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17-year old June Eric-Udorie: “As a young black woman, I still feel like we’re very good at ignoring the contribution that women of colour make”

The teen fighting to get feminism onto the school curriculum

Why was feminism ever taken off the syllabus in the first place? We speak to June Eric-Udorie about her campaign to address the imbalance

17-year-old June Eric-Udorie is definitely one of the most articulate teenagers we’ve ever interviewed. The teenage activist started a petition last year after the Government announced plans to remove feminism from the UK A-level politics curriculum, with only one woman to feature in the list of 14 political thinkers that students were required to study.

We spoke to Eric-Udorie on her lunchbreak to find out about her campaign. Today, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is expected to announce a Government U-turn to put more women on the curriculum, prompted by the success of Eric-Udorie’s petition (which was signed by nearly 50,000 people). 

The move comes ahead of a debate this afternoon in the House of Commons, led by Labour MP Rupa Huq. Meanwhile, the Independent reports that feminism will now be studied as a stand-alone subject. Whilst the official announcement has yet to be made, the Department for Education confirmed to me this morning that “the final content for Politics A level” will now include a “wide range” of female political thinkers. Given that only one female thinker was included in the syllabus previously, this official double-speak does seem to suggest a change of policy. 

Eric-Udorie is quietly jubilant. “I think it’s really great that Nicky Morgan’s responded in a positive way. I got an email from her office last week saying they’ve listened and there will definitely be more female thinkers on the curriculum”. 

Although pleased with the fact she’s prompted a major change of educational policy, Eric-Udorie still feels there’s more to be done. “I just want to know why anyone thought it would be a good idea to take feminism off to start with? Arguably feminism has never been more present in our society, so I don’t really understand why you’d change the syllabus to take it off.”

Increasingly, teens are using online activism to challenge male-dominated school curriculums. Eric-Udorie follows in the footsteps of fellow student Jessy McCabe, who last year won a battle to get female composers added to the syllabus for A-level music. I ask whether she feels emboldened by her success. 

“I’m hopeful that with little steps, hopefully in years to come the curriculum will become less white and focused on men and their contributions or whatever. But as a young black woman, I still feel like we’re very good at ignoring the contribution that women of colour make. I’d like to see women like (black feminist writer) Audre Lorde added to the curriculum, for example”. 

Eric-Udorie’s campaign calls into question the broader issue of why we need teenagers to explain to politicians how important feminism actually is. Hanna McCloskey from the campaign group Fearless Futures agrees. 

“While Jessy and June’s actions are courageous and necessary, our 17-year olds should spend their time enjoying a rich, diverse and representative education rather than campaigning for it.”

I ask Eric-Udorie what the future holds. “Maybe I’ll stand for election one day, who knows. But I feel like, looking at the state of representation in this Parliament, sometimes it can be discouraging. Women of colour especially, we need role models. We need to know that we’re good, that there are opportunities out there for people like me”.