This year was my 3rd year talking on The Scholars Programme at The Europaeum on 15 March. On the surface it might seem like an unlikely audience for Abianda. But, far from it. The 30 + doctoral candidates I spent the afternoon with are focused on "shaping the future of Europe", and are more than likely going to go on to influence contemporary European policy, possibly advising future governments and global leaders.
Spending the afternoon then, talking to them about the realities of young women's lives was an opportunity not to be missed. We focused on understanding the experiences of young women affected by 'gangs' and county lines and what stops them accessing services. We explored these barriers as symptoms of systemic inequality, inadequate provision, and legislation and policy that does not recognise the harm young women experience, or provide a gendered response to
The scholars shared ideas on how social policy either helps or hinders young women's lives. Sadly, more often than not, it's the latter. In sharing Abianda's principles and model of practice, we were able to reflect on the importance of developing 'bottom up' policy. As Andrew Graham, Chair of the Europaeum, reflected in the foyer after the session, this idea isn't rocket science. The important nuance, however, is what Abianda has at the heart of its practice, which is that those affected by a problem are best placed to find the solutions to it . At Abianda, we believe young women are the experts . While being loyal to our participatory principles isn’t straight forward, we are driven by the premise that if you want to shape services, policy and legislation that fits with the realities of young women's lives and set them up to succeed, young women must be equal partners in identifying the problems and finding the solutions.
This year was, as always, incredibly stimulating. Of course, escaping from London and being in the historical surroundings of Oxford was a treat. It was lovely to get out for a day trip with Tessa, our new Head of Fundraising. Both of us a bit giddy in the Harry Potter surroundings of Oxford University! (Our kids would have loved it). But even more giddy about getting the prospect of getting the experiences of young women into Russell Group universities, and amongst some of the brightest policy minds in Europe. Abianda's small effort to bring about systemic change for
the young women and girls we serve.
Founder and CEO, Abianda