Big Sis Girl Empowerment Collective

Current stage: Awarded

Note: Big Sis CIC was awarded POP Collectives funding in June 2021 and a second grant in October 2022.

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  • Big Sis CIC
  • Nature & Me
  • The Nest Southwest CIC

Collective’s aims and ideas

As facilitators working with girls in schools and youth centres, we have observed that the biggest crisis of confidence occurs transitioning from primary to secondary school Years 5-7. Established in 2020 we have designed a girl mentoring programme for Plymouth pupils which eases the puberty transition period and tackles mental health problems early. We train young mentors recruited from local universities to lead transformative workshops for girls and non-binary children after-school which makes a huge difference to their overall wellbeing. Mentors deliver crucial learning through games, crafts and creativity. Girls playfully build life skills to manage their mental and emotional health. They deepen peer-bonds and are therefore able to participate in their communities and wider society with inner strength and courage.

Feedback from pupils, parents, teachers and mentors evidences that our programme piloted in 2021 works and demonstrates the positive outcomes girls experience: “I felt safe to share my thoughts and feelings,” said Ruby. A teacher said: “Many of the girls seem happier and more positive about themselves.”

Research stresses that positive puberty conversations at the earliest possible stage, reduce the risk of negative body image, eating disorders and depression during puberty and later life. Our impactful programme fosters girls’ confidence, resilience and therefore sets them up to achieve their full potential. This powerful preventative approach is further strengthened by the solid relationships our young mentors have proven to build with girls over 12 weeks.

Our programme benefits wider communities as girls as well as mentors develop into role models for others within their peer groups and networks, which ultimately tackles gender inequality in the adult world and wider community.

We currently run this impactful programme with 3 schools in disadvantaged areas of Plymouth, having trained 8 mentors. This year we’d like to train 10 new volunteer mentors to increase the reach of our programme in the local community which would enable more girls to benefit.

How will they work together to achieve this?

In 2021 we have successfully run our project pilot of ‘Girl Mentoring Programme. We have supported 50+ girls in 3 schools around Plymouth, have trained 8 near-peer mentors and spun collaboration between local schools, universities, organisations and individuals which is bridging different generations of women and non-binary people. Due to the positive experiences of working together previously, we want to build on this process further by collaborating closely with organisations and individuals that support children and young people and align in values of wellbeing, transparency and kindness.

Our collective and skills:
Big Sis CIC Plymouth: with Friedel Fink, Clare Coyne, Hannah Thomas and Victoria Doufur-Cox. We have created a 12-week curriculum, established relationships with schools and universities, designed a comprehensive training curriculum for volunteers and a thorough recruitment process crucial to the success of the programme.

Near-Peer Mentors:
Are volunteers who are young university students that study for education degrees at Plymouth University and Marjon. Near-peer mentors are best placed to deliver this programme as they enable dialogue around puberty conversations, sensitive issues within their community.

Local Primary Schools:
Currently our core collective collaborate with 3 schools in disadvantaged areas of Plymouth with whom we prepare and run the girl empowerment curriculum. Teachers within these schools provide valuable insight, connections with parents and carers and valuable feedback.

Flint and Steel Forest School and Seawyld:
Flint and Steel CIC provides forest-school activities for children, adults, and families in at Poole Farm Plymouth. They bring expertise in working with families from all walks of life and would like to integrate more positive puberty conversations into their work.

The Nest CIC:
Was set up in Devon by local women to support other women and girls through the major life transitions of menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause by providing social, emotional and informational support. In this project The Nest, who run a similar programme run by volunteers in schools, is advising the process.

Our project requires different interventions and involvement of collaborators at different project stages. To achieve our aims best we work with a core-team bringing in different freelancers and experts in their fields as and when appropriate (some for recruitment, training, execution and reflection of the programme). We work with a strong focus on interpersonal relationships and wellbeing.

During the first round, POP members will be asked to advise you. What advice would be most helpful?

We want to build on our learning from the pilot programme, especially improving involvement of our volunteers in co-creating the programme and tailoring it better to girl’s needs. We’d benefit from advice from anyone who has experience in setting up steering groups or involving young people/young adults in decision making processes to build a more non-hierarchical working culture and practice.

We are also interested in hearing from any members who work with parents and carers (for example providing after school clubs for their children) to improve their understanding and support of our impactful programme. This might involve best practice advise on how to communicate with carers in regards to supporting their children.