be rolled out at schools and colleges across the city-region.

Students taking part in the virtual call with the mayor

What was the workshop on gender-based violence and where did it take place?

The workshop was held at Falinge Park High School in Rochdale for pupils aged between 11 and 16.

It was supported by Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) director Graham Goulden and brought together the gender-based violence strategy and the work of the city-region’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

Students were shown the video which was created as part of the campaign #IsThisOK to challenge unacceptable behaviour, which showed a young woman being sexually harassed while out jogging, going to a coffee shop and enjoying a night out.

Mr Burnham spoke to pupils about gender-based violence and the ongoing work the school is doing to educate pupils, as well as the behaviours and attitudes that cause it.

Student Ruhani Hussain introduced Ismail Malik and Tahmid Asraf, who are White Ribbon ambassadors for the school, as well as girls from the schools’ women and equalities group.

In total, 245 boys from the school have signed the White Ribbon pledge to stand up against violence towards women and girls.

Following the mayoral virtual call, the students took part in discussions and were put in realistic scenarios as part of the MVP programme.

These aim to raise awareness, challenge thinking and open dialogue while on supporting boys to be the best they can be.

There are currently 25 schools and colleges participating in the programme, which is run by the VRU.

What was said about the event?

Mr Burnham said: “Taking the #IsThisOk video to schools and colleges in our city-region is a key part of Greater Manchester’s Gender-Based Violence Strategy, however, this is just the start of the work that needs to be done to tackle this issue.

“The students took part in a Q&A with me and it was fantastic to hear their passion and desire to make a difference, and to have them challenge me on what else can be done to tackle violence against women and girls.

Students in Rochdale taking part in the gender-based violence workshop

“We want Greater Manchester to be one of the best places in the world for people to grow up, get on and grow old – no matter your gender.

“Rather than women being forced to change their behaviours to feel safe, it is men and boys who need to take responsibility for this issue, either by reflecting on and changing our own behaviours or challenging those of people we know.”

Janice Allen, headteacher at Falinge Park High School, said: “This is an extension of the work we do in school to address problems in society that are complex and require reasoned dialogue.

“Our work on this has been extensive over time, is underpinned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we wanted to complement this work by giving young men and women a chance to talk and share about their learning and their thoughts and hopes with an external presenter.

“The Gender Based Violence Strategy has given us an anchor to be able to address this more thoughtfully and we are grateful to the team for enabling our children to share their thoughts.”