Having recently completed a summer internship at GenPol, I can now look back and reflect on my experiences. My role was to conduct research on whichever major projects were happening at GenPol HQ that week. I had known that GenPol was a broad and dynamic think tank, but it was not until I began my internship that I realised just how many different projects and ideas were on the go. This was something that really struck me, not only because of GenPol’s of relatively compact team, but also because despite having fingers in many different pies, the team remained organised and focused. GenPol is a bold and ambitious social enterprise and I feel proud and privileged to have been a part of it.
The work I carried out varied from week to week. The first week was focused on a project in collaboration with the African Technology Business Network. This was in relation to a new proposal that highlighted the importance of digital literacy, with regards to 6 chosen African countries. The project was concerned with how the increasing gender gap is widened by the lack of digital literacy amongst young girls, putting them even further behind their male counterparts.
I then was put on a project to study sexual harassment and bullying in the Arts. This covered a huge range of industries from music to theatre, to art and writing and much more. I uncovered research regarding what is commonly known as the ‘Superstar Effect’. This is when certain people high up in the industry are seemingly ‘allowed’ to behave often highly inappropriately due to the idea of these people as ‘creative geniuses’. In other words, their actions are excused because of the teleological consequences: their ‘masterpiece’. As the Arts are highly unregulated and saturated with freelancers, no formal structure is in place for reports to be made in the instance of abuse. We also came up with a ‘business case’ for why it is important that this abuse must stop: women are so often weighed down by this negative treatment, that it so often infiltrates their work. We thought to ourselves, how much more creative talent could we unlock by allowing women the same freedom many men have, to simply create, absolved of their negative experiences?
The majority of my internship with GenPol was focused on how Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at schools, and consent workshops at universities can be improved. This was for an upcoming policy meeting with the Department for Education. This meeting would in part inform a publication that I was fortunate enough to become a co-author of: GenPol’s most recent report on Consent Training and Sexual Violence Prevention in U.K. Universities.
Despite the increase in consent training on a national level, the statistics remain harrowing. 70% of female students and recent graduates have experienced sexual violence, whilst 8% have been raped at university. Through dialogue with practitioners in the field, as well as our workshops, we quickly discovered that consent workshops were being seen as increasingly effective methods in preventing sexual violence at universities, with more universities adopting similar practices year on year. We recognised that universities not only have a crucial role to play in assuring their students are protected from sexual violence, but a responsibility to do so in order to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all their students. Furthermore, we recommended that university staff members attend compulsory training on gender-based violence, with specially trained therapists to support survivors of sexual violence.
GenPol has taught me the value of high quality varied work. I had always been one of the only people in my family and friendship circle to see the infiltration of patriarchy in everything, whether it would be whilst watching TV, reading an advert on the tube, or even just walking down the street. Working at GenPol pushed this ability even further to look at everything, and I mean everything, from a gender lens. I further recognised how questions of patriarchy, gender and sexism are embedded in the fabric of our society. Those at GenPol are aware of this at all times, and I am too.
Now more than ever.
Summer 2018 Intern