Our Streets Now is a grassroots campaign set up by two young women “demanding the right of women and girls to feel and be safe in public space”. Its aim is to end public sexual harassment in the UK by making it a criminal offence and to change “the culture that allows it”. Their petition to the government minister for women and equalities attracted 100,000 signatures in less than 100 days. Their efforts have since developed into a wider campaign for change, including a focus on what is taught in relationships education in schools.
Our Streets Now began with two sisters, then aged 15 and 21, who decided to take a stand against what they describe as the normalisation of public sexual harassment and the terrible impact that it has on women and girls. On their website they describe:
- how they feel scared walking home at night
- how they feel anxious in an empty train carriage
- how they feel sexualised in their school uniform
One of the young women, Gemma, has described her first experience of public sexual harassment when she was still in primary school:
I was then, and am now, a child. I was walking down my local high street in broad daylight. A car slowed down beside me, and a man leaned out to make crude, sexual remarks about my body that I didn’t even understand. I don’t remember many things about being 11 years old, but this incident has stayed with me.Gemma Tutton, Why I’m campaigning to make public sexual harassment a crime
Their website sketches out a framework for how to bring about change, combining education and awareness-raising with legislation to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence.
The Our Streets Now campaign chimes with the aims of the life-based learning Relationships theme, which focuses on primary-age children learning how to form fulfilling, empathetic and lasting relationships based on dignity and respect. Children need to be learning about the basic building blocks of healthy relationships — awareness of body language and other non-verbal forms of communication; understanding the potential impact of the words we speak and the way we speak them; the universal moral imperative to treat others fairly — in their primary school years.
Relationships education has been compulsory in primary schools in England and Wales since September 2020. However, we argued in a recent post that relationships education needs to be a central focus of the curriculum if we are truly to bring about “a fundamental, irreversible and much-needed change in our culture”. That is why the life-based learning approach includes Relationships as one of nine themes that will drive all learning in primary school.