Gender Respect Project 2013-2016

Aiming to help children and young people to understand, question and challenge gender inequality and violence.

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Teacher Blog: Chella

periodpositive square jpgI’m an independent education researcher, comedian and designer with an MA in Education from Sheffield Hallam University, a PGCE in Drama and Media from Bretton Hall College and a BFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University. It’s been a real treat to be able to combine all my interests as part of the Gender Respect Project!

The research I undertook for my MA dissertation, Period Positive Schools, looked at ways that media literacy, art and drama could be used to challenge menstrual taboos in the classroom to support young people of all genders. It developed out of my comedy, art and fanzine project, Adventures in Menstruating, and continues as #periodpositive, in association with DECSY’s Gender Respect Project.

#periodpositive believes that menstruation education should be:

  • Free, unbranded, objective, inclusive of reusable’s (like menstrual cups and cloth pads), and easy to understand
  • Consistently taught by trained staff, factually accurate, up-to-date and well-researched, with learners’ needs in mind, and regularly evaluated with pupils and menstruation education practitioners, with excellent communication to other faculties, parents and community partners about the content of lessons
  • Able to scaffold and complement lessons on fertility, puberty and reproductive health, with an awareness of physiological differences and medical conditions related to reproductive health and healthy menstrual cycles as a vital sign
  • Supported more comprehensively across he curriculum, particularly in science and PSHE but also in media studies and design and technology
  • Aimed at different age groups, starting well before puberty (and ensuring to use the correct names for body parts, even with very young children) and revisited regularly
  • Inclusive of all genders, cultures, abilities and sexualities (the way all high quality SRE should be), with adapted resources where appropriate
  • Supportive of easy menstruation management in school and equipped to signpost diverse and effective ways of menstruation management in future

I’ve carried on my research with the support of colleagues from the Gender Respect Project, presented #periodpositive at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference this past June, and have recently started working with some local youth homeless shelters. The research is based on a lot of awesome work that’s come before me – particularly the advertising research of Dr. Elizabeth Kissling (US) and the education research of Shirley Prendergast (UK). Some of the menstruation education lesson activities I’ve developed rely on drama techniques developed by Augusto Boal (Brazil) and Dorothy Heathcote (UK).

The most compelling bits of my research findings are the impact of advertising messages on the fears kids have reported about menstruation. Their concerns have been of shame, secrecy and leakage fear. There’s a history of language use and deliberate marketing in schools that demonstrates a clear link, and it all comes down to two things – secrecy-vs.-privacy, and shame. Privacy is fine – that’s a boundary you’re setting and it’s about safety, choice and consent. Secrecy, on the other hand, is not ok. Secrecy is someone else – whether that’s a parent, teacher, advertising message or society more generally – telling you that you need to be quiet about something – or that you need to do whatever it takes to make a part of you invisible. That’s no way to be, as anyone who experiences intersectional oppressions or whose gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexuality, or disability is not immediately apparent.

And that’s where shame comes in. No one has the right to imply that anyone’s identity, body, or bodily function (or dysfunction, for that matter) is shameful, makes people uncomfortable, or should be hidden or kept secret, and yet that is how menstruation education is most often approached (or avoided) in schools. By not taking more interest in the quality and purpose of the current menstruation education currently on offer in all but a handful of schools (and there are some where individual teachers are aiming to change this), there is a tacit complicity in the status quo, which #periodpositive serves to challenge.

The aim of #periodpositive is to serve as a benchmark for open and informed provision and information about menstruation and reproductive health, by anyone, in any country, but as a starting point, I’m focusing on UK settings that support young people.

I’ll be posting updates of my research throughout the Gender Respect Project, and sharing lesson resources. I’m also taking Adventures in Menstruating to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the PBH Free Fringe.

For more information, please visit, and check back here for updates in September.


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Teacher Blog: Carol

The ‘Chat’ – Evaluation session 14th July 2015

Carmel, Carol and eight students

Carol: Thanks for coming today, we have asked you to come back because we want to find out how well you thought the sessions worked.

Question 1: Did you enjoy the sessions? Mark 1 to 5 where 5 is good.

1 2 3 4 4.5 5 good
  1 1 2 4  

Good and fun sometimes we argued.

Question2: how many sessions did you attend?

1 2 3 4
    2 6


Question 3: What did you get out of it? (Written answers)

I don’t know


A different view on different topics

Realised more about stuff

Think more about people who I spend my time with.

Learned things debating confidence



L (girl): I’m more cautious about my surroundings. I’m more aware of what I’m going to do I used to not care about stuff. I think about things more, what I spend my time with.

A (boy): I think about positive and negative consequences.

S1 (girl): I used to kill spiders but I don’t anymore.

S2 (girl): I came because I want to show support for you miss.

Carol: You have well established beliefs already don’t you.

S2 (girl): I know my own opinion. Because I don’t know people here it is hard to talk, I feel a bit awkward.

Carol: Did anyone else find it awkward?

H (girl): because you don’t know everyone.

L (girl): And you don’t want to disclose.

H (girl): I’m very self-conscious.

Carol: How did other people feel about sharing?

A (boy): I was ok.

C (girl): I did.

Carol: Did you feel you had enough time to talk?

General comments all at the same time: Sometimes –some people kept going on – people were interrupting – I had a good point but the subject had moved on.

Carol: We should make sure everyone gets heard. Was I too dominating? Everyone addressed me instead of each other. What would make it better?

