By Caoimhe Clements – currently studying her MA in Journalism at Ulster University Belfast
An investigation by UN Women UK in 2021 found that 97 per cent of women aged between 18 and 24 have experienced sexual harassment. More young women in their teens and early 20s are now discussing sexual violence, especially around International Women’s Day (IWD) which is celebrated globally on March 8.
Volunteer Hannah Campbell of Stop Street Harassment NI said: ‘We aim to benefit people in Northern Ireland by raising awareness and to educate people about sexual harassment. Some of the different ways we do this is through workshops, creating social media content and working with those who have experienced sexual harassment by giving them a platform to share their story in bid to raise awareness.’
Stop Street Harassment Northern Ireland is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers on top of their full time jobs.
SDLP MLA Cara Hunter said: “Relationship and sex education needs to reflect the society we live in and to ensure our young people are equipped to make safe decisions based on consent. We are increasingly seeing the dangerous consequences of misogynistic attitudes within society and this is an issue that a fully-informed relationship and sex education programme can tackle.
“By teaching young people about consent and healthy relationships we will equip them with the tools to build positive relationships.’’ Ms Hunter added.
‘What we need to see is the delivery of the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy.’
Ulster University has a digital platform called Report and Support where students can report if they have experienced sexual violence. This platform also offers students the option to remain anonymous or to use their name.
The Student Wellbeing department at the university continues to promote their Consent Campaign with the tagline OMFG (meaning consent is ongoing, should be mutual and is freely-given).
Deirdre Scullion from Ulster University’s Student Wellbeing leads workshops on sexual consent. “It looks at what do we mean by consent,” she said.
And a PSNI safety campaign, called Ask for Angela, which was originally developed in England, has now been rolled out into bars and clubs across Northern Ireland.
In partnership with Hospitality Ulster (HU), it gives registered venues access to the training and public materials. The professional training allows staff to help customers who might be in a situation that is resulting in an individual feeling unsafe or vulnerable.
Ms Hunter said: “I welcome safety campaigns like Ask for Angela being adopted here in Northern Ireland. People should be safe in all spaces but the reality is this isn’t always the case. What we need to see is the delivery of the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Strategy.”
Throughout Northern Ireland many organisations and campaigns have been set up to ensure the safety of young women in Northern Ireland including Common Youth – a sexual health charity which works with young people aged between 13 and 25.
Jack Rogan from Common Youth said: ‘We have two clinics, one is Belfast that operates seven days a week. And one in Coleraine which is open two days a week.”