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Leading Change With Inanna Balkin

January 10, 2023

I Have The Right recently spoke with Inanna Balkin, a student in 8th grade at Amherst Middle School in Amherst, Massachusetts. Inanna led a campaign to get her peers, teachers, and school leaders to sign the I Have The Right To Pledge. She is a model for students across the country who are standing up and speaking out to advocate for an education free from sexual assault. Hear in her own words why Inanna chose to be an advocate and what she hopes for in the future.

What inspired you to lead this effort to get so many people at your school to sign the pledge? 

I’ve been doing work in my school to combat sexual harassment for almost a year, and the pledge seemed like an amazing way to spread awareness while also giving everyone an action item. 

Why is this mission important to you? 

School is supposed to be a safe place where everyone can learn. Sexual harassment does just the opposite. It also leads to things like eating disorders and suicidal intentions. I find it insane that we are in 2023, a time with solar panels and smartphones, yet we don’t have safe places to learn. I felt that the pledge spread awareness about sexual harassment and assault and made people think about it.

Did you learn anything about your school community in getting signatures? 

Definitely! It surprised me how many people were willing to sign the pledge. A lot of people at school just ignore the behavior, so I hope that after reading and committing to the pledge, they speak up more about their experiences. It amazed me how many teachers signed it and also how many students were willing to ask their parents to sign.

What do you hope for the future at your school and beyond? 

I have a little brother, and I hope that sexual harassment has stopped by the time he is at my school. Every time I look at a younger kid, I think about the middle school experience that they’ll have to endure, from people commenting on their bodies to making rape jokes. I hope that sexual harassment stops completely by the time I graduate high school, but at the very least, I hope that students know how and where to report it.

What advice do you have for other students like you in getting their schools to sign the pledge? 

I already have an amazing group of peers working to stop sexual harassment, and I asked everyone to send it to their parents and friends. If you can get a teacher to put it in a Google Classroom (or another way of communication), that is an amazing way to get signatures. Parents were also extremely willing to sign. I think it’s important to make sure that people know what they’re signing and that they are committed to following the pledge.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to sign the I Have The Right To Pledge yourself and share it with your friends, family, and peers.

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