S2 (girl): Pick a topic then do a debate like a court case.

L (girl): Sounds geeky.

S2 (girl): Can we get badges?

General comments about stickers, certificates, badges, prefects

Question 4: What skills have you learnt? (Written answers)



Learning to take other people’s thoughts and to take them into consideration.

I did but I then lost my confidence and they sort of went away.

I was less confident going against people’s opinion but now I’m not and I talk more. Confidence, Listening, More talk.

Listening to other people’s opinions.

Eye contact.


Question 5: It make me think more deeply.

1 2 3 4 5 Agree
1   3 1 3


Question 6: Did you find anything difficult to talk about? (written answers)

Kind of

Yes sexual stuff

No I didn’t but I might struggle now

No not really a bit with pornography

Yeh, kind of, porn, sex stuff

The one about porn because we were different age groups, different beliefs

L (girl): That time thing

S2 (girl): I hated that.

L (girl): I think the girls should have done the boys and the boys the girls. I wish I could see inside a boy’s head.

Carol: Boys can seem immature because physically they are two years behind.

Carol: Would it have been better if you had a less opinionated teacher? I know I have strong opinions.

S2 (girl): You are a cool teacher.

General comments: I only come because of you. We do fun stuff. We like your lessons.

Carol: As you get older you realise you don’t know it all.

Someone? : Boys have different opinions and you learn more.

A (boy): I all boys only get the same opinion we would all think the same.

Question 7: Was it fun?

1 No fun 2 3 4 5 Really fun
    2 2 3


General comments about how to make the group cool next year – designer glasses for the group! – having a debating club. Debating is cool.

Question 8: What do you want to discuss next year? (written answers)


Death penalty x3


Judgement / Judgemental x3

Bullying, picking on people x4

What’s banta, what’s offensive x5

Abortion x2

Under age pregnancy x4

Teacher-student boundaries x2

How we treat special needs people in school, should they be treated differently x4

Sexism x3


Animal cruelty x2

Should you get paid to go to school?

Judging people by looks

Tax Credits, benefits, welfare state x2



Women’s sports

Should you get the vote in prison?







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Teacher Blog: Carol

Reflection on The Chat – spring 2015 and planning for autumn term 2015

Evaluation – last session this term

  • Redo initial evaluation BUT the group membership changed quite a bit over the sessions.
  • Ask: What have you got out of this group?

Has anything surprised you?

Were the views of the opposite sex what you expected?

Did you find anything about this group, or the topics, difficult to talk about?

What would improve the group?

Did you get to speak when you wanted to?

  • Use continuum lines to assess how they felt about the group

What structure for next term?

  • Friday lunchtimes
  • Would like to work with older age – logistics difficult
  • Could we use older students as leaders? – probably not logistically
  • Would like a longer session – after school discussed but logistics difficult as any time
  • Would like to be more group led – less dependent on adults
  • Can we prevent the group membership changing so much throughout the term?
  • Do we want to develop resources, or our skills at running the group? Would the resources end up just being like PSHE stuff?
  • Promise a certificate? – Some have asked for this. Should we offer it or stress other group benefits?
  • How to promote group talk rather than addressing Carol?
  • Carol to reflect on past sessions, re-read notes – did she need to respond as much as she did?
  • Use question prompts or sentence starters to promote responses to each other
  • Speaker chooses next
  • Some members this term said very little, how do we address this? We have tried to develop a place where it feels safe to talk. Do they all feel they can?
  • How do we get a global perspective?
  • Which matters most – what they talk about or that they talk?
  • How do we get a more equal girl/boy mix?

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Teacher Blog: Ade

Using After School Activities to help break the mould

When I first joined the Gender Respect Project, my plan was to use my school’s enrichment time as a way to provide both girls and boys from Y1 to Y6 with the opportunity to choose and participate in one of a variety of activities for a whole half term. By using carefully planned SMSCD sessions, the idea was to ‘break the mould’ and show them that the activity that they chose should be their own choice, not what society says is the right choice for their gender. All was going great and we were seeing positive results, but then, for a variety of reasons my school stopped providing enrichment time. Although the school could keep on promoting the idea of turning our backs on stereotypes, without the enrichment activities we would have no way to measure its success. I had to think again about how I could do this.

The solution came in the form of our after school clubs. My school’s current arrangement is for all teaching staff to deliver (as part of their directed time) an after school club for a half term at some stage during the school year. Teachers are provided with a list of activities from which they sign up to deliver one. Because the activities are already given a particular half term as a time slot, the school can guarantee that there are clubs available throughout the year. As a school we decided that the children should have a say in some of the clubs that were to be offered, so through class and school councils we compiled a selection that is to be offered next academic year. In the same way that children chose their own enrichment activity, now they can choose their own after school club and we can continue to measure the impact of our work on gender and choices.

The class and school councils consist of a fairly even mix of boys and girls, meaning that the addititional clubs suggested have been chosen by a range of children from both genders.
 Although the lists have not been finalised, they could be described in the following gender neutral ways:

Do you know self-defence? (Karate)

Can you pass a ball to score hoops? (Basketball)

How can you express yourself through art? (Art)

Can you control a ball with a racket? (Tennis)

Can you pass a ball to score goals? (Football)

One possible way to ensure an equal number of boys and girls for each activity is to split the places equally between both, thus ensuring that none become ‘heavy’ with one particular gender; plus creating an expectation that both genders will sign up.