Talking through the taboo
7 February 2022 at 5:29 pm
Nicolette Beard is the co-founder of We Are WomXn, an organisation tackling the health topics that many are afraid to talk about. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
Throughout her teen years, and then as a health promotion practitioner and primary school teacher, Nicolette Beard noticed a lack in female only health education.
She wanted to normalise discussion around puberty, the journey through adolescence and the milestones all young women experience but aren’t always so openly spoken about.
Combining her passions for health promotion and teaching led Beard to connect with numerous educators, and eventually to create We Are WomXn alongside her co-founder, Kate Raston.
Pronounced “Women”, the “X” is used to encourage inclusivity of individuals, including anyone who may not identify as female but who may still connect with the discussion topics.
The organisation offers in-person and online evidence-based, trauma-informed bespoke health programs covering consent, sexual health, menstrual health, healthy relationships and social media for primary and secondary school students, parents and community groups across Western Australia.
Created by experienced health promotion practitioners, We Are WomXn’s programs provide a safe space for young people to ask tough questions, normalise seemingly taboo topics and enable participants to feel empowered and confident as they move through to adulthood.
As well as this, the charity’s social media group has created a space for like-minded women to share personal stories, discuss tough issues and normalise all body shapes and sizes.
In this week’s Changemaker, Beard discusses her path to starting We Are Womxn, the things that inspire her leadership, and her advice for young changemakers.
How did the idea for We Are WomXn come about?
We Are WomXn was developed off the back of our own reflection and experience learning about consent, sexual health, menstrual health and relationships. Kate and I found that throughout the entirety of our teenage years we received very limited education around these essential topics and little to no education around women empowerment or topics such as female pleasure.
After discussing this with our close friends and the young women around us, we took it a step further and after many months of extensive research, we found there was a gap in Western Australia’s education to young people, particularly young women.
Our vision is to reduce the stigma women face and we do this by channeling the power of education and honest conversation to empower young women. We deliver five programs to primary and high schools students across WA: consent, sexual health, menstrual health, healthy relationships and social media.
Pronounced ‘Women’, the ‘X’ is used to encourage inclusivity of individuals, including anyone who may not identify as female but believe the information discussed relates to them.
What kind of difference has the organisation made to your community since starting?
Since launching in 2021 we have spoken to over 2,000 young women through schools and community events. We have found that young women really respond to having a safe and comfortable space to discuss these “taboo” topics and receive this information (some never having had the chance before).
We have found in particular with our consent program, that so many young women do not know even the basics around sexual consent laws and topics such as coercion. We find that at the conclusion of the programs many students leave with a new understanding of consent and what is and isn’t okay.
We have received countless messages on our social media pages from young women, seeking advice after we have presented at their school. We love when students reach out to us on social media, it makes us feel like they trust us and that we are making a difference.
What are some of the things that inspire your leadership?
I’m constantly inspired by the young women around us and the important discussions that are taking place in society right now, particularly along the lines of women empowerment and consent.
The amazing work that people like Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and Chanel Contos are all doing at the moment is paving the way for the next generation of young women. We are so passionate about being on this journey and inspired by all the amazing people working towards the same goal.
What advice would you give to other young people out there wanting to make a change?
Just go and do it! Young people today, especially the teenagers we work with, are so passionate about important topics and always ready to stand up for what is right. Find an organisation you resonate with and see how you can get involved, through either volunteering or part-time work, it is a great way to be a part of the change.
I think teenagers today really will make the biggest impact on society in the next few years and I can’t wait to see it.
Any books/TV shows/podcasts you’ve been loving recently that you want to recommend to our readers?
Sex Education on Netflix, while a bit more out there, portrays gender and sexuality so openly which I think is really important for representation on screens.
Finally, the We Are Womxn podcast! We currently have a few episodes on Spotify and we interview some amazing women who have openly shared their stories with us. We are also officially starting our 2022 podcasting again this month so follow along to stay in the loop.