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Published on Tuesday 12 September 2023

A campaign to tackle sexual harassment faced by young people has been launched by a Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) UK Youth Parliament member.

The ‘Catcalls of BCP’ movement has been spearheaded by Annabel Hodges, 16, from Parkstone, Poole. A member of the UK Youth Parliament for BCP Council.

The UK Youth Parliament is a national initiative which provides democratically elected young people aged 11-18 with a platform to bring about social change in their area.

The campaign encouraged people who have been subjected to unwanted attention on the streets of BCP, to fill out a form detailing their negative experience as well as any affect it had on them.

On Thursday 14 September 2023, those shared experiences will be etched onto the concrete at sites around Bournemouth in chalk, helping people to recognise the problem, the impact it has on young people, and to spread awareness.

Some accounts are from children as young as 11.

"Sexualisation of women, particularly young girls, is normalised and I am committed to changing this in our area," said Annabel .

"I want to educate people on the impact of street harassment and encourage them to call out their friends on unacceptable behaviour so that early inappropriate harassment can be targeted.

"I really admire Chalk Back’s work and think chalking can be a powerful tool. Legally, it’s rarely possible to decorate public spaces, so I would like to thank BCP Council and South Western Trains for their continued support in enabling us to do so."

The parliament’s campaign is in partnership with Chalk Back, an international youth-led movement looking to end violence against women globally.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics (2022)1suggest that 27 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the UK, compared to 16 per cent of men.

According to a 2018 survey by Plan International UK2, more than a third of girls in the UK have received unwanted sexual attention or contact such as being groped or catcalled while wearing their school uniform in public.

A focus group of 10 volunteers aged 11-19 will begin ‘chalking’ at Bournemouth Train Station from 5pm, before moving on to Bournemouth Triangle and finally Bournemouth Square. Each site will have a maximum of 10 chalked messages and all obligatory permissions have been granted.

Kelly Ansell, Director of Housing and Communities at BCP Council, said:

"The Catcalls of BCP movement aims to help empower young people and reaffirm the message that catcalling and any other form of sexual harassment is unwelcomed and unaccepted in our area.

"This project will also help people to recognise that such harassment can have a long-lasting affect, while making victims aware of support that’s on offer.

"This is a really powerful, valuable initiative and one which the council is proud to be a part of."

Councillor Kieron Wilson, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Regulatory Services at BCP Council, added:

"Any form of harassment on our streets is unacceptable and addressing the issues around violence against women and girls, including street based harassment, is one of the key priorities for the BCP Community Safety Partnership.

"This initiative aims to help further spread that message, with the ultimate goal of changing people’s behaviour for the better."

All messages will be inscribed in thick, standard chalk. This chalk has been tested and will wash away easily with water.

Many of the drawings will be childlike in appearance, reinforcing the fact that children also suffer from street harassment.

If you have suffered from harassment and would like to tell your story, you can message the @CatcallsofBCP Instagram page directly, who may look to chalk your experience. Given the mandatory permissions required, we ask people to refrain from chalking in a public place themselves.

If you are struggling, support is available directly through BCP Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Team on 01202 128 883.

If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation, dial 999 immediately and request police.

Editor’s Notes:

1Statistics stated can be found here and are further to research published by the Office of National Statistics (16 February – 13 March 2022).

2Statistics stated can be found here and are further to research published by Plan UK (2018).

Click here to visit Chalk Back’s website.

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