A Leeds group is gearing up to celebrate 30 years of empowering young women
Getaway Girls in Harehills began as a charity in 1989. It grew out of a youth group that was formed in 1987 and specialised in outdoor pursuits.
Getaway Girls’ current director Flavia Docherty was involved as a girls youth worker back in the early days.
She said: “Originally it was outdoor pursuits, adventure education and building confidence. Now it is much more broader and all the issues. It’s anything that affects young women in Leeds.
“Traditionally it was youth work: support, challenge, opportunities and fun - we still have that. But the work we do now is much more in depth, for instance working with young women around mental health; we have got services on sexual exploitation and on hardship crisis - young women who have not got anywhere to stay tonight. We are looking at those basic needs like housing, a safe place to stay, money, food and helping somebody to get their life on track, and supporting them with that next step of getting a job.”
The charity’s patrons are Leeds actress Angela Griffin and Capital FM DJ JoJo Kelly. It is all run from Bayswater Grove by 20 volunteers and 15 staff. Some of the volunteers have gone full circle, from those being helped to becoming positive role models aiding others.
Flavia said: “It’s about supporting girls and young women aged 11 to 25 in Leeds to build confidence resilience and their aspirations. That’s the core of what we do.”
“We help lots of young women new to the country, some with a whole diverse range of backgrounds, strengths and needs. We have lots of young Eritrean and Ethiopian women involved.
“In Harehills, where we are based, there are 123 communities and 170 languages. Last year we worked with 816 young people across the board.”
People in Leeds may have come across the group’s poster campaign ‘She’s That Leeds Girl’, which was on display on the big screen in Millennium Square over Christmas.
City photographer Samantha Toolsie took images of Getaway Girls bearing slogans with positive messages about what it’s like to be a young woman living in Leeds. The messages focused on equality, diversity and empowerment.
It followed on from a campaign called ‘100 dreams 100 girls’ which looked at young women’s dreams and their aspirations for the future.
A group of girls also travelled down to the House of Lords in November as part of the #Girls Breaking Barriers event. There they met actress Jodie Whittaker, who plays Doctor Who, and campaigner Baroness Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered in London in 1993.
Flavia said the girls came back inspired and buzzing with ideas.
Now the charity is planning for its 30th anniversary celebrations in May. It wants to hear from former Getaway Girls and to celebrate the work the charity has done over the last 30 years.
There will be lots of music and dance performances, a pop up photo booth and food from different cultures.
Flavia added: “We will have people talking about Getaway Girls and their stories about what Getaway Girls has done. It’s about as making it as much of a celebration as we can as well as promoting what a difference it has made.”
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