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ARU students to help curb violence against women

Collaboration is part of a wider scheme to involve students in solving real-life issues

Students from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) will play a key role in helping to reduce violence towards women and girls in Chelmsford, thanks to a £20,000 partnership project with Essex Police, Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council.

The project will be focusing on healthy relationships and issues surrounding violence towards women and girls. Students will be challenged to come up with ways to change behaviours and attitudes in order to improve safety among women and girls. Their views and findings will be used to help inform practical solutions.

The initiative follows the award of £550,000 from the Home Office’s Safer Streets fund for the city of Chelmsford as a whole, as secured by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex in partnership with Chelmsford City Council, Essex County Council and Essex Police and supported by MP Vicky Ford.

It is just one of a number of projects students from ARU are working on together with public sector organisations in Essex and Cambridgeshire as part of the Students at the Heart of Knowledge Exchange (SHoKE) scheme, developed by ARU.

As part of a Research England-funded challenge, teams made up of undergraduate and postgraduate students and researchers have already been working with Essex County Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to help them to address some of the key issues facing local authorities in 2021, such as the impact of COVID-19 on young people, and employment barriers facing women and informal carers.

Some of the challenges have seen the student teams look at the impact of COVID-19 on 20 to 30-year-olds in Cambridgeshire in areas such as employment, mental health and wellbeing, and try and find practical solutions to some of these issues.

Teams have also focused on how Essex employers can help women and informal carers upskill and find jobs in growth areas, in particular construction and the green economy.

The SHoKE project has seen around 130 students from ARU take part in 30 challenges so far, including shorter projects around issues such as the underrepresentation of minority groups in local government, and has seen some students presenting to policymakers on subjects like household budgeting, unconscious bias and digital inclusion.

Neale Daniel, SHoKE project lead at ARU, said:

“This initiative gives students the opportunity to work with partners to develop a collaborative research project and dive into professional problem solving to help them to address some of our region’s big challenges.

“Students will explore significant social problems presented by our partners and deliver something of real value to the community. We have seen a real benefit to many of our students by taking part in these real-world challenges, building their confidence and gaining transferable skills that will stand them in good stead for life.”

Councillor Louise McKinlay, Deputy Leader of Essex County Council and Cabinet Member for Communities is Chair of the ECC Safety Advisory Group (SAG), a group set up to work with communities and partners to address women’s safety in particular.

Cllr McKinlay said:

“Women and girls deserve to live a life free from violence and intimidation, whether at home or in public.

“We fully support this Anglia Ruskin University project, just one of the community steps to bringing the conversation about women’s safety to the forefront, which will lead to real, tangible action and which fits very well alongside our work on the Safety Advisory Group.”

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said:

“Only by working in partnership can we make our city centres and communities places that everyone, especially women and girls, can feel safe in day and night and the money we successfully secured from the government is helping us to do just that.

“I think the results from this project with the ARU will be integral in helping us all the understand how we can all change our behaviours and challenge those of others to help women and girls feel safer.”

Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford, added:

“SHoKE is one of sixteen projects which Chelmsford City Council and our partners are supporting to make the city centre and Bunny Walks safer for all, particularly women and girls.

“Arguably, education is the most important strand of the Safer Streets initiative. If we’re to achieve our ambition for a world free of harassment and abuse, we must engage with young people who may be developing unhealthy sexual attitudes and help them understand how their behaviour affects others. I look forward to seeing how ARU students address this vital element through the SHoKE project.”

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