Working with young women as they enter their teenage years, in any society, is of paramount importance and key to impacting on wider issues such as economic development.
Young women often have the least access to education, the lowest self-esteem and are most vulnerable to issues around abuse and exploitation compared to young men of the same age.
Young women often struggle with maintaining relationships, resolving conflict, having a positive group identity and achieving their full potential when compared to their male counterparts throughout their teen years. Young women’s achievement can also be hindered when working in a mixed gender group in this important, transitional time of their lives.
I have worked for 12 years in a variety of settings with children and young people in both the UK and other countries such as Australia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Uganda and South Africa. The organisations I have worked for have varied from houses for ex-street children in Brazil to delivering domestic abuse prevention work in the UK. My experience has led me to live a life that I am asking of the young women I work with – out of my comfort zone, exploring interests old and new, being honest and tackling conflict, being humble in asking for help, smiling when someone makes you feel small and incapable of any given task, working hard to get things done and in exploring how things can be done… whilst making sure I do things that make me happy along the way.
Having worked for four years as a Young Women’s Development Worker in a community centre in Cambridge, I wanted to establish an alternative model of engaging with young women across the city. Most traditional approaches revolve around positive activities or social groupings which, in my opinion, have limited impact on tackling the key issues young women face.
Turtle Dove runs or supports events for individuals, companies, local authorities and charities. The event ‘staff’ are young women whose referral agencies believe would benefit from experiencing work in a customer focused context within a supportive social venture.
The young women form teams with Turtle Dove staff to plan and deliver contracts. This sense of collective responsibility plus tangible outcomes for our customers provides the focus for learning, work experience and team building.
For many of the young women it is a unique opportunity to experience a range of work settings and tasks in a supportive yet challenging environment. Of course, for the event to go smoothly, a lot of preparation work and individual support occurs. While delivering a fantastic event for our customers is crucial, so is raising the confidence, self-esteem and skill set of the young women involved.