Why Me Too Matters In International Schools

Whether it be #metoo, #97percent, or even Sexual Assault Awareness Month, discussions about the female experience with assault and harassment have never been free from the demeaning scrutiny so forcefully placed on us by our male counterparts.


As an active feminist, I find myself liberated when initiating discussions about women’s rights, internalised misogyny, sexual assault, and much more. Having these discussions is never the issue. What is an increasing concern is how this is received by a lot of boys and men. Time and time again, we see them immediately become defensive, adamantly insisting that these issues have nothing to do with them, and often witnessing them taking away from our experience by imposing stories of their own – arguably very different – struggles.


In response to a recent surge in sexual assault awareness following Sarah Everard’s murder, the #notallmen campaign was started. Even though there are masses of credible statistics to be cited, including the recent United Nations publication which indicated that 97% of women in the UK, aged 18-24 have experienced some sort of sexual assault, men insist that it has nothing to do with them.


Sure, not all men, but enough men, and nearly all women.


Unfortunately, the education system is not innocent. It still has a lot to answer for regarding the often toxic environment that is created in schools, resulting in young girls who are indoctrinated with ideas of repression. Now, that may sound extremely dystopian, but it’s the reality for school girls all over the world including myself. As a 17-year-old, close to finishing my schooling career, I have often found myself in situations where I invalidated my own feelings in order to appeal to the male authority figure. It begins with snide comments from male classmates, escalates to abuse of power from male staff members in order to impose their threatening views, and yet, it only ever seems to be addressed in a manner that results in eventual suppression of the female voice. In turn of progressive discussions being encouraged, we are told not to talk about such “subjective matters”. Instead of our experiences with harassment being listened to, we are silenced and told to “park it and move on” and “move on”. When all we really want is to be acknowledged and approached on how men can do their part to make the world more comfortable for us, we are argued with and told to prove that there truly is a systemic bias against us.


Schools are intended to be a nurturing environment in which students leave with formulated opinions, often influenced by the system. Thus, a considered approach needs to be implemented when addressing the reality of being a woman, and it starts with young female voices at the frontline. Girls need to be encouraged to speak up, supported by an environment that makes them feel safe to do so. Boys need to be taught how to approach such situations; with consideration, validation and knowledge. And the adults in positions of responsibility must mediate with comprehension and consideration; allowing personal viewpoints to be safely shared with the sole intent of educating.


I have grown up in a world that has engineered a system teaching girls from a young age that their voice doesn’t matter. Having had an interest in leadership roles ever since I was young, I have not been free from the titles of ‘bossy’ or ‘too big for your boots’, reinforcing this idea that, as a girl, I couldn’t take on high-power roles without their being a negative connotation to it. Yet my male classmates could pursue any role they saw fit without so much as a second glance from those around.


The patriarchal lens in which the world views women put us under so much more scrutiny than our male counterparts. Unfortunately, this has created a toxic amount of competition which has turned women against each other. Having your gender be an identifying factor that frequently puts you at risk will never be the struggle of men. It’s time that we take the immensely progressive attitudes of the 21st century and use the surplus of information in the most productive way possible. Social media may be one of our greatest allies, providing a platform for avid discussion and spreading awareness. There is often a misconception that this abundance of information equates immediately to progress. While this isn’t the case, we are still at an advantageous point of being able to use our shared experiences for change. And I believe that is exactly what we need to do.

Guest blog by Charlotte Rodney, a 17 year old student who attends an international school in the Middle East.


To Love Oneself Is The Beginning Of A Lifelong Romance

The menopause is a rite of passage that happens to every women yet it is a taboo subject! My grandmother definitely did not speak about it and my mum’s generation spoke with their eyes and mouthed it ‘the change’. Slowly, it’s becoming easier to talk about our menopause among groups of women ‘of a certain age’ but it remains a stubbornly taboo subject in wider circles.

To be honest I didn’t really think about menopause until I had to think about it. I didn’t realise that it was a gradual shift in pattern and that it came in 3 stages – perimenopause, menopause and post menopause and that it could last for anything between 5 to 15 years for the first two stages, plus post menopause! That’s a lot of years to be unclear about what’s happening to my own body!

I have to say getting clarity of understanding and getting the right support and advice is shockingly poor. We laugh about it and Baroness Van Sketch capture our confusion wonderfully well:

So why is menopause becoming such a hot topic of conversation? Well about 100 years ago the average woman did not live beyond her fertile age and it is thought that few lived long enough to experience menopause. Our grandmothers and mothers went through menopause but were at home, probably enduring it in shame. The average life expectancy of women has increased significantly which means that many of us could live to 30+ more years in post-menopause. Many of us go through perimenopause and menopause whilst holding down demanding full time work outside the home and some of the menopausal symptoms can leave us feeling that we are going through a certain kind of madness. In an age where maintaining a youthful outlook is highly valued, menopause is anticipated with anxiety. It is good to see that we are now at a stage where we want to be informed and we want to know what to expect. We are getting better at putting ourselves in charge of our own bodies so that we can make informed choices. There are some excellent medical practitioners in the field, but there is also some dire practice. It is not uncommon for menopause to be misdiagnosed as depression or for the same HRT treatment to be prescribed for every female patient even though we know that every woman is different. Being educated about your own body, noting the changes, seeking the best medical guidance from a practitioner who has the right level of expertise and making a plan which is right for you will make your menopause easier, less stressful and not frightening at all. You’ll hold on to your sense of humour, your self worth and your independence – things that you’ve spent your whole life building up and expecting to have. Being informed is all part of self love.

I spoke about menopause at The #WomenEd Unconference 5. It was in response to a number of women who have been treated very poorly in the workplace. A high number find themselves facing redundancy at a time when they are feeling at their most vulnerable. Workplace adjustments are uncommon, many choosing to ignoring guidance. Menopause is covered under the Equality Act 2010 and the first court cases in relation to menopause have been won. Others are on the radar and could be age, gender or even disability discrimination related. As awareness is growing thus increasing awareness around menopause as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to abolish tribunal fees for claimants, it is likely that the number of cases will increase.

We need help to end stigma around the menopause by encouraging an understanding of it within our families, social circles and in the workplace. It is ok to ask for reasonable adjustments. Dr Louise Newson, is a highly respected expert on the menopause provides good guidance here: https://www.menopausedoctor.co.uk/menopause/menopause-work-new-guidelines

So, in closing, irrespective of whether you’re perimenopausal, menopausal, post menopausal or waiting for it all to happen, let’s break the stigma and normalise this rite of passage by talking about it. Take care of you and make a plan to embrace yourself fully and enjoy each day