Group in UK lobbying for law on educating children about their rights

LONDON: A women’s rights group is campaigning to help push legislation through the British parliament that would make it mandatory to teach children about their rights. The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) hopes this can help issues such as forced marriages and violence against women.

Staff at the IKWRO office receive calls for help from 2,500 women and girls in the UK each year who are at risk of violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). Educating girls about their rights is something that needs to be in the classroom, according to IKWRO’s founder, Diana Nammi.

“Schools need to tell children, to educate the children that if you are at risk of forced marriage, FGM, child marriage, it is violence against you. You must report it, you must seek help and the school needs to be ready for providing this help. So I think it should be part of the school curriculum,” she said.

Ms Nammi, who is originally from Iran, established IKRWO in 2002 and just this month she was named Barclays Woman of the Year for her work helping other women from immigrant communities.

“Child marriage, forced marriage, and different forms of honour violence including acid attack, imprisonment…very common within the South Asian community. So when we talk about education for every child in the school, definitely children from South Asian community need to be involved,” said Ms Nammi.

Britain’s major teaching unions are also supporting the legislation going through parliament that would make teaching young people about their rights – when it comes to honour violence, forced marriage and FGM – compulsory in every school, and training school staff on how to help students at risk.

Teacher Beth Fordham said: “It needs to be a national thing, that’s what I think the government needs to recognise, that this is a problem that’s happening in our society now and they need to take action to make sure we’re safeguarding the children.”

Laila, who does not wish to be identified, ran away from home with her sisters 12 years ago because of the threat of forced marriage. Today, the trainee surgeon is supporting the IKWRO campaign, knowing first-hand what a difference such education could have made when she was at school.

“They need support, they need training and they need to have policies that they can sort of follow, and that would also encourage the girls to be able to trust the system,” she said.

Campaigners are hoping parliament will pass the legislation before the general election next year. It is thought that some religious and community groups will object to this legislation, taking the view that this is interference in cultural matters. However activists are determined to take their campaign into schools, seeing education as the key to helping young girls at risk.

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