Unravelling the reasons behind the growing problem of violence among young women is the aim of a conference being held in New Plymouth today.

Keynote speaker Dr Donna Swift, a social anthropologist from Canada, says violence amongst girls is part of a wider problem.

“I look at society and bigger issues and how they impact. I’m interested in those factors and what fosters violent behaviour,” she said.

A senior lecturer at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Dr Swift, is a regular speaker at national and international conferences and also holds training workshops for professionals who work with teenage girls.

Dr Donna Swift speaking at one of her presentations

“I think it’s really important to address (the issue) because these girls are the mothers of the next generation, and to pay attention to their behaviour because we know in society that children raised in violent homes become violent themselves,” she said.

Police statistics show that violent offending by girls has increased alongside that of young males although female offending remains proportional, averaging about 25 per cent to that of young males.

“If we want to stop the cycle of violence we must address the behaviour so it doesn’t perpetrate over the next generation,” Dr Swift said.

Dr Swift has been brought to New Plymouth by Soroptimist International which has three clubs in Taranaki.

Valda Mcbeth, one of its volunteers, said the organisation works hard to improve the lives of young women.

“We aim to improve the lives of girls through education, empowerment and to increase access to education and leadership to women and girls,” Mrs McBeth explained.

Dr Swift said she planned to publish a book and continue to attend conferences as well as running training workshops here and overseas.

“I believe my work is helping girls to realise that they are not alone and that people here are trying to make a difference for them.

“I hope that I’m getting everyone to talk the same language when it comes to girl’s behaviour and all working towards the common goal, less violence in society.”

Dr Swift will hold two presentations at The Devon Hotel & Conference Centre, one at 3pm for agencies such as social workers and police that work with young women,  and a second at 7pm for parents and family.

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