On Thursday 16th February, Mulberry had the tremendous honour of hosting a visit from Tina Tchen, internationally renowned lawyer and former Chief of Staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama. Following two days of sight-seeing in London with Mulberry students and staff, Ms Tchen delivered our second annual Education Lecture at the Royal Society of Arts.
Safe, Sustainable Seas
On 13th and 14th December, Mulberry hosted London state schools and international schools for the first of our two annual Model United Nations conferences. This year’s winter conference focused on the theme of safe, sustainable seas, includingtopics such as maritime piracy, marine litter and climate change. Within the MUN programme, students are able to learn about the structure and functions of the United Nations through assuming the roles of UN council members. Students are allocated to countries in advance, and are expected to spend considerable time researching their country’s stance on the conference topic. Students also undertake training on the processes and procedures of UN committees. On the day of the conference, students are required to engage in fast-paced, often intense debates with council members representing other countries. They must represent the opinions of their allocated country, even if these opinions do not align with their personal attitude towards the conference topic. MUN provides a stimulating atmosphere in which students are challenged to hone their research, debate and presentation skills, and to thoroughly understand crucial aspects of international politics and diplomacy.
Our MulberryTalks programme was relaunched for this academic year on Wednesday November 30th, led by guest speaker Ruth-Anne Lenga, Head of Academic Programmes at the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education.
MulberryTalks are interactive seminars designed to bring our school community together in lively intellectual debate. Speakers give a presentation on a topic of their choice, followed by a Q&A session in which students and staff alike are encouraged to participate as actively as possible.
Ruth-Anne Lenga gave a fascinatingpresentation of the life of Dr JanuszKorczak. Korczak is widely recognised asa pioneer of children’s rights. He ran anorphanage in Poland in the early twentiethcentury where his charges were treatedwith the utmost respect and kindness:Korczak placed the rights of the child at the forefront of his practice, drawing up a set of principles which recognised a child’s right to dignity, respect, love and fairness. He instituted a children’s court run by children at his orphanage, where their peers and the adults entrusted with their care could be brought to trial in the event of an injustice. He had a visionary perspective on children who misbehaved or engaged in antisocial or delinquent behaviour, insisting that no child should be branded a lost cause on the basis of his actions. In particular, he recognised a child’s right to be treated with respect, and said that children ‘are not people of tomorrow, but people of today’: a child is valuable, important, and worthy of respect and dignity at all times, not just when they reach adulthood. When the Nazis invaded Poland during the Second World War, and the orphanage was relocated to the Jewish ghetto, Korczak worked against appalling conditions to ensure that the children in his care had their basic needs provided for as far as was possible, and continued to be treated with love and kindness. Despite efforts by his supporters to rescue him from transportation to the Nazi death camps, Korczak refused to leave his children, and was eventually taken to his death in the gas chambers with 250 orphans. Ruth-Anne Lenga traced the legacy of Korczak’s vision to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is underpinned by many of the principles Korczak first articulated. She also showed how Korczak’s principles have influenced the most progressive modern thinking on teaching and caring for children, relating this directly to the kind of teaching and learning we practise at Mulberry. As our Citizenship students begin learning about human rights, and our MUN delegates prepare to debate the treatment of refugee children at the Safe, Sustainable Seas conference, this year’s inaugural MulberryTalk was a rich resource indeed. We would like to thank Ruth-Anne Lenga and the Holocaust Education Centre at UCL for a wonderful start to this year’s MulberryTalks programme.
Mulberry is proud to carry forward the work of Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn campaign in the UK; and, on Tuesday 11th October, our relationship with the current First Lady of the United States continued as we were the UK host for the first ever global Skype conversation between school girls across the world and the education activists working alongside them, an event organised by Glamour Magazine.
Students from Mulberry and Elizabeth Garret Anderson school gathered in the Mulberry and Bigland Green theatre for this historic event. The programme began with a Q&A with British actress Ruth Wilson, who talked frankly and with great passion about the need for complex female roles, the importance of tackling sexism in the arts and performance industry, and the importance of helping all girls to develop confidence and a strong sense of self – an area in which schools are a particularly important resource for young women.
