EducAid and the A-Z of Consent for children in Sierra Leone
EducAid www.educaid.org.uk is an education organisation working in Sierra Leone to strengthen education, particularly for those who are least likely to access schooling without our support. We run a small network of our own schools and a range of school improvement projects with partner schools across the country.
Respectful relationships are the foundation for all our school improvement work. Consent has become a key part of how we support staff and students in their thinking about how we can respect each other. In fact, explaining the notions of consent and body autonomy to children is crucial for their development and well-being, as it forms the foundation for healthy relationships and understanding boundaries.
It was through our research that we connected with the Consent Coalition http://nottssvss.org.uk/consent-coalition/ a group of organisations creating big conversations on consent in the UK. One of their campaigns is the A to Z of Consent campaign, which looks at consent in different situations. Recognising the value of the tool, we contacted them to find out how we could do something similar in Sierra Leone and what this might look like. We were really pleased with their willingness to share their resource and information.
Whole Staff Meeting
Every year, the staff at EducAid get together for a week of shared thinking and learning. On the agenda this year, the A to Z of Consent was used to discuss how consent is foundational to all respectful relationships.
The resource provided a great entry point for staff to reflect on and increase their understanding of consent and how it should be discussed with children and young people. The enthusiasm for the idea of the alphabet approach resulted in some staff proposing to adapt the materials for age-appropriate use in primary and secondary schools.
The A to Z of Consent for Primary Schools
In our schools, we teach our students about body autonomy, that is their right to control what happens to their bodies. We explain that they have the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies, including who can touch them, how they express themselves physically, and what they do with their bodies. We discuss with children and young people about body boundaries, bodily integrity, safe and unsafe touches and the importance of consent. Our objective is to empower students to speak up when they feel uncomfortable or violated and ensure that they have the support and guidance to assert their boundaries confidently.
Over the years, we have developed strategies and teaching methods to introduce these topics in a way that is age-appropriate for the various. We are pleased to say that a new, adapted version of the A to Z of Consent is now part of this range of tools for use in our own primary school, and will be introduced to our partner schools. The version is user-friendly, enabling conversations in schools and communities that are key to building strong foundations for a culture of respect.
The Coalition’s A to Z of Consent was also used during EducAid’s Women’s Weekend, a gathering of our female staff that included a number of wives and partners of male staff. This event was organised to promote equality and explore strategies to increase gender-responsiveness.
One of the activities involved the use of the A to Z of Consent to discuss ideas associated with each letter. The women found the tool incredibly helpful to unpack key concepts and enable open discussions where they could share their opinions freely. They created posters to support presentations that led to lively discussions about their bodily autonomy and the recognition of their rights in various interpersonal contexts, from professional relations to sexual interactions and intimate relationships.
“Understanding of our right to bodily autonomy, to bodily integrity, to safety, is so important for children and young people. EducAid has used a range of tools to support our children’s clarity on these issues for many years and have been delighted to have access to the Consent A to Z to approach the key ideas in a different way. We appreciate the Coalition’s willingness to share their materials with us and look forward to adapting and using them in many more settings as we move forward.” – Dr Miriam Mason-Sesay, Country Director, EducAid Sierra Leone
“The Consent Coalition is excited about our new international friendship with EducAid. We are really pleased to have been able to share the A-Z of Consent with EducAid and to see it being developed in this way. We once overheard a member of the public say ‘the A-Z of Consent literally saves lives.’ We hope that in sharing this resource ensures that this happens across the world.” Consent Coalition Manager Louise Graham
Social Media Details:
Consent Coalition: @ConsentInNotts