You don’t need a pink bus to engage young women in politics!

Empowerment People, Feminist Webs, Inspire Safer Futures, Manchester Girls Work Network, The Soroptomists and The Youth and Community work team at MMU Faculty of Education joined together to plan and deliver this free event for young women in Manchester.

Around 30 young women attended the ‘Being Watched’ conference on Saturday 14th March, which was also attended by a number of key regional influencers, including Julie Ward MEP, Judge Marilyn Mornington, and ITV News journalist Fadah Jassem.

These young women were given the opportunity to influence local politicians on the issues of social media, surveillance and control.

From mobile phones to social networking sites, technology has become part of the way we live our lives. Although there are many benefits to the way we may choose to communicate with each other and seek information, these exchanges are increasingly putting people at risk of being monitored, controlled, stalked or even abused.

We are increasingly sold products with new features and applications but given no explanation of the risks related to privacy or security.

Who is making the decisions about the privacy settings on Facebook and social media? What can we do about mass surveillance? What difference could it make if more women were involved in Science Technology Engineering and Maths.

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There was also stalls from BHA, Independent Choices, Amnesty International, Saheli, YES Matters, No More Page 3, Feminist Webs & Manchester Zine Library each one featuring a feminist campaign for the young women to get involved with.

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Three in four young people say they are likely to vote in the 2015 election, according to a recent survey by thinktank Demos. However, young women and young people not in education, employment or training are less likely to be interested in politics, and they don’t tend to feel that they can influence change over issues which are important to them.
The Being Watched conference also follows research undertaken in 2014, which found that girls and young women in the North West are concerned about surveillance, cyber-bullying and abusive relationships.
Amelia Lee from The Empowerment People, which organised the conference, said: “Our aim with the ‘Being Watched’ conference was to equip the young women with the confidence and skills they need to engage with issues at a political level.
“We explored how being politically active can make a positive difference in young women’s lives and the life of their community; as a consumer, as a leader or organiser and as a voter – particularly relevant in the run-up to a general election.”
Julie Ward MEP said: “It was a real privilege to participate with Empowerment People in their Being Watched event for girls and young women. This kind of event gives me an opportunity to connect with the next generation of community leaders as they find their feet in a new and vibrant feminist discourse.
“There was a buzz in the air and an atmosphere of openness as conversations about a range of issues continued throughout the day, both in structured activities and over lunch, on a one-to-one basis and in group discussions. It is very important that I remain accessible and relevant to girls and young women as I am on the European Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee.
“It was wonderful to meet up with other women activists and inspiring leaders; I draw strength from knowing that I am part of a community of change-makers.”

Follow the #BeingWatched hashtag on twitter

Blog entry by Open Rights Group who ran one of the workshops, Me & My Shadow:  https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2015/do-teenage-girls-care-about-digital-rights

No More Page 3 Manchester – ‘Amazing day at #BeingWatched @emp_ppl! Was an honour to discuss #nomorepage3 alongside so many amazing women’s groups pic.twitter.com/TqVZEcglI1

Annie Fordham – youth Support Worker –  ‘@emp_ppl amazing day, thankyou! My young women were given a rare opportunity to be empowered and have a voice! #beingwatched #feminism’