A Lewisham organisation is encouraging young women to widen their horizons and to fight for equality against gender imbalance in work and education.
Set in a Victorian house in Catford, Lewisham Young Women’s Resource Project (LYWRP) are a team of six people and five trustees who aim to provide a safe and nurturing environment for young women in the borough.
Philippa Wall, 50, director of LYWRP said: “LYWRP has been in the borough of Lewisham for the last 30 years. It was set up as a need for more gender specific youth work back in 1985-86. Over the many years, we do every type of work with young women.”
“It was due to a bunch of militant women youth workers back in the day that just felt that there was a need for a girls-only work and so they could have a nurturing space for them to come to. It’s a space for girls to widen their horizons, build on their personal confidence and that’s how we’ve kept going. I’ve been here for 15 years.”
LYWRP offers a wide range of programmes for young women, such as sister mentoring, counselling in partnership with Cassell counselling, after-school groups and holiday schemes. Wall said: “We deliver a wide range of support programmes ranging from bullying, self confidence and self esteem. We’ve done work with transition to secondary schools.”
“We’ve worked with girls with special needs and with young mums. We worked with the majority of schools, secondary and primary, in Lewisham.”
Less people are getting involved in LYWRP now, however, due to a “massive funding cut from Lewisham. So we had all our fundings cut by 100 per cent last year. In 2015, over 700 girls have got involved with LYWRP. It has decreased in the amount of work that we deliver within schools.”
Even when girls have proven to do better at A-Levels, gender inequality in education and work environments still exist. However, LYWRP aim to push young women who can’t get A-Levels, to teach them that education is vital and prove that you can do any job if they have self belief. “For them, education has not been a positive experience. We try and show them there’s no ceiling to anything. It’s all down to self belief and how you see yourself. If you have people to believe in to push you, you can do any job you want to do, regardless of your background, regardless of where you’re from and whether you have a disability, your social economic situation, you can do anything that you want to do,” Wall said.
Wall proved that she is very passionate about the work she does and the issue that has been ongoing for years. “The reason I put so much into this is because I was a 15-year-old teenage mum. I left school with no education, I was in a violent relationship and I turned my life around. I got my degree when I was 38. It gives me a lot of passion and a lot of determination and belief in these young women I work with.”
“We need to change parliament but we need to encourage more young women to go into parliament to fight for equality balance and to have ambassadors that will fight for girls every corner and every step of their way.”
Research shows that the gender imbalance and inequality is slowly decreasing throughout the years.
Statistics, taken from pwc shown in the graph above, demonstrate that from the year 2000 until 2014, the percentage of women in boardrooms have gradually increased. This being said, there is still some way to go until there is full gender equality in employment.
Wall’s goal for LYWRP is to continue doing the work they are doing for young women in the borough and to “develop our service further for young mums. We want to encourage them to go off to work and access college, that’s what we help them to do. We would like to secure funding to provide free holiday schemes for every holiday throughout the year for all girls and to continue with our after school groups. And to just really be sustainable to get through the next five to 10 years.”