Monday, 29 March 2010

Article on abortion written for Progress magazine

I recently wrote an article for Progress about abortion and that there are really good reasons for maintaining the current time limit of 24 weeks.

Every woman has the right to make informed choices about legal, safe and confidential abortion. The ability to choose legal abortion allows young women to make their own decisions about their futures, including when and whether to have children, and prevents risk to their physical and emotional health.

There is no scientific evidence to support a reduction of the 24-week time limit and reducing it would affect women at all ages of the spectrum, particularly some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged women. This may result in women being rushed into decisions about abortions or forced to continue a pregnancy against their will.

To see the full article please click here.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Launch of the Brook 100 Club

On Thursday Brook launched the Brook 100 Club, a major donor fundraising programme in the run up to our 50th Anniversary. The Brook 100 Club is for individuals who commit to donating or fundraising £1000 for Brook and we aim to have 100 members each year. The funds raised will be used to achieve three promises;

to provide sexual health and relationship information in innovative and creative ways

to identify excellent projects being carried out in local areas such as the sexual bullying project and training up staff across Brook to replicate them quickly across the country

to campaign fearlessly for improved sexual health with young people at the heart of all campaigns

The event was great fun and was hosted by Sam Roddick, creator and owner at Coco De Mer (www.coco-de-mer.com). In the introductory speeches Sam told guests of how she has been inspired from the Brook v talent volunteers - by their energy, insightfulness and passion. She reminded guests of the importance of listening to and learning from young people and supporting Brook's work because it reduces pain and increases confidence and pleasure.

Alaina one of Brook's full time young volunteers told guests that we must do more to provide information and education to young people at a younger age, at the time that is right and in ways that meet their needs. In my remarks I asked people to join Brook in changing our ridiculous culture towards sex and sexuality and that we need to brave and bold in saying enough is enough - we cannot allow another generation of young people to grow up without accurate information and a positive culture which says sex must always be consensual, based on respect and communication and between people who are able to both enjoy and take responsibility for it. The time for change is now. If you want to help us in achieving long term cultural change do find out more about or become a member of the Brook 100 Club.

If you want to become a member of the Brook 100 Club please email emily.haynes@brook.org.uk to find out more - you can also go onto our just giving site www.justgiving.com/Brook-100-Club to donate to Brook. You can also fundraise to help achieve our goal of enabling young people to enjoy their sexuality without harm. Contact Emily if you want to find out more (emily.haynes@brook.org.uk).

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

New advertising codes and condom advertising

It was great to see the announcement yesterday by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) launching new UK Advertising Codes.

One of the key changes was around the relaxing of the watershed on condom advertising.

The launch of the new codes followed a public consultation to which Brook contributed and young people working with Brook were also involved in work through the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV (SHIAG).

SHIAG challenged the guidance on condom advertising and restrictions on showing a condom out of its wrapper. The group was concerned there is still embarrassment around condoms, which inhibits the normalisation of condom use, and called for the guidance to be reviewed.

A survey carried out by young people at Brook in 2007 showed that most young people (91 per cent) were unaware that guidance exists prohibiting showing unwrapped condoms on television and many (90 per cent) thought that this was wrong. 81 per cent felt that allowing condoms and condom use to be shown in advertisements and programmes would encourage young people who were sexually active to use condoms.

In addition young people thought that condoms should be shown on TV at peak times but also that this should be scheduled sensitively and appropriately. The research found that putting information into adverts round peak-time viewing for teenagers – for instance Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and Skins – or feeding it into the story line would hit the target audience and avoid offence.

Relaxing the rules around advertising condoms would normalise condom use and make young people feel more positive and confident about using them and carrying them.

Improving knowledge about contraception is key to reducing unplanned pregnancy and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – condoms protect against both.

PJ, one of Brook’s young volunteers who was involved in the work through SHIAG, said: “It was great to be involved in the process – this is something that is aimed at and will benefit other young people so it was good to be able to input my ideas.”

The new Codes will come into force on 1 September 2010.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Brook Awards

Last night we held our third annual awards dinner to celebrate the outstanding work young people and professionals are doing to improve the lives of young people all over the UK. This took place after our conference which focused on gender.

All the shortlisted nominees deserve the recognition, congratulation, applause and cheers they received last night, and special congratulations to the winners. The award winners are:
•UK sexual health professional of the year – Gail McVicar, Swindon Borough Council
•UK sexual health project of the year – In Touch, Leonard Cheshire Disability
•Young person of the year – James Langley, Terrence Higgins Trust Young Leaders programme
•Brook employee of the year – Arlene McLaren, Brook Northern Ireland
•Brook innovation of the year – Brook Blackburn with Darwen, Engage Project. This award was voted for on the night.

Thank you to Carrie Quinlan for hosting the evening, Tracey Cox, Jasmine Lowson, Zoe Margolis and Matt Rawle, our Brook ambassadors for presenting the awards and contributing so brilliantly to the evening. Also thank you to Lizzie Emeh who performed tracks from her fantastic new album, Loud and Proud.

I was delighted to see such a high standard of nominations showing the fantastic work that people are doing for young people all over the country every day.

The judging panel also included many key figures working in sexual health as well as young people and I would like to thank all those involved.

And thank you to my team and the conference organisers, NSA, who made the event run smoothly - you were brilliant. Final thank you to our sponsors and supporters.