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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New teaching resources ‘He Named Me Malala’

‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world’. There are few people who have not heard of the inspiring story of Nobel Prize Winner and ordinary teenager, Malala Yousafzai.

DocAcademy, through the Students Stand #With Malala UK schools programme, has made the DVD of the documentary available to UK secondary schools and written accompanying lesson plans for KS3/4 English and KS5 English. The documentary pieces together Malala’s story conveying how she is both an extraordinary activist and speaker and a totally ordinary young woman with a family life with her two younger brothers and parents with which many people across the world could connect.

The film and lesson plans not only look at the importance of girls’ rights to education but also explore the themes of forgiveness, refugees and having a voice. There is a separate ‘Activity Toolkit’ for suggestions of how school students can take action in relation to the lesson themes. Although the lesson plans are aimed at secondary students, much of the film would be appropriate for younger pupils (aged 9-11) and clips could be used in English, PSHE, Citizenship and as stimuli for Philosophy for Children.

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Teacher Blog: Ade

RSE Policy

As a school, we knew that our SRE policy was becoming a little out of date and needed refreshing. The first thing that we did was to rename it so that it is now called RSE, with the emphasis on the relationship aspect. Although it is only a subtle change, the response from other teachers has been amazing! It’s the sort of thing that makes you ask why you never did it sooner. By simply swapping two letters, we’re now saying that we’re going to be learning about how we relate to one another;  what it means to be in a relationship; how we treat others, and yes, an element of what we’ll be learning about is sex, but as part of a relationship centred around love and respect. The idea has gone down well.


In addition, we decided to restructure what each year group will cover. Being an academy allows us some flexibility with this. Beforehand, I picked the brains of some of the members of the Gender Respect Project for ideas and then sat down to map out our RSE overview.  The new curriculum took shape and is now part of our policy. In brief, we begin in Y1 with a focus on naming parts of the body that can be seen on a clothed person e.g, head, hands, arms, legs, etc. During Y2 children are learning about the life cycles of animals. In Y3 and Y4 children use PHSE / P4C sessions to explore the concept of consent. This is a new addition to our curriculum and aims to bring awareness of valuing another person’s personal space, that nobody has a right to invade it in any way. Clearly, this is not a session in sexual consent – the children are too young to be discussing that – however, it does lay some foundations for such discussions at secondary school. Moving into Y5, children learn about the content associated with a typical SRE curriculum: puberty, menstruation, reproduction, etc. Formally, this had usually been taught in Y6, but we chose to move it so that the Y6 could focus on more thought provoking issues such as relationships and families, name calling, body image, bullying and self-esteem. This is also a new addition to our RSE curriculum, but an element that some would argue is the most important of all.


We have yet to try out our new structure. As I write this, letters have been sent to parents informing them of our changes and we have invited them to take a copy of our policy and / or attend a Q and A meeting to address any concerns. To date, (over a week since the letters went out), only one parent has responded and has asked to see the policy. The rest seem satisfied. I might be speaking too soon, but early indicators suggest the idea is popular with parents too. Maybe there is a collective understanding that to live happily alongside others in our modern day society, we need to dedicate time to learning about the values promoted by the Gender Respect Project. Let’s hope so!


Update: The policy has now been adopted by the school and a copy can be found here: Relationships and Sex Education overview

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Teacher Blog: Kathryn

Women in India (Y5)

The following information and video was shared with the pupils:

In the past

In the past, the status of women in India was inferior to men in daily life. However, they had a higher status in scriptures, such as Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Durga, Parvati and Kali. They are famous for being tough and determined and devoted to their families.

In India, many women did not have the same rights or freedoms as men. They were not allowed to leave their homes, be educated or take on roles in the community. Women were prohibited from taking on external matters as well as domestic matters. They were under the influence of their parents before marriage & their husband after marriage. They were treated badly by their husbands, for example they ate after their husbands, sometimes eating their husband’s leftovers.


In modern times, women in India are given rights and freedom. There are a number of women education grants that offer help to women from poor backgrounds to be educated.

The government of India provides money that women who have business ideas can borrow in order to start businesses. Women are encouraged to start small businesses in order to have their own source of income and become independent.

The status of women in India has greatly improved and there are many women who hold high positions in the government and businesses.

Women Off the Map video link showing empowerment of women in Neemrana

Images and quotes from Indian women

The children then developed their questions, using this quadrant (adapted from SAPERE P4C Level 1 handbook):

P4C quadrant

These were some of their questions:

  • Why don’t women get lots of money compared to men?
  • Why does it have to be women?
  • What is the point of having rights if they can’t use them?
  • Why can’t men serve women?
  • Why don’t women have equal rights as men?
  • Why are women treated badly?
  • Why do you think women are treated badly and men are treated well?
  • Why do men have more power?
  • What can we do to get more rights for women?

