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'The most exciting thing that has happened to me'

By Canan Iscan

Attending a youth debate in the Houses of Parliament last month, with others from my secondary school, to discuss issues of violence against women, was perhaps the most exciting thing that has happened to me. It was all about young peoples' opinions; it was about us.

I was nervous at first. Coming from a poorer area of London and being a 14-year-old, I was not too sure if they would take me seriously. We were seated in a committee room where the discussion was to take place. Looking around me I saw that everyone was relaxed and it was not so bad after all. I felt grown up and mature; a burst of invigorating sensation filled my body. I always wanted to do something like this: be involved and help people. We were seated and people from different areas of Waltham Forest starting filing in, even the MP Stella Creasy! It was such an amazing opportunity for me to see a wider range of different people who were so passionate about this subject.

We were warmly welcomed and the discussion began. The panel answered all of our questions which were a great help to the young adults like me who were there. Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, one of the panel members, gave expertise on how the law gets involved in situations where violence against women is taking place; I enjoyed this the most as I have an interest in that area. 

We talked about forced marriage (FM), domestic violence, honour-based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM), and young people’s attitudes towards violence and relationships.

Towards the end of the discussion, with my heart beating rapidly, I gathered my wits to speak.  

"Why are we teaching young women not to get raped, and not teaching young men not to rape?"

I was inspired to speak up by an inspiring article I had read:

When I was in college, a teacher once said that all women live by a ‘rape schedule.’ I was baffled by the term, but as she went on to explain, I got really freaked out. Because I realised that I knew exactly what she was talking about. And you do too. Because of their constant fear of rape (conscious or not), women do things throughout the day to protect themselves. Whether it’s carrying our keys in our hands as we walk home, locking our car doors as soon as we get in, or not walking down certain streets, we take precautions. While taking precautions is certainly not a bad idea, the fact that certain things women do are so ingrained into our daily routines is truly disturbing. It’s essentially like living in a prison - all the time. We can’t assume that we’re safe anywhere: not on the streets, not in our homes. And we’re so used to feeling unsafe that we don’t even see that there’s something seriously wrong up about it. – Jessica Valenti

Overall, Maslaha’s vision and mission to help people is all what I stand for as a human being. After this event, it made me realise how important their work is and that I had wanted to do something for a long time, but wasn’t so sure how or where to start.

Maslaha gave me an amazing opportunity to contribute and begin. It changed my perspective of things. I have talked to many young girls and boys on their thoughts on the topics above as well as Maslaha as a whole and they have all been very supportive. It is a chance for young people to express their opinions and raise their voice, something which is not done so often. I wish to carry this on further and get more young people involved.