From role models to the safety of women and girls, four Havering teenagers revealed what it is like to grow up in the social media obsessed world and what changes they would like to see.

Pupils from Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls in Hornchurch adorned the school’s walls with green and purple banners in a tribute to the suffragettes during a week-long celebration of feminism celebrating International Women's Day.

Romford Recorder: Pupils from Frances Bardsley Academy marked International Women's Day by decorating the school with green and purple bannersPupils from Frances Bardsley Academy marked International Women's Day by decorating the school with green and purple banners (Image: Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls)

The Recorder sat down with four of them and discussed a range of topics, from family to safety and their future career ambitions.


The girls all believed they were most inspired by women in their own families in their journey towards adulthood.

Alayna Green Thompson from Year 12 named her mother as her hero. Both her parents, she said, came to the UK from South Africa years ago and had to face many struggles.

Romford Recorder: Alayna Green ThompsonAlayna Green Thompson (Image: Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls)She said: “My mum has been through the most in terms of her family situation. So I look up to her a lot."

Amena Lala Gul also echoed the view in terms of her own mother, who she said was originally from eastern Europe and converted to Islam after marrying an Asian man.

Amena said: “Her family didn’t really appreciate her for that, so they moved to the UK. She is such a strong woman."

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The girls believed they are expected to mature faster and must deal with the pressures of body image from a young age because of social media.

Romford Recorder: Amena Lala GulAmena Lala Gul (Image: Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls)Amena said girls as young as 12 try to copy grown women on platforms like Instagram and TikTok and think they will not be considered beautiful otherwise.

Izzy Ugbaja, who was previously in a mixed school, felt that young women often see themselves as having to be someone else and they are held to a certain physical standard, which if not met, can lead to discrimination or bullying.

She said she didn't enjoy PE at GCSE because she felt boys were treated differently to the girls.

She added: “It may not seem that bad to people, but it is annoying."

Romford Recorder: Izzy UgbajaIzzy Ugbaja (Image: Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls)

Izzy also believes boys can perpetuate harmful narratives with jokes.

“Maybe they do not have a malicious intent, but I am not laughing.

"As a girl for example I want to be able to say I like watching football and know about it just much as anyone. But they (the boys) assume that I don’t know what I am talking about, and that’s not fair."

Amena said: “We have feelings too, and you cannot just go and say derogatory things and cut us down."


Another major issue the pupils said girls face today is safety.

Alayna said when she is walking back home from school by herself, she has to keep checking behind her shoulder as she is constantly afraid.

She added: “I see if there's anyone behind me and I feel like that that should not happen to anyone because it does create the impression that I am feeling unsafe.

“Why should girls feel like this? Why should anyone feel like this?  There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done in this area."

Amena highlighted that violent crime in Havering resulted in her not being able to go to her preferred sixth form school as her parents were worried about her safety.

“My parents said we are not going to let you go to that school no matter how much you want because it’s too dangerous, there were a few stabbings in the area.

“I am not even allowed to go out with my friends sometimes as my parents are too afraid of something happening to me."

She also claimed the lights on her street rarely worked and in winter walking home in the dark terrifies her.

Mary Vu, from class 10 who looks up to her hardworking aunt, was of the view that many girls are asked to buy rape alarms and other devices to protect them and it is seen as their responsibility to stay out of harm.

She said: “Why do I have to do these things to protect myself from someone else coming to hurt me? It is not our fault."

Romford Recorder: Mary VuMary Vu (Image: Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls)The girls also felt strongly about the need for authorities to bring in effective measures to prevent knife crime.

Izzy felt that young people today have easy access to knives and that needs to be addressed.

“If we can decrease the chances of them (kids) getting one (a knife), there will perhaps be less chance of knife crimes occurring.

“And then they can go on to think 'what more can we do to make people safe?'”.

Mary added that it is important to educate young men about issues like domestic violence, women's and girls' safety and the impact of crimes on people's lives overall. 


The girls also shared their ambitions for the future that involved breaking gender stereotypes.

Mary said she would love to be a doctor, adding: “I would like to help people by being a doctor, but I feel like there are still people out there who ask girls if they would be more suited to be a nurse instead."

Amena and Alayna said they would choose to get into business as they believe there needs to be more female leaders at the top.

Izzy described politics as her choice of career,  as she thinks that is where real change can happen.

“There are actually not many women in parliament compared to men. And that got me more interested in the subject because I question why aren’t there that many”, she said.