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Girls in the Lead

On 21st – 23rd April 2017, Mulberry School For Girls hosted our first ever residential girls’ leadership development programme, Girl Leading, in support of Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn campaign. Developed by our Women’s Education Officer, Holly Green, Girl Leading offered 65 girls attending secondary state schools in London and Somerset the chance to develop their leadership potential.

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Girl Leading was attended by 15 Mulberry students, and 50 students from 10 secondary state schools across London and Somerset. We’d like to say a huge thank you to our partner schools who joined us for the weekend, and our particular thanks go to the teachers who accompanied their students, providing fantastic support and guidance during the entire trip:

  • Isaac Newton Academy
  • Bow School
  • St Philomena’s Catholic High School For Girls
  • Stanchester Academy
  • Wadham School
  • Lister Community School
  • Green Spring Academy Shoreditch
  • Clapton Girls’ Academy
  • Plashet School
  • Ursuline Catholic High School For Girls

The programme took place against the stunning backdrop of the Quantock Hills in Somerset, at Kilve Court residential education centre. Students attended a range of talks and hands-on workshops led by expert speakers and facilitators, took part in some adventurous activities led by the team at Kilve Court, and benefited from a range of teaching resources written and developed by the Women’s Education Office. Through these activities, and through spending time together in a shared residential environment, students on the programme were challenged and encouraged to develop their own leadership skills and their own distinctive leadership style.

Students ended the weekend by planning their own Personal Leadership Challenges: projects to be carried out in their school groups to support the work of the Let Girls Learn campaign in increasing girls’ access to education. PLCs give students the chance to continue independently developing the skills they learned at Girl Leading, and give them the perfect opportunity to support other girls around the world who are denied the right to an education, and therefore denied the chance to become leaders in their own right. Through supporting girls’ access to education, girls at Girl Leading are using their own leadership to help build a world in which every girl can fulfil her potential.

We were joined at Girl Leading by a fantastic range of speakers and workshop facilitators:

Miranda Lowe, Senior Curator at the Natural HistoryMuseum

Suraiya Chowdhury, Diabetes UK, owner of Paper and

Rose events and dessert company, and trainer on the Global Classrooms London Model United Nations programme

Sotez Chowdhury, Head of Organising and Campaigns at WeCanWin

Eliza Rebeiro, Founder of Lives Not Knives

Halla Gunnarsdóttir, Head of Policy and Partnerships at the

Women’s Equality Party

Kat Banyard, Founder and Director of UKFeminista

Georgia Rigg and Rachael Gibbons, RECLAIM Project

Lisiane Ndong, Director of Sapelle Group and Founder of Nilare

Sarah Blumenau, Voice Coach

Deborah Brown, Head of Enterprise Development at CAMFED

Elli Moody and Emma Brodey, Girlguiding UK

We had two fantastic panels on ‘women in leadership’ and ‘leaders of social change’, looking at the issues affecting women leaders and the ways in which leaders use their leadership to drive forward positive social change. We also had a range of workshops on self-esteem and self-care, communication skills and public speaking, community organising and negotiation, leadership by working-class women, campaigning, girls’ education and entrepreneurship. We are hugely grateful to our speakers for giving up their time and expertise. We are also particularly grateful to Women of the Future for helping us to connect with speakers.

Girl Leading was developed in partnership with a Student Leadership committee made up of students in Years 9, 10 and 12. Students had to undergo a rigorous application process, including a written application and interview, in order to earn a place on the committee. The committee met weekly, with additional meetings for sub-committees, and together with our Women’s Education Officer they planned and developed every aspect of Girl Leading.

Students wrote questions for panellists and ‘content guides’ for speakers and facilitators to help them prepare for their panels and workshops; they co-constructed a series of activities to teach students about different leadership styles and role models; they helped to design visuals and literature for the conference, including tote bags, t-shirts, badges and a 53 page programme and workbook. Students helped to select and invite speakers, made key decisions about the structure of

the programme, and gave enormously helpful insights into the issues young women would want to explore at Girl Leading. Students also supported other students during the event in a pastoral capacity, and some girls hosted panel discussions and talks. Since our return from Girl Leading the committee has been working hard on a detailed event evaluation to help us to refine our practice for future events.

We are very proud of the work our Student Leadership Committee has done, and we want to congratulate them on a truly inspiring achievement. 

Dr Vanessa Ogden, CEO of the Mulberry Schools Trust, would like to warmly thank the governing body of Mulberry School For Girls and the Board of Trustees of the Mulberry Schools Trust; the Women’s Education and Extended Learning Team; and the 10 members of Mulberry staff who attended Girl Leading and supported all students and staff throughout the course of the weekend, for their constant dedication to the cause of girls’ education. 

Well done to our Student Leadership Committee

Year 9

Samia Chowdhury

Nabilah Khan

Imaan Shorif

Ruqayyah Tahsin

Sahra Said

Year 10

Tasnim Radiyy

Mahreen Chaiwalla

Sadia Kamaly

Hafsa Rumi

Khadiza Begum

Syeda Khatun

Year 12

Hafzah Mohamed

Ayesha Begum

Abida Sultana

Aniqa Anjum

Sanzida Yasmin

Girl Leading is part-funded by BBC Children In Need – we are enormously grateful to this wonderful charity for their support, and for all that they do to champion young people.