UK girls: Our voices
For the first time, we’re shining the spotlight on girls’ rights in the UK. We travelled across the UK, from Yorkshire to Wales to London, to speak to girls from a variety of backgrounds to find out what it’s really like to be a girl growing up in the UK. Here, they tell us, in their own words, how they’re treated differently to boys, the pressures and anxieties they face in the digital world, the expectations society puts on them, why they feel unsafe, the every day sexual harassment, and how their rights are being denied.
Dannetta, 18, London
“Recently there was a couple of boys as I was walking home late at night one time with my sister. And they were calling us… it was late, I wasn’t trying to stop and talk to these boys. I just kept on going.
"But some boys, when they don’t really get the response that they want, their verbal words kind of turn aggressive, which shows that there is still a lack of respect for certain things and they still don’t respect a female if they reject them…”
EMMA, 18, NORTH EAST ENGLAND
“I’ve been working here for four years (ice cream and donut shop) I was told to wear a short shirt originally when I first started so I could attract male customers. I was 15. Sometimes my boss tells me to just stand here and look pretty."
KIRSTY, 17, GLASGOW
"I'm a musician, but I think females are very sexualised in the music industry sometimes... Edited a lot, and sculpted to be a person who is unrealistic.”
"I definitely wouldn’t walk around on my own late at night. Although it probably is okay, it just feels safer to walk in a group.”
Areena, 17, South West England
“I know so many unhappy people that use social media as a way to make their life seem better. I think that’s the saddest thing there is about that. Sometimes I hate social media. I have these days I don’t want to be around it, because I feel there is always this pressure to create an image and a desirable life. I don’t want to be part of that – I feel it takes away so much [that is] genuine in life.”
Siam, 19, South East England
“Five seconds away from here, on my way in, I get wolf whistled like a dog… But I would have brushed that off, as a part of daily life…
“One problem with [our local town] is that people are just so polite that it’s seen as out of the ordinary if you, as a woman, stick up for yourself or say something when someone hits on you, because here is this air of politeness and quietness.”
SHANNON, 19, BELFAST
"There aren’t that many girls in politics. [The government] wants to elect more girls into parliament, but the fact is why are there not enough in the first place?”
“People say things like girls do better in school and they mature much faster, so why are there not more of us in things like politics then?”
"Girls have fought so hard to be where they want to be. But, there is something stopping us. I don’t think there ever will be equality between males and females. I don’t know why it is. We give birth, we produce life. Men take part of course, but why are we so much less than them?"
MORGAN, 18, LINCOLNSHIRE
"I used to go running quite a lot. I don’t go running without a partner now and I don’t really like running at all. Cos I used to go, ‘Well it’s hot!’ crop top, and shorts, that’ll do me, to go for a run. But I used to get so many beeps, and so many comments, that I thought, ‘Okay, next time I’ll buy a long-sleeved top, though I’m not gonna wear long trousers. I haven’t done my make-up... I’m the least sexual I could possibly be right now.’ I still got comments, and I thought, 'Right, I can’t do this anymore.’ It stopped me from going running; I didn’t feel safe. It only got worse when I went running with my sister: a blonde and a brunette seemed like it was to everyone’s taste; all of a sudden we got twice as many comments! It just got out of hand. Mum didn’t like us going and I didn’t like going anymore. It’s not enjoyable. It’s kinda funny once, but repetitively it’s not funny anymore. You think: ‘I’m just trying to get on and run."
Lexian, 19, London
“On my basketball team… there’s only boys there. Like, I’m the only girl and they still just don’t get it in their head we can do as much as you can… most of them say, ‘She can’t do it because she’s a girl’…
“I just keep on playing as best as I can and attend training and become more healthier and fitter so I can’t keep up, but show them that even though I’m younger and a girl, I can still flip you out of your chair…”
Stella, 14, Yorkshire
[On the farm] “I think everybody is involved. Really, you all help where you can. Say if someone was struggling, you wouldn’t wait for a boy or a man to go, you would go.”
Lottie, Year 10, Wales
“Girls are a lot less likely to be loud; they are not allowed to be wrong, or rude and loud and funny. You see that a lot with girls. There are a lot of subtle expectations of girls to be nice, to be pretty and to be kind. A lot less on boys: they are allowed to be class clowns and they are also allowed to be quiet and sit at the back of the class. Girls are seen as loud if they are loud. I’m seen as loud and boisterous. I’m generally not much louder than any boy is, but girls are seen not to behave that way in general.”
Annisa, 17, London
[I] “wear the headscarf just to remind myself I’m a Muslim girl living in a Western society… I have nothing against women wearing clothes which might show off their skin. I have no problem with them. So another person shouldn’t have a problem with me covering myself entirely, you know?”
Our new report, State of Girls’ Rights in the UK, shows that despite being one of the most developed countries on earth, too many girls in the UK don’t enjoy their rights.