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Raising Girls' Aspirations in Manchester

Posted on November 14, 2013

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to help out at the first day of the Salford Girls Reclaim Conference by 2013 Clore Social Fellow Ruth Ibegbuna, Chief Executive of Reclaim.  Reclaim is a youth charity that fosters teenage aspiration and channels their voice to raise their profile in their communities.

Ruth and I got talking at the 2013 Clore Social residential in Nottingham in September.  After I told her about my interest in gender issues and the fact I was looking for volunteering opportunities, she invited me to join her and help out.  Clore Social Fellows’ residentials are based on our underpinning values of knowing yourself, being yourself and looking after yourself; leadership through self reflection and self development. Our organisation’s deep seated belief in these values means it runs through into the development of the Clore Social staff team too.

After a night spent in a dubious Manchester city centre hotel with tropical temperatures, a result of a broken air conditioning system, and a windowless bedroom, I was raring to escape the hotel and go!

I arrived at the city centre office at 8.45am and met Joe, the Project Coordinator and Ruth who were collecting the last bits to take to Salford Lads (and Girls) Club – both the iconic face of The Smiths album, the Queen is Dead and our venue for the four days of the conference. Salford is a largely white working class (but increasingly diverse) city of its own located just next to Manchester where the number of those who do not possess formal qualifications is significantly higher than the national average. It’s a city where aspirations need to be raised, which is what Reclaim specialises in.  Their projects work with 12 and 13 year olds who are considered young enough to still be receptive and mature enough to commit to the project.

The highlight of my day with Reclaim, in between the sandwich making and joining the girls to take part in their activities (revolving around leadership and debating positive role models), was hearing the stories of two members of Reclaim’s staff – Sinead, an ex-Reclaim beneficiary, now only 18 and running her own social enterprise and Sharon, a Salford mother whose experiences of being from the travelling community meant she had a lot to offer young people. Their reflections on how they got to where they are now were inspiring and caught the full attention of all 20 odd girls in the room. Sinead’s especially was testament to the young woman’s own strength of character but also to the positive role that Reclaim plays in the communities it works with.

No matter what stage in life or career, whether you’re a young person in Salford or a Clore Social Fellow (or staff member), personal and leadership development can open up worlds unexplored and support direction in career and life.

I know already that my day in Manchester opened up a new world to me and one that I want to stay a part of.

Gail is Programme Administrator for the Clore Social Leadership Programme.

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