The Skype call then went live, and we were able to connect with girls in Tanzania, Cambodia, Peru and Washington DC. After a round of introductions, we listened to an interview between Michelle Obama and the actress and activist Yara Shahidi, hosted by Cindi Leive, Editor in Chief of Glamour Magazine. Mrs Obama was typically inspiring, revisiting the themes of the speech she gave at Mulberry when launching her Let Girls Learn campaign in the UK: she reinforced the transformative power of education in a girl’s life and the lives of her family and community; she stressed the importance of girls currently in education using the platforms and opportunities they are given to advocate on behalf of their sisters around the world who are currently denied access to such an education; and she placed great emphasis on the need for women and girls to support one another, saying ‘We can all rise together. We have to be a team of women and girls who love each other’. Yara Shahidi, herself applying for university places in the US, reflected on the difficulty of maintaining self-confidence when the world tells girls to know their place. She stressed to girls listening that they are ‘allowed to take up space’, and that they should resist the patriarchal interpretation of their confidence as unseemly aggression – a message the First Lady enthusiastically seconded.
After this interview, girls around the world were given a voice, placed at the forefront of this essential conversation. One student from each country gave a short speech about the importance of education for herself and her peers and the challenges unique to their situation. It is hard to put into words how it felt to see and hear our sisters around the world, to listen to them as they reflected on the role that school plays in their lives. It was one of the most powerful moments in Mulberry’s long history of pioneering women’s education.
Our own Ayesha Begum, 12GW, spoke on behalf of girls at school in the UK. Ayesha gave a speech that she had written herself, in which she reflected on the challenges that face girls at school in areas like ours, where socio-economic deprivation is a significant barrier to success. Without flinching from the very real obstacles that stand in the way of UK girls from the most disadvantaged communities, Ayesha also celebrated the good fortune enjoyed by UK girls, who have high-quality state-funded education available to them from ages 5-18. Ayesha represented the determination of all of her peers to be a force for good in the world when she said that girls in the UK have a responsibility to fight for their sisters around the world who are denied the chance to go to school. She outlined the work that Mulberry is doing in support of Let Girls Learn, and asked Mrs Obama ‘Is this what you had in mind when you visited our school?’ The Former First Lady’s answer? A resounding ‘Yes!’
We are once again honoured to join Michelle Obama and her team in the fight for girls’ rights across the world, and incredibly proud of the energy and determination of our students as they rise to the challenge of ensuring that every girl has the chance to go to school. The US Presidency is changing hands against a backdrop of global uncertainty – but our students, and the global community of girls at school of whom they form a part, continue to inspire us with hope for the future. Mrs Obama is preparing to hand over her post as First Lady of the United States, but will continue to be an advocate for girls’ education after she has left the White House – and we will continue to support her and this, her crucially important cause, in the UK.
Mulberry has been working in partnership with The Female Lead, an organisation who are striving to provide a more diverse range of female role models for girls and young women.
On Tuesday 3rd May, we participated in a short film The Female Lead made to raise awareness of why girls themselves want access to a broader range of role models. Mulberry girls from Years 9, 10 and 11 were asked their opinions on which women mainstream media chooses to platform, and why; who their own role models are, and whether they feel those role models get enough positive media attention; and why they think role models are important.
Students talked about a range of issues, including the way that women’s bodies are over-sexualised by the media, and their achievements and intellect underplayed; and the way in which female athletes and intellectuals are not given as much attention as actresses, singers and TV stars.
Ayesha Begum 11L, Anika Chowdhury 10L, Moriom Abdin 10Y, and Shaima Begum 9E gave mature and insightful answers to all of the interview questions, helping to create a film that gets right to the heart of this issue.
On Wednesday 8th June, three of our incoming Year 9 prefects were invited to attend a panel event hosted by The Female Lead at the offices of the ad tech company Unruly on Princelet Street, E1. Hosted by Bea Appleby, Editor at The Female Lead, the panel discussed the importance of role modelling in the lives of young women, the current lack of a diverse range of role models drawn from different career sectors and life backgrounds, and the likely positive impacts of raising a generation of girls who have regular access to a range of inspiring female role models. Our Head Teacher Dr Vanessa Ogden spoke on the panel, advocating for the importance of role models who reflect girls’ specific backgrounds: she said that role modelling is most effective when a girl’s role models come from an ethnic, cultural and/or socio-economic background similar to her own, because that provides her with clear proof that she can be successful.
