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Theirworld IWD Event 2019
It’s not every day I go to an event with the likes of Dawn French, Yvette Cooper and David Tennant. This week I found myself in the very grand settings of the Connaught Rooms in London, as a guest of Sarah Brown, founder of Theirworld, at their International Women’s Day event.
Theirworld is a global education charity, focused on mobilising support to ensure every child has the best start in life. I met Sarah last year with a group of Future Arts Centres colleagues, when she generously agreed to talk to us about leading change. I can’t think of anyone better at campaigning for change, evidenced through the achievements of Theirworld – just the week before we met, the United Nations General Assembly had backed a $10bn plan to get 200 million children into school.
Guests at the event were invited to contribute their ideas about how we can ensure girls can access education. It was interesting to hear perspectives and lived experiences from people around my table, including the need to start within families, through raising the value of educating girls with parents and carers. Without both girls themselves, and those around them, understanding the value of education for women then it is practically impossible to address the injustices that follow.
This led to a discussion about role models, and my contribution, which was about the need to change the stories we tell. Everyone loves a fairytale but if we continue to reinforce stereotypes, about wicked witches, cruel stepmothers and princesses saved by a prince, then children will grow up accepting these as ‘normal’.
Here at ARC, we’ve been reflecting on our vision, which is absolutely about changing the stories that are both told and heard. We believe that the world is a better place when people understand each other. But we recognise that the world is dominated by the stories, views and ideas of a very small group of people. We use arts and cultural activity to support different people to tell their stories, giving them a voice and ensuring they are heard, because we think this can help grow our connections to other people, enhancing our understanding and enjoyment of the world.
It was great to have the importance of this reinforced by people around the table.
Along with celebrating the achievements of women this week, it’s also been National Apprenticeship Week - the perfect time to shout about ARC’s brilliant apprentices. We first began our apprenticeship programme in 2014. Since then more than a dozen apprentices have worked with us – and apprentices currently make up around 10% of our workforce. It has been by far the most effective way of recruiting and developing staff, and many have gone on to secure fulltime permanent positions with us. Our Deputy Technical Manager, Community Events & Engagement Coordinator and our Marketing Assistant all joined ARC as apprentices, and our Assistant Catering Manager graduated as an adult apprentice having started out as a café bar assistant. There are so many benefits – to the organisation and to the wider sector – of playing a proactive part in developing the future workforce. The thing I value most about our apprentices is the energy, passion and fresh perspectives they bring. As young people who have grown up in our local community, they provide valuable insight that informs our work. We just need to listen.