16 Days of Action

This year, we are adding to our series of blog posts to mark ’16 Days of Action’ – an international call of action to prevent and end gender-based violence.

You can contact our Student Services teams or organisations like Women’s Aid or Fearless if you or someone you know requires support.

Today, Sarah Shennan, NHS Ayrshire and Arran Health Improvement Practitioner, shares her thoughts on the importance of raising awareness about gender-based violence.

Sarah is a former Ayrshire College student achieving an HND in Coaching and Developing Sport. Sarah is part of the South Ayrshire Multi-agency Partnership to tackle violence against women and children. She has been instrumental in organising an upcoming dog walk on Saturday 8 December at Rozelle Park, Ayr, as part of 16 days activities in Ayrshire.

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I left college with the full intention of continuing my studies at university to become a PE teacher. It was a lifelong dream – I always wanted to have a purposeful and meaningful job.

Looking back I always felt included and part of a team when studying at Ayrshire College, even though studying the subject of sport is often thought of as being male-dominated.

All of the students were given many great opportunities, and staff advocated to give female students the same level of support and commitment as male students. This saw us attend various championship events such as the Scottish Championships to compete in volleyball, and the British Championships to play football.

I never fulfilled that lifelong dream of becoming a PE teacher but I’m not sad about that.  My path took me down a different road, and although I often wonder how I might have been as a teacher, I believe the route I have taken is just as meaningful and purposeful.

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Within my current role as a Health Improvement Practitioner, I provide health improvement expertise and advice to colleagues, partners and communities to promote good health and reduce health inequalities. I thoroughly enjoy my job as no two days are the same and I get to be involved in many great pieces of work across various topics. I am fully committed to influencing change and challenging misconceptions to promote better health of our population.

I am particularly passionate about raising awareness on gender-based violence (GBV).  

GBV is complex with many underpinning issues.

Locally across Ayrshire and Arran, the three individual Violence Against Women Partnerships come together and organise various activities for 16 days of action to improve knowledge and raise awareness on Gender Based Violence. This year, some of those activities are:

  • An Evening with Jasvinder Sanghera – Honour Based Violence conference – an event led by South Ayrshire Women’s Aid to raise awareness of forced marriage and other traditional harmful practices
  • Inside Outside – a multimedia exhibition hosted by East Ayrshire Women’s Aid exploring the issues faced by those who have exited the sex industry
  • Reclaim the Night – an event led by North Ayrshire Violence Against Women Partnership to unite people and raise awareness of domestic abuse

All of these are extremely important. I am particularly looking forward to the dog walk event. The dog walk aims to raise awareness of domestic abuse and promote the Dogs Trust Freedom Project. Families affected by domestic abuse can be reluctant to leave their home following abuse as it is not always possible to take the family dog.

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For those who know me, will know that I adore dogs and have my very own (most of the time) faithful companion Millie. She is the centre of my world. I am therefore a keen supporter in raising awareness of such projects.

It is the duty of us all; we all have a responsibility to be role models and promote the message that gender based violence is not normal and is never okay.  We have to stand together, break the silence and lift the shame.  I hope you can join us at the dog walk and show your support.


The dog walk will take place at Rozelle Park, Ayr, on Saturday 8th December from 11am to 1pm, and is FREE and open to all.  If you would like any further information, you can contact Geraldine McGivern on Geraldine.McGivern@south-ayrshire.gov.uk or 01292 559 411.

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