'Nerve racking': Being a woman growing up in Camden
- Credit: Camden Council/Justin Thomas
To be a young person living in Camden at the moment is "nerve racking" but much is being done to raise awareness in a bid to keep youngsters safe.
Camden Council launched its Youth Safety fortnight on June 29 at Regent High School.
Running from June 27 to July 10, young people have access to more than 100 events.
Sir Keir Starmer, who co-chairs the Camden Youth Safety Steering Group with former Camden councillor Abdul Hai OBE, was present at the event to announce the winners of the youth safety multimedia competition, based on the theme "keeping children and young people in Camden safe" .
Films, poetry and billboards highlighted the fortnight's themes of youth exploitation, keeping young people safe, and young women and girls’ safety.
Aya Algool, from Fitzrovia Youth in Action (FYA), wrote a searingly powerful poem titled I Don't Think You Want To Relate To This, performed with a film illustrating the dangers felt by young women in the borough.
The piece was the overall winner, with FYA receiving £500.
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"Writing it was a long process. I asked girls to write about their own experiences and collected all those personal experiences, and from that I decided to use them and to put them into the poem," she said.
"It’s directed to everyone. If they’ve experienced trauma, it’s relatable to them. If they haven’t experienced trauma they need to understand this is how it occurs and policymakers and change-makers – they could go ahead and say what it is they are doing and see how their work can reduce this."
She added: "The fact that poems like this need to be made are concerning and the fact that you need to relate to a poem which calls such imagery and emotion is quite sad and sickening."
She said if there were programmes to educate men they would have to be done in "such a way that doesn’t make it feel like they are being generalised for poor behaviour and attributes".
Isabella Rusler, who starred in the footage, said being a woman in Camden in 2022 is "nerve racking".
"You’ve got to be a lot more attentive and aware of your surroundings and the people that you are with and the areas that you’re in, the way that you’re talking, the way that you're dressed, what you have with you, if you’ve got your phone out, things like that," she said. "You have to be very cautious."
Fitzrovia Youth in Action youngsters were also runners up with their film Leave Me Alone, which Sir Keir, said was a "thought-provoking bit of drama".
The short film sees a boy buying a girl's shopping when she doesn't have enough money, saying he has seen her around.
He then floods her with calls saying she must pay it back, as she becomes more and more isolated.
Capri Buchanan, who played the young girl said she "mainly feels okay", adding: "When I pass a large group of guys and they are cat-calling it makes me feel very uncomfortable. These things have to be stopped."
Dante Edwards, who played the stalking youth, said he agreed to take the role as he wanted to raise awareness of the dangers.
"It’s disgusting how someone can act or do a thing like that. It’s very disturbing," he said.
"For my role, I’d say a lot of people are like that. You can’t really stop them, they need to change themselves. It’s all about self control."
Mubarak Mohamud, founder of fashion outlet Clime-It Brothers in Stables Market, spoke to pupils at the event saying urban slang and accompanying body language alienates young people and can lead them down criminal paths.
“It’s a big trap," he said. "A lot of your people are falling for that trap and there’s no success at the end. It’s a dead end."
Cllr Sabrina Francis, lead member for young people and culture, said: "In Camden and nationally there have been calls on the government to recognise misogyny as a hate crime to send a strong message that whether it’s locker room banter, cat calling or even assault, all of this behaviour is unacceptable.
"Our youth review shows that 52% of young women felt safe in Camden compared to 64% of young men and those who felt at risk felt nothing could be done to make them feel safer.
"This is a powerful and telling statistic and a clear indication that we should be doing more to speak to young women about their perception of safety."