I found out about WASSUP (Women Against Sexual Exploitation and Violence Speak Up) through a family friend, Tonia Wilson, who is also the project manager. I received a simple message over Facebook asking if I would like to get involved in an all-girls group raising awareness against violence and sexual exploitation.
I was nervous at first and wasn’t sure if it was the right thing for me. I seemed to think I was too shy to be involved with a whole new group of people, but on my first day there, meeting those beautiful and inspiring young women, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.
As I walked into the room I immediately felt accepted. No one was judging me for the way I looked, the way I spoke, or my opinions. It was just like talking to old friends I had known for years and on top of that we were raising awareness for a good cause.
I have only been involved with WASSUP for about six months, and already I feel like I have gained more confidence, am able to speak up about things that matter to me and have found some new, (hopefully) lifelong friends.
The first project I really experienced was our online campaign for White Ribbon Day. We had asked numerous men to stand up against male violence against women by sending pictures of themselves with their hands held like stop signs, which we then sent out on Twitter. That was the first time I really saw how important our project is. Over one hundred men from all over the world took part, and it went viral.
Volunteering, for me, is one of the best things I have got involved with in my life so far. It immediately became a passion of mine. It is like having a brilliant hobby, where I am not only benefiting myself but other people as well. I am able to use my writing skills in ways I had never really thought of before: Writing poems, spoken verses and short stories for school projects and events. I am able to spend time with friends whilst doing something good at the same time, and I can talk about my concerns and opinions to a group who understand.
I really think getting involved in a project such as WASSUP as a young adult is one of the best things you can do.
In the six months of being involved I have learnt so much and I feel like the longer and the more I am involved I will be growing as an individual (and hopefully help other people around me grow too).
Our current project we are working on is an online campaign for international women’s day on March 8: ‘Post a woman who has inspired you.’
With this, we are asking people as many people as possible to send us a picture of a woman who has inspired them throughout their life, with a sentence as to how and why. These will then be posted on Twitter and hopefully (again) go viral. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org to take part)
I am so happy to be involved with WASSUP and I am so proud of all the girls for what they have achieved in the past and how far we have come. I can only hope that our projects keep raising awareness, that people are able to speak up without feeling scared, and that I am able to be involved with this group for years to come.
Raven, volunteer at the WASSUP project in Ipswich
Happy International Women’s Day!