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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Gender Respect – Youth Effect: Friday 4th March 2016

Our national conference ‘Gender Respect – Youth Effect’ was a great opportunity to network with liked minded, passionate people who work with young people to give them a voice and help them to understand their right to respect, regardless of gender. The wealth of experience and the variety of professionals present enabled thought-provoking and stimulating discussions.

The day commenced with the inspirational and passionate feminist writer, Laura Bates. She is author of ‘Everyday Sexism’ and founder of ‘the everyday sexism project.’ The project promotes gender equality and is a place for people to record stories of sexism that occur on a daily basis. Laura spoke about how people can be complacent, and just accept that this is the way things are. She goes into schools and delivers talks to encourage people to speak out when they have been treated unfairly. Laura’s talk was shocking at times and contained statistics that were depressing, but she ended on a positive note, talking about how things are changing and people are feeling more able to speak out against inequality.

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Feedback from participants was very positive. Project teacher Stephen said ‘I was pleased to part of the day that could potentially change the lives of so many that face inequality. Similar to Laura I would like people to challenge inappropriate actions and comments that are so offensive and hurtful to other people. It needs to start with the young and it was good to see a workshop on Early Years Education. While disappointed that very few men attended the morning session, it was pleasing to hear the message that men are important to addressing change and that they should see themselves as people who can reach out to other men who are responsible for unacceptable behaviour.’

The day continued with an overview of the Gender Respect project and the scoping study, followed by a choice of 4 workshops:

  1.   Sexual Harassment and Masculinities – Interactive & practical ideas – how to facilitate discussions about these issues, encourage empathy, and enable safe, appropriate interventions.
  2. Challenging gender stereotypes – Practical ideas for lessons which develop critical and creative thinking and enable primary-aged pupils to make real choices in areas such as sport and careers.
  3.  ‘Doing Gender’ – How young children develop ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’ and how we can provide an EYFS environment that promotes gender equality. This workshop will give participants an opportunity to discuss the theory around how children develop gender identities and reflect on practical approaches across the EYFS curriculum.
  4. Period Positive Schools – A fun, informative and interactive workshop sharing results results and resources from Chella’s research on how to include all ages and genders in menstruation education.

These workshops were well received by all and involved lots of thought-provoking discussions.

In the afternoon, Jo Sharpen, children and Young People’s Project Coordinator spoke about the Chilypep project ‘Against Violence and Abuse (AVA).’ This project works with young people who have been affected by domestic abuse. It was interesting to hear about how professionals can work with children and young people through an empowerment and participation model to shape services and provision. It was inspirational to hear from some of the young people involved in the project. Project teacher Stephen said ‘It was good to hear how the project in the afternoon had empowered so many once victims to be strong leaders of change.’

Participants chose from 3 workshops for the afternoon:

  1. Where do we go from here? – An opportunity to explore the YWAVE research findings and develop ideas and pledges from services/professionals/communities. A discussion around the legacy of the AVA project in Sheffield.
  2.  In My Shoes –  Interactive session exploring young people’s experiences and perspectives when engaging with multiple services and professionals in relation to domestic abuse.
  3. Participation and Empowerment – A look at models for working with young people. Opportunity to critically think about our practice with young people, examine the benefits and learn new strategies that can be incorporated into our work.

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The day was a great opportunity for networking, encouraging one another and learning about the work of different organisations. Project teacher Stephen said ‘I would like the day to be seen as a growing platform of change across society and especially education. We need men and women to work together to address inequalities on all genders. We need to measure the success e.g. by more men working in early education, nursing, caring professions, politics and other STEM professions. We also need to measure a significant difference in the number of violent and abusive crimes against people within our communities.’

How did people describe the conference?

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Teacher Blog: Stephen

Gender Respect Pupil Conference: What happened next

The four school council members who attended the pupil conference were buzzing on the train home to Barnsley. I wasn’t sure if this was just a feel good factor or a sustained desire to bring about a change.

You can see what they planned to do on this film from the pupil conference:

By Thursday of the following week, they were knocking on the nursery door with a list that they had already completed. They explained they had started a presentation, made a poster for around school, were working on leaflets and now needed our Headteacher to allocate a whole school assembly.

Our Headteacher was delighted and taken aback by their passion. He quickly provided a date for an assembly for them to work towards. Dearne FM, the local radio station, were at school the next day spreading the news about how eager the children were to address Gender Respect.

