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Dundee teenager campaigns to raise awareness of peer sexual abuse

Fatima Ishaq.

A Dundee teenager is raising awareness of peer sexual abuse to help young people recognise the dangers of unhealthy relationships.

Fatima Ishaq, 16, is one of seven youths on the city’s Young Women Know campaign, aimed at promoting healthy relationships.

Run by NSPCC, YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement, and Dundee City Council, the campaign is designing toolkits which will be issued to schools nationwide.

These resources will help young people spot so called “red-flags” in a relationship and provide avenues for youngsters to open up conversations around relationships.

Fatima, a pupil at Morgan Academy, Dundee, says she was keen to join the campaign because she passionately believes in making young voices heard.

She said: “I think it’s important for young women’s voices to be heard and I think this is an important issue to be raising awareness of, especially in schools, we don’t really talk about it.

Fatima Ishaq.

“It can be difficult to start that kind of conversation, that’s why we’re making the toolkit to make that easier and encourage people to have that conversation from an age.

“It doesn’t have to be heavy but just making young people aware that it’s good to have these conversations and be open with each other.”

The toolkit will be launched in summer and introduced into schools during the next academic year.

The work is being carried out as the NSPCC launched a helpline for those affected by sexual abuse in schools earlier this month.

Fatima said: “It’s not always physical and whilst it is important to talk about the physical side there’s also the emotional side and the impact on your mental health.

‘Hotline is fantastic but we need more accountability’, says Dundee campaigner against child abuse

“With things like TV shows it’s often normalised, and young people might think it’s normal because we have less experience of being in relationships and don’t know what they should or shouldn’t be like.

“It takes a lot of courage and strength to get out of a situation and this is all about empowering young women to do that.”

An active young person in her school, Fatima is also part of a mental health group which provides support to pupils, and chairperson of Morgan’s fundraising group, Interact.

The group raises funds for various projects including shoebox appeals and a defibrillator to be fitted outside the school.

Fatima Ishaq.

Fatima also sits as pupil representative on the children and family services committee at Dundee City Council and she is a member of the Dundee Youth Council.

She added: “I’m passionate about getting involved in the community and trying to make a difference for young people.

“I’m interested in local issues and making sure young people have a voice – I think often we’re overlooked but we’re a lot more intelligent than we’re often made out to be.”

Nomination for an award

Fatima has been nominated for an award in recognition of her good work.

She is a finalist in the volunteering category of the Young Scot Awards, run in partnership with the Sunday Mail, which takes place on April 22.

Fatima said: “I was happy when I found out I had been nominated, it felt nice to know how highly I was thought of and get some recognition of the work I do.”

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Angus teenager Rachel Talbot, 14, has also been nominated for the Young Scot Awards, for her involvement in the anti-bullying campaign, Think b4 You Type.

The toolkit – developed by NSPCC Scotland, RespectMe and Angus Council – was initially launched in Angus, but has now been issued to all secondary schools in Scotland.

Rachel, a finalist in the enhancing education category, said: “I was really happy when I found out I was a finalist, it’s great to think I could be receiving an award for the work I’ve been doing over the last while.”

Rachel also recently became a member of the NSPCC’s Young People’s Board for Change, which was launched last month to give young people the chance to shape and influence the work of the children’s charity.

She added: “I’m really passionate about the anti-bullying campaign, and I’d love to see a drop in cyber bullying around the country.

Rachel Talbot.

“It’s hard enough being bullied in person in school, but there’s also the problem of being bullied online, and it can feel like there’s no escape sometimes.

“I feel like young people have a lot to say, and if people listen to us then a lot of things could be changed for the better.”

Carla Malseed, local campaigns manager for NSPCC Scotland, said both Fatima and Rachel’s nominations are well deserved.

She said: “Both Fatima and Rachel are amazing young women who are certainly going places.

“Working with them both is a delight, and their commitment to their respective causes really shines through when they passionately speak about what is important to them.”

LONG READ: Anti-Bullying Week – how Angus youngsters help other schools tackle bullying

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