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  • Shashwat, age 18

Scottish Young People Create Change: Shashwat's Story


Above: a young person makes a pledge to end gender-based violence as part of the Scottish Young People Create Change initiative. For more information on SYPCC visit www.sypcc.org.

On Thursday 10 September, Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC) , Edinburgh Women’s Aid, Shakti Women’s Aid, and LGBT Youth Scotland came together to host an event called ‘Scottish Young People Create Change. The event aimed to inspire young people to create change in the area of Gender-Based Violence.

One of the keynote speakers at the event was Shashwat, a member of the ‘Do You Know’ theatre project, where 8 talented s6 theatre students joined with ERCC’s sexual violence prevention project to create theatre pieces exploring sexual violence and how we can prevent it. In this blog, taken from Shashwat’s keynote address, he reflects on his experience as a member of the 'Do You Know' theatre project, and advice he would give to other young people on how they can create change.

By Shashwat, age 18

My experience as a member of The ‘Do You Know’ theatre group has been a really fantastic experience to be honest. At first, I only did this project just so that I would be able to stick around with the people I enjoyed doing drama with in S6, as we were not able to do advanced higher in our school, but I’m glad that I did it because it completely changed my views on this topic and changed me as a person.

Let’s start from the beginning shall we? I believe it was September last year that Nadine [ERCC’s Sexual Violence Prevention Worker] came to our drama teacher looking for young people to work with her in her project, and our drama teacher thought we were the perfect pupils to do this project as we had the most experience in drama.

After we started this project, Nadine started giving us information about all the topics such as sexual violence, gender based violence etc., and according to that we made short theatre pieces portraying those topics.

I was completely shocked about what I’ve been taught. I started looking at everything in a different perspective after that. Doing this project has given me knowledge and confidence, it has made me a better person and now I can speak up if there is something that I disagree with, hoping to make a positive change in someone’s life.

Things that I thought were acceptable before, now to me they are completely unacceptable because I have realised the effects of it. One of the main examples of this is name calling: “Slut”, “Whore”, “Gay”. People might just take it as a joke but what they never see or realise is how the person on the receiving end of the name calling feels. When people use the word 'gay' as a bad thing it reinforces a wider culture of homophobia. And when people use the word 'slut' it reinforces wider gender inequality. These things are unacceptable and need to change.

After the success of the play, we made four of the key scenes into short films produced by Media Co-op, and adapted by Catriona MacInnes. The four scenes focus on some of the key things we feel are affecting young people in regards to sexual violence. One of my favourite films of these is called ‘Sexpectations’. In this film we see a young man and a young woman being pressured by their friends into having sex when they’re not ready. We made this film because we wanted to talk about the pressure and expectations on young people when it comes to sex, and the pressure on people to look and act in a certain way. While we were making this piece we recognised that porn at the moment is playing a major role in teenagers lives, and we wanted to talk about and show how it presents a completely false image of sex compared to real life. As you might know mainstream porn focuses on girls being thrashed around by guys and in general treated really badly, and this promotes violence against women and girls as it sends a damaging message about how to treat women.

We wanted this film to start a conversation about how you don’t have to look a particular way or do a particular thing and shouldn't be peer pressured into doing anything, and also should not peer pressure anyone else into doing anything. We wanted to send a message and raise awareness about the damaging impacts of porn and the false message it sends to young people. And last of all we wanted to raise awareness about the pressure and expectations put on young men and women, and maybe help take some of that pressure off young people.

There are many different ways to stop gender based violence, but my advice to other young people who want to do something is to start being an active bystander.

If you want to make a change then raise your voice, don't just stand there….. do something.

If you see someone being a victim of gender based violence, help them, support them rather than just turning away.

I know it can be hard to speak out in front of people when there is a whole culture opposing you but just know that you are right and they are not.

It is really important that we do this as what we do is our future so if we change now it’s good for our future too. It is also hard for young people to speak up as people often ignore the views and opinions of young people as people say they are inexperienced or don’t know what they are talking about, but just remember you have the right to speak up, and keep on speaking until someone hears you and you make a positive change.


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Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre offers free and confidential support to women, all members of the trans community, non-binary people and young people aged 12 -18 who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives.

 

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