Two weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to present early findings from StopWatch UK’s girls research project. Our panel was filled with a bunch of fantastic women including individuals who are a part of the research team, Dr Louise Owusu-Kwarteng (who conducted our research training skills) and Shenna Darcheville (youth voice and participation lead). We were so grateful that MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy chaired the event and enabled our attendance to parliament. I must admit, though it was a pleasure to be able to attend such a historic and political institution, some of the women from our team were still questioned by officers upon arrival. These occurrences are the very reason the project was kicked off. Women – especially Black women – are being criminalised by the Metropolitan police and not enough has been done about it.
The event was emotional and raw, at times it was hard to hear some of the findings we have uncovered so far, such as Sara’s experience of a stop and search. She detailed her experience so gracefully despite what had happened to her being so debilitating and awful. Sexual assault, bullying, intimidation, physical violence, racist slurs are all themes that came up not just in Sara’s experience that she shared but through many of the interviews we have uncovered. Here is an excerpt from one of the girls we spoke to:
“when you see police officers, you’re meant to feel safe you’re meant to feel like, these are our heroes, these are the people that are taking bad people off the streets, but I don’t feel safe around police officers.”
Time and time again we see that this is happening on our doorsteps. Schoolgirl Child Q, Sarah Everard, and many more women are being completely violated by the police yet there are no policies implemented to protect us.
MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy recalled many experiences of being stopped and searched, which is why she was keen to be involved in the project; this is a lot more common than people think and want to admit. Evidently it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or member of parliament, you are not safe from police harm.
Dr Louise shared what a joy it was to train our team, she was extremely confident in our ability to take this project far and the audience also seemed to reciprocate that energy.
We had a lovely artistic performance by Grace, our lead researcher, who performed her amazing song about women’s rights. The event overall was inspiring and well received by StopWatch UK’s executive director Deborah Sangster. As a team, we are excited and eager to continue conducting more research and interviews into the matter. We are ready to show the UK the truth.
By Sydney Kirton