Our newly elected Head Prefect of the Lower School, Mahreen Chaiwalla 9E, joined the panel in the second half of the event to give her own perspective on the importance of role models to young women, and how her own role models have enriched her life.
Our thanks go to The Female Lead for platforming the voices of Mulberry girls and championing girls’ right to a successful and happy future!
From 9th – 13th May, eight students in Year 9 attended the Global Classrooms International Model United Nations Conference in New York. Shazia Anjoom 10M, Farzana Aktar 10L, Rifat Khadijah 10U, Nafeesah Hussain 10L, Roda Ibrahim 10L, Nasima Akthar 10U, Habibah Begum Ali 10L and Taznina Choudhury 10B represented the UK at this prestigious international event.
The students were allocated Honduras as their delegate country. In the run up to the conference, they carried out extensive research on Honduras’ stance on major political and socio-economic issues, thoroughly immersing themselves in the diplomatic context of the country. During the conference itself, they played the role of UN ambassadors in a simulated diplomatic context, taking part in challenging debates with international delegates representing other countries and attempting to reach effective resolutions with other countries and groups of countries.
Whilst in New York, they explored the city’s rich cultural and artistic life. Students visited key cultural and heritage sites including the Rockefeller Centre, the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of the American Indian, and a city bus tour.
Mulberry is the lead UK school for the United Nations Global Classrooms Project, and delivers one of the most extensive Model United Nations Programmes in the country. The second of our two annual conferences for London schools and international schools took place on the 12th and 13th July.
This year’s summer conference focused on the theme of global health, drawing together key global public health issues such as child and infant health and mortality, disease epidemics and mental health.
Within the MUN programme, students are able to learn about the structure and functions of the United Nations through assuming the roles of UN council members. Students are allocated to countries in advance, and are expected to spend considerable time researching their country’s stance on the conference topic. Students also undertake training on the processes and procedures of UN committees. On the day of the conference, students are required to engage in fast-paced, often intense debates with council members representing other countries. They must represent the opinions of their allocated country, even if these opinions do not align with their personal attitude towards the conference topic.
MUN provides a stimulating atmosphere in which students are challenged to hone their research, debate and presentation skills, and to thoroughly understand crucial aspects of international politics and diplomacy.
On Wednesday 27th April, five Year 10 students were invited to attend the Women of the Future Reception at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Women of the Future are an organisation founded by British-Asian entrepreneur Pinky Lilani CBE. They provide mentoring and support for secondary school aged girls in order to provide them with the skills and the support networks they need to establish successful and fulfilling careers. The Women of the Future Reception is an annual event hosted by the Foreign Office to showcase and celebrate the work of Women of the Future.
Moriom Abdin 10Y, Nabeela Ahmed 10B, Samihah Khanom and Nishat Nahar 10U and Poli Haque 10R joined students from other schools across London in the prestigious setting of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They listened to presentations from a range of inspiring female role models, including Dr Jena Meinecke, an astrophysicist from the University of Oxford; Annie Zadie, a professional football coach; and Karen Pierce, Chief Operating Office at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
After the presentations, our students had a chance to meet and talk with a range of mentors drawn from Women of the Future’s extensive network. Representatives were present from an array of different career sectors, including medicine, science, finance, charity and the arts.
Moriom Abdin was asked to give an interview for a future promotional film. Reflecting on the importance of the event, Moriom talked about how role models are a source of inspiration and practical support for girls, setting a positive example which reassures them that their dreams are possible.
Our students left the event buzzing with excitement and energy. Each girl had had formative and inspirational conversations with women working in career sectors they had previously never contemplated working in themselves. Our students felt that their ambitions had been refocused, and their horizons for the future broadened.
We would like to thank Women of the Future and Pinky Lilani for the support and inspiration they continue to offer to Mulberry girls.
Since January, a group of Year 9 students have been working closely with artist Sue Mayo, in association with our long-term partner Magic Me, on a cutting-edge arts project.