The chosen question was: Why can’t men serve women?

These are some of the children’s thoughts that they wrote down after the philosophy circle.

‘I think men should serve women because they do all the hard work and the men just relax and get free food. So for a change I think women should relax and all of the men serve and do the hard work.’

‘I think that women in India should be treated differently. They should be able to go to work and school and be educated. I think the men should help the women and do some cooking. The men should look after the children and help them to have fun.’

‘India: Because men are bigger than women. In 2009 women got tired and started to complain. The president changed the rules and now men can do the job as well.’

‘Sheffield: Sheffield is a big place and women don’t have all the things that women have in India. Women in Sheffield, even teenagers, are not scared of men.’

‘I think it was a good thing to discuss because the way women in India used to be treated wasn’t right. It helped us come up with good ideas about how we can stop it. I think that they should be treated equally because women are capable of working proper paid jobs. It should be fair and maybe they could do what we do in Britain.’

‘I think that the husband and wife should share the work equally so that they would not fight or get tired. If men are really physically stronger than women, why don’t they do more work?’



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Teacher Blog: Abbey

Gender and Careers

The main thing I found from the questionnaire was that pupils in my school had a very gendered understanding of job roles. Almost all pupils believed household roles, such as cleaning, cooking and childcare should be undertaken by women and that women should not work. There were some cases were pupils believed specific jobs, namely medicine and law enforcement, were unsuitable for women and some, such as teaching, were unsuitable for men. Despite this, most girls aspired to have a career. However, this seemed to be a belief held at the same time as the belief that they would need to undertake the roles described above, and that they would definitely have children. Often, the girls had more aspirational aims for work (in terms of traditional views of aspirational roles i.e. well paid and highly qualified). The primary career options for the boys were professional footballer, taxi driver or shop owner.

To address this I planned a number of sessions culminating in an equal opportunities job fair, at which women and men would represent roles not traditional for their gender. In the end, my time was so wholly consumed with the admin of the job fair that this became the sole focus.

The job fair, however, was a great success. The children were enthused and engaged and their understanding, particularly about police officers, was successfully challenged. Many children expressed the fact that their understanding had been altered and almost all children said that they would like to have one of the roles that they learned about.

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Volunteer Blog, Alex: Girls’ Education and Gender Respect

‘One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.’

‘So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.’

Malala Yousafzai – UN Youth Assembly 2013 Speech

‘Education is one of the most important means of empowering women with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence’ to ensure that girls participate in the development of their own country.[1] This belief underlines the objectives of the UN’s Third Millennium Development Goal which seeks to ‘promote gender equality and empower women’ to ultimately eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education at all levels of education no later than 2015.[2] Although, this target seems vastly over-ambitious and set to fail, its mission still holds value. This is because girl’s education is a crucial component to achieving gender equality. Globally, women are not equal to men in many societies due to unequal participation in government, finance, religion and cultural traditions. In a speech from Sarah Brown in an address to the Index on Censorship Magazine she exclaimed that ‘World leaders need to deliver on their pledges to institute universal primary education — especially for girls — if the world wants to empower the next generation’ as a woman who can read can lead.’[3]

Although the international community commits to empowering girls’ through education, focus on improving gender equality and respect should arguably be centred on the domestic sphere in order to understand why girls are restricted from education.

Educating a girl can transform her chances in life, promote independence and self-reliance, and help to protect her from abuse. For example, research has shown that an education affords women greater economic opportunities and awareness of rights so that they may escape domestic violence and/or avoid entering into abusive relationships. However it is one thing to be economically empowered or given more opportunities to pursue higher ambitions, the problem still centres around traditions and family values that determine many women’s access to education. For example, in North-West Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai comments on the power of the Pashtunwali code which values Purdah an Islamic belief upheld in more traditional areas, where women are sought to be honoured through privacy. Purdah is normally seen visually as either veiling or women being escorted around by male family members. This means that girls are unable to go to school on their own as most of the men are out working. When we address the issue of gender respect in girl’s education the first obstacle is not within the school walls but within the family homes of girls around the world. Education is hailed as the only sustainable tool to improving a countries economic status however when families are faced with either allowing their daughters to learn to read or providing an income, many rationally choose finance.




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Involving Men and Boys in Promoting Gender Equality


The call for increased gender equality is not a lone call given out by a small group of feminists but a recognised global plea from International Institutions like the UN, to pursue a sustainable and fairer world.

