In September last year, I wrote a piece about the safety of women and how they are treated in a school environment:

https://jewishwomenofwords.com.au/we-should-not-have-to-live-in-fear

I was asked by the lovely team at JWOW to reflect and report on updates. Here is that reflection:

A short while after publication, I was contacted by the school to schedule a meeting to discuss changes to be made by the College. The meeting was set, held and undergone.

The results of that meeting were a group brainstorm, considering what we could implement in order to make improvements. It was decided that school committees should create and run student-based activities to discuss and raise awareness about the safety of women and how they are treated in a school environment (and other topics).

That activity has yet to be run due to other matters being listed in the calendar beforehand, but it is listed to be run and I, as well as a group of other interested students who have contacted me will hopefully be facilitating and constructing that, alongside a committee.

As well, during our international women’s day program, we focused on teaching and discussing in open, safe groups about issues women face in society and how individuals can combat this in their daily life, in changing their behaviour. A friend of mine ran a session on women being pitted against each other unnecessarily. There was a session run by a teacher about her experience in the workplace, and so on. In a way, even the recent introduction of pants as part of the girl’s school uniform (an endeavour spearheaded by an incredible group of fellow year 12 women) is making waves in empowering women in school to live freely and openly.

In terms of other, more global changes, in discussion it was hard to pinpoint how to tackle the issue from a overall standpoint. Much of this work comes from within the individual’s own internalised attitudes, promoting better behaviours and getting people to shut down harmful situations. But I won’t make excuses for those gaps in the thread. I won’t tell you it can’t be done. I won’t list all the good things that have been done and then apologise as an afterthought for what couldn’t be done.

This work doesn’t end here and it won’t end here.

The rest of this work lies in ensuring students, teachers, parents and the overall community alike are empowered, willing to take action, to speak up for women, to go against the grain and to refuse to be bystanders. It’s for people to not turn their heads, to believe women when they speak out and to take immediate action when they do.

I too, am not absolved of blame here. Despite trying to, I also haven’t yet found a complete, thorough solution. And yet, I, like many others who came before me and many who will come after, I strive to further tackle and develop solutions.

The school followed through on what they said they’d do with me. We had a discussion and decided on some implemented changes. Will it be enough? Unlikely. Will it fix the problem? Unlikely. Will it make a significant impact? Also unlikely.

But this issue isn’t solved with one discussion nor can it be resolved with one big push. It’s about undoing many hundreds of years of regressive, patriarchal, misogynistic attitude. It’s about death by a thousand cuts.

I don’t think it’s enough yet. I hope one day it could be. And all I can do right now is continue to try, working with the school in what ways I can to implement changes and working within myself to critically address how I can do more as an individual .

I also don’t think I can confidently say that significant change has occurred since the article last September. But slowly, truly ever so slowly, the wheels are in motion, and people are beginning to listen. Perhaps at this point in time that’s all I can ask for, is for people to listen, and for one day, to be able to recognise the problem before it even has time to come to fruition. For one day, everyone to feel they have a voice and a right to be heard. There’s so much here to be addressed and to be done.

Ultimately, I won’t fool myself or you by pretending everything is fine, that everything has drastically changed in this department, that we found some kind of miracle and everything is fine now.

But it’s a start.

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Claire Green
Claire Green is a Year 12 student currently studying at Mount Scopus Memorial College.

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