Magic Me is the UK’s leading intergenerational arts charity. The organisation brings together groups of older people living in Tower Hamlets and groups of Mulberry students, and gets them working together on creative arts projects. Sue Mayo is one of the leading UK practitioners of intergenerational and community-based arts. Working in association with Magic Me, Sue invited 8 Year 9 students to join a group of women aged 55 – 80 to work together on a project called ‘I Live In It’, as part of a wider project called ‘The Gratitude Enquiry’. Ruksaath Abraham, Nazia Ahmed, Sumaiyah Ahmed, Mahreen Chaiwalla, Tahiyah Rahman, Nuzhat Nuruzzaman, Emma Begum and Fahima Khurshed all took part in the project throughout Spring term.
I Live In It reflected on the idea of having gratitude for your body. Older and younger participants worked together through a series of weekly meetings and creative workshops, talking and thinking about the way our bodies tell the story of who we are, and all the reasons we each have for giving thanks to our bodies and all that they can do. Guided by lead artist Sue Mayo, choreographer Ellie Sikorski, and musician Jamie McCarthy, the group used what they learned in their workshops to design a beautiful piece of contemporary dance.
I Live In It was performed to a packed audience as part of Mulberry’s International Women’s Day celebrations on Thursday 17th March. The Berry Bugle would like to congratulate all of the performers, both adults and young people. Our thanks go to Sue Mayo and Magic Me for another fantastic project.
Once again, Mulberry was fortunate to be invited to participate in the Southbank Centre’s Women of the World Festival this year. WOW Festival is an annual week-long event which celebrates the lives and achievements of women and girls all over the world, giving women’s voices a platform and placing the issues that affect them front and centre.
Mulberry attended across four days of the festival: the Southbank Schools Day on Tuesday 8th March; and the WOW Weekend from Friday 11th to Sunday 13th March. 120 girls attended in total, representing years 8 – 13. Mulberry students attended talks, debates, panel discussions and workshops. They listened to world-class speakers on subjects including international activism, female representation in UK politics, women and austerity, and how teenage girls are leading a new and dynamic phase of the feminist movement. Mulberry girls took part in fencing workshops, watched contemporary dance performances, supported local craftswomen and activists in the WOW Marketplace and took part in a mass hula-hooping flash mob on the Royal Festival Terrace.
For the sixth year in a row, we had a fantastic range of student speakers taking part in various panel events across the weekend. Anisa Khalique, 12SS, opened WOW Saturday by speaking on a panel called WOW Views on the News: alongside Southbank’s Artistic Director Jude Kelly, WOW Festival Programmer Domino Pateman and journalist Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Anisa gave her thoughts on the morning newspapers, addressing topics ranging from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, to the importance of extra-curricular opportunities in UK state schools. Later that same day, Ayesha Begum 11L, spoke alongside BBC Radio broadcaster Gemma Cairney on a panel called Teens Talk Back, in which she discussed the importance of feminism in the lives of young women. On Sunday 13th March, Maisha Zainab in 10E and Tamanna Islam in 10B gave a 15 minute ‘WOWBite’ speech on how meeting Michelle Obama at the White House inspired them to change the world. The reception of the speech was so overwhelmingly positive that Maisha and Tamanna were invited back to speak alongside a range of other panellists at the closing event of the WOW Weekend, ‘Pick of the Festival’, in which the weekend’s best speakers gave the audience a taster of what they had spoken about.
Additionally, four Year 10 students took part in Southbank’s ‘Wowsers’ programme. Anika Chowdhury, Naimah Mahmud and Farzana Aktar, 10L, and Rifat Khadijah, 10U, attended three evening workshops in the run up to the Festival. Run by The Girlhood, a UK organisation which seeks to connect young women with feminism, the workshops taught our Wowsers about the way in which they can ‘use culture to change the culture around girls’.
The Wowsers learned about how media and advertising can create negative representations of women which reinforce gender stereotypes; and how those same media and advertising techniques can be harnessed to create more positive representations of women, and to campaign for feminist issues. Drawing on the imagery and techniques used in ‘Riot Grrrrl’ zines, which highlighted sexism and misogyny in punk culture and the music industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Wowsers made posters campaigning for gender equality. Over the course of the WOW Weekend, they sold these posters in the Marketplace, raising over £300 to be spent on resources for teaching young women about feminism.
WOW Festival is always a highlight of the Women’s Education calendar, but WOW 2016 was a truly special experience. Our students were left feeling energised and empowered, their heads buzzing with opinions and ideas. We would like to thank the Southbank Centre for making us a part of this important festival, and giving our girls a platform from which to raise their voices for change.
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