Girls in the Lead

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!

Model United Nations at the UN HQ

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.

Model UN

Women of the Future Reception

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.

Women of the Future

‘I Live In It’ with Sue Mayo and Magic Me

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.

WOW Festival

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.

Presidential Town Hall

On Saturday 23rd April, five of our Year 12 and 13 students had the privilege of attending a Town Hall meeting with the President of the United States, Barack Obama. The Town Hall meeting was part of the President’s latest visit to the UK, during which he urged UK voters to vote for Britain to remain a member of the EU. During the Town Hall meeting, President Obama spoke with young people from schools, colleges and youth groups across London. He addressed topics including Brexit, the Black Lives Matter movement, civil rights and recent challenges to LGBT rights in North Carolina. Promee Reza, Nusrath Hassan, Muslima Sheikh, Liz Todd and Anisa Khalique attended the meeting on Saturday, and took part in several media interviews afterwards with representatives from the national press. This was a fantastic opportunity for our students to be part of one of the most exciting political moments in recent history, as President Obama prepares to finish his final term in office, the USA prepares to vote for a new President, and the UK stands on the brink of an important decision about the European Union – a decision which may affect our historic special relationship with the US. Our invitation to the Town Hall meeting follows on from our growing relationship with the White House. In the wake of our 2015 visit to discuss girls’ rights with Michelle Obama at the White House, we are now working in partnership with Mrs Obama’s girls’ education campaign, Let Girls Learn. Mulberry will take the work of the campaign forward in the UK.