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Police celebrate graduation of 'little sisters' from Ashton after year of mentoring

GMP officers have recently taken part in a ceremony celebrating the graduation of their ‘Little Sisters’ from the Girls Out Loud: Big Sister mentoring programme, after dedicating 12 months with the young girls from Tameside.

Chief Inspector Claire Galt and Sergeant Steph O’Brien are both officers in Tameside and have spent the past year mentoring their ‘Little Sisters’ at Great Academy school in Ashton, alongside three officers from Rochdale and other women from around Greater Manchester.

Girls Out Loud is a UK based social enterprise facilitating early intervention programmes that aim to empower young girls to have a positive sense of self, to set personal boundaries, to believe they are worth more and harness their gumption.

Navigating their way through challenging teenage years does not get any easier for young girls. New developments around smart technology, peer pressure, relational aggression, cyber-bullying as well as poor body image, early sexualisation, mental health and relationship intimacy place exacting demands on young girls around the time when their individuality, uniqueness and aspirations should be up front and centre.

The challenges teenagers face at this point in their life can mean they sometimes end up coming into contact with police officers for the wrong reasons, often after finding themselves in dangerous situations that could have been avoided.

Having someone to talk to and guide young girls through this frame-breaking time when their identity is taking shape and help guide them in the right direction can make a huge difference and this is where the Big Sister programme comes in.

Founder of Girls Out Loud Jane Kenyon said: “The programme targets the middle girls. The ones who are in danger of becoming invisible as they simply cruise through school trying to find their place.

“These are the girls who are neither seriously disruptive nor academically gifted, so they tend to get lost in the noise and either hide in the corner or look for validation in all the wrong places.

“The one thing they all share is a propensity to underperform. We understand these girls; we are passionate about these girls. We know for sure with some guidance and an awesome role model on their side these girls will step up, find their voice and shine.”

Ch Insp Claire Galt has taken part in the programme and commented: “The last 12 months have been a pleasure mentoring my ‘Little Sister’. We clicked from day one and have lots in common so have never been short of things to talk about.

“She always has lots of questions and has a thirst for knowledge. I am certain she has a promising future ahead of her and I would like to think I have played a small part in shaping that with her.”

Jane continued: “The Big Sister programme is as much a personal development programme for the women stepping up to be mentors as it is for the girls they support. It is clearly impossible to help a young girl find her voice, become more visible, improve her confidence, resilience and raise her game if you are not also doing this, so Little Sisters hold their Big Sisters to account without even knowing it! How empowering is that?”

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