Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) has been neglected by our school curriculum for decades and students are suffering as a result. The Eve Appeal are changing this. They are joining the RSE revolution by piloting their empowering ‘EveryGirl Project’. Here’s how it will save lives and why shaking up RSE matters to everyone.
Whenever I speak to students about my End Tampon Tax petition, campaigning and the RSE they experience at school, I hear the same stories over and over again. One girl told me just last week that her sex ed classes were simply an extension of her Biology lesson. She learnt about the basic anatomy of boys and girls and how to put on a condom on. Oh, and then the girls were separated to talk about periods like they’re some kind of secretive and harrowing disease. That was pretty much it. But sex ed is so much more than this. Schools have a responsibility to provide empowering RSE to their students, not just extending biology lessons or spooking kids about periods and exaggerating already deeply engrained stigmas against women.
Our relationship education is scarce on a national level. As a result, 49% of young people learn about consent primarily through TV shows and films (most of which represent consent terribly…), 46% are never taught what a healthy relationship looks like and 33% never learn about consent in school either. This paints a confusing picture of sex and relationship expectations for children up and down the country.
Relationship education is not the only aspect of RSE in need of reinvention. Our sex education is often just as basic and unhelpful. The Eve Appeal have found that 44% of parents replace anatomically correct words like ‘vulva’ with euphemisms including ‘flower’ and ‘fairy’ when talking to their children. In fact, Eve Appeal research found that only 1% of parents use the word ‘vulva’ in front of their daughters. 1%. By using these euphemisms, we teach our children that their bodies are secretive and that they should be embarrassed to talk about all related topics, including gynae cancers and periods. It’s something that needs to change.
By stigmatising the female body, we prevent young people from learning properly about many important topics. Periods are just one. Plan UK has found that 49% of menstruating students have missed school because we have taught them to be embarrassed about their bodies when they’re on their period. Furthermore, a recent study has shown that 50% of students in Ireland miss school on a regular basis because we have taught them to be too embarrassed to ask for period products when they need them. That’s a staggering amount of education missed because we conceal the female form.
Gynae cancers face the exact same problem. While 58 women are diagnosed with one of five gynaecological cancers every day, very few schools teach children to spot the signs and symptoms. We need to stop teaching girls to be embarrassed about their bodies. Instead, if we teach students openly about spotting gynae health warning signs early, more will survive gynae cancer. More will simultaneously stay in school because fewer will be embarrassed about their bodies. It’s that simple. That’s where the Eve Appeal’s new ‘EveryGirl Project’ comes in. Eve Appeal superheroes will head to secondary schools across London to do two main things: educate and empower. They will teach students to spot the signs and symptoms of all five gynae cancers, reach out to underprivileged and BAME communities, amongst which gynae health stats are particularly low, and finally, they will work to fight stigma around women’s health. We can’t beat gynae cancer when we’re taught to be secretive and embarrassed about gynae health. The Eve Appeal will work to stop this from continuing. Every girl deserves better. They’re working to reinvent RSE in our schools, saving lives and protecting the education of girls as a result.