The United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, has invested many resources into their campaign for ‘Engaging Men and Boys’ in gender equality. They state that ‘Women cannot achieve gender equality and sexual and reproductive health without the cooperation and participation of men.’1

They believe that because men are situated at the top of the gender tree, the best way to tackle the structural issue of gender inequality is to engage the agents that live within it. For example, it is normally men who are the leaders, politically and socially or the heads of departments and the military; the ones who have more varied sexual relations; the ones that use contraceptives more as well as being husbands and fathers, giving them incredible power over women’s lives.

Men’s involvement is vital

Despite prevailing rhetoric about manhood, many men find the socially-constructed gender stereotypes an incredible burden to bear; hence men have much to gain from a gender equal society. To be ‘manly’ the stereotype emphasises the need to be ‘tough’ or be the ‘breadwinner’ resulting in many men internationally being forced into labour conditions that are harsh and sometimes involve injury, violence, imprisonment and sometimes even death especially within the military service, policing and fire fighting.

The wrong image of masculinity can lead men to engage in unsafe sex that jeopardizes their partners’ and their own well-being. ‘Men are victims of many forms of personal and institutional violence – primarily at the hands of other men – and have a great deal to gain from moving towards gender equality: it is an important step towards reducing violence.’2

It is also argued that because of this gender stereotype men miss out on a whole array of emotions and experiences that are’ immensely rewarding and socially valued’ due to gender stereotyping.3

In most cultures, men playing a role of a carer for their children, older or sick parents or showing their vulnerabilities is seen as an alien concept, even though many western women would gladly admit that they desire these qualities in men. However, the suppression of emotions can be deeply harmful to a man’s health.

  • Real Men Can Handle Their Booze: this attitude is part of the reason why men have more than four times as many binge drinking episodes per year than women, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).4 Binge drinking leads to health problems, including heart disease, liver failure, mental health issues, and even an increased risk of cancer.
  • Real Men Are Never Vulnerable: ignoring pain or not showing that you are ill can be very detrimental to health. Michael Addis, PhD, professor of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, explains that ‘Emotional stoicism can lead men to ignore signs of depression, anxiety, or other signs that all may not be well in life,’ caused by extreme self-reliance.5 This can also lead to relationship issues and marital divorce.
  • Real Men Are a Turn-on for Women: Sex is seen to be important for true manliness to be achieved. However, men have a 5.5 times higher rate of syphilis than women and account for 75 % of new HIV/AIDS cases, according to statistics from Avert, an international HIV/AIDS charity.6

Getting to the root of the problem

To be effective in recognising gender roles and inequality, it has to be acknowledged that these roles are dependent on social contexts in which cultural, religious, economic, political and social circumstances play a part. Once this is accepted, it is easier to understand that these gender roles are malleable. Cultures change, societies evolve and the perception of gendered positions can be altered for men and for women alike.

If ideas about manhood are deeply ingrained from an early age, then the place to start evolving these ideas is in the home within families. However this is far easier said than done. Therefore, the platform for change can be within the classroom and in communities where classrooms are not present. If a child is not taught anything different, then their views on how to be a man or how to interact with women will cement the gender stereotype.

Therefore, boys and young men should be encouraged to reflect upon and discuss issues surrounding masculinity, relationships and sexuality in order to help them understand who they want to be. If they want to be big and strong then that is their choice to be that person but their attitude to other people’s decisions, especially to their peers should be one of respect. This also applies to a boy’s view of a girl. Women who choose to be more feminine or masculine should be allowed to. They should have the chance to express themselves and be respected for their autonomy.

International Programmes for Gender Equality

The UNFPA have been focusing on challenging gender stereotypes through different international programmes including:

  • In the Dominican Republic, barbers were the conduit for getting messages about prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections to almost half a million men.
  • A project in the Philippines targeted an educational campaign about reproductive health issues to men, who are often the gatekeepers to their wives’ access to health services. Seminars and workshops gave men a chance to talk more openly about sensitive issues with their partners.
  • In Uganda, UNFPA has successfully partnered with male opinion leader leaders in the country’s complex culture – including elders, kings, bishops and imams – to promote healthier behaviours and end harmful traditional practices.7
  • The Men and Gender Equality Policy Project, seeks to build the evidence base on how to change public institutions and policies to better foster gender equality and to raise awareness among policymakers and programme planners of the need to involve men in health, development and gender equality issues. It is a multi-country research and advocacy initiative that has been carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) India, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Rwanda and South Africa (as of November 2012). Men Who Care

By Alexandra Williams



2 p.2

3 Ibid

4 ‘Why Being a Macho, Macho Man Is Bad for Your Health’

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

7 p.3