Today they were very professional, confident and worked clearly in a team to share the message to the rest of school. I’m delighted that the ‘pupil voice’ is now discussing more than dressing up days and fundraising and that children are supporting their own community by voicing their feelings and desires.

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It was interesting that after numerous days working together, the boys didn’t show for one of the lunchtime sessions. The girls said that the boys had needed a day to play out and that they had let them. The boys in effect had left the girls to write and design so they could play out. However, the boys still wanted a say when it came to decision making.

It generated a discussion and I reminded them that we are all in it together with a shared responsibility. You cannot opt out and yet still want a say. They understood the message and recognised that sacrificing playing out is part of teamwork. They agreed that after the assembly they would meet one lunchtime a week.

They still have the passion for Gender Respect and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact across the school.


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Gender Respect Pupil Conference: Secondary Workshop

In the secondary workshop pupils divided into two groups and drew life-size outlines of a male and a female. To begin with, they were asked to focus on the appearance of a ‘typical’ boy or girl, with clothes and accessories. After being asked to think about what a girl or boy might say, the ‘typical’ gender jobs and what a ‘typical’ boy or girl might think, the pupils began to think deeply about how these stereotypes might affect the way someone views themselves.

To enable them to think about the effects of stereotypes more specifically, they were asked to fill in a three-way table, thinking about how stereotypes affect a persons sense of self, a persons relationships and job prospects. A theme that was prominent in both group discussions was the idea of someone not being able to be who they truly are due to pressures from society;

‘They have to conform to society.’

‘Comparing yourself to friends.‘

‘You are always under pressure to maintain an appearance.’

‘Feel like they are putting on an act.’

‘Acting cocky to get noticed.’

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They were then showed a video called ‘The Man Box’, which included quite a disturbing story, to which all the children watched in a very mature and respectful way. The children were asked to write down what the video made them think and feel, which included words such as disgusted, shocked, frustrated and angry.

From all the things that had been discussed throughout the day, the pupils were asked to reflect on gender respect problems within their schools and how to tackle them. One group in particular wanted sexism to be treated equally to racism within schools and the rest of society.

The children impressed me with their enthusiasm and passion for gender respect, as well as treating sensitive issues with maturity and regard. It was clear that this was an issue they really cared about and want to help tackle. The students said that they really enjoyed meeting other schools and learning from one another.

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CRESST Peer Mediators’ Conference

Kathryn and Heather ran a Gender Respect workshop at the CRESST conference for peer mediators on 7th January, 2016. We ran the workshop 3 times with 3 different groups of children in Y5 and Y6 from 10 schools in South Yorkshire.

Our aims were:

  • Explore what it’s like to be a boy or a girl in South Yorkshire
  • Identify attitudes we have about boys and girls
  • Think as peer mediators how we can make it fairer.

We used the same images of sports, careers and emotions that we had used in the scoping study as stimulus for discussions. We used continuum lines with agree and disagree about a view or attitude that emerged to generate further thought and discussion.

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These are some of the attitudes that we drew out from the lively discussions:

Sports:

  • Many girls want to play football at play time but don’t because boys are too rough.
  • When we asked boys ‘Is this true?’ some replied ‘Yes, because we’re more competitive than girls.’
  • Football is a boys’ sport. Boys are tough and can be aggressive.
  • Girls are not as good at sport.
  • Girls can be stronger than boys and they can play football as well as boys.
  • Some boys like dancing and are good at it.
  • Boys can be embarrassed to be friends with a girl.
  • Some schools had girls only football at play time. Other girls said they did not want this. They wanted to play with boys but for boys not to be so rough and obey the rules.

Careers:

Strong views were expressed about equality, that men and women should be able to do every job.

  • Boys and girls can do every job.
  • It’s good to see a woman pilot and men looking after children.
  • Usually women do childcare. They have carried the baby so they are more in touch. However, men can look after children too.
  • Comparisons with the past. Men used to go out to work and women stayed at home. Now more women go out to work.

Emotions:

  • You sometimes see women being angry, but they’ve got good reasons to be angry. They do not get equal pay and are often treated unfairly and not with respect.
  • It’s unusual to see men cry but they all agreed that it’s acceptable for them to cry.
  • Boys and men act really tough. If they cry, they think they’ll look weak.

We asked the children: ‘If you had super magical powers and had one wish, to make things fairer and kinder between men and women, girls and boys what would that be?’

  •  Girls and boys can play together
  • Don’t judge people by if they’re black or white
  • Girls are the same as boys and everyone is treated fairly
  • Girls and boys are in the same team in any sport
  • Make girls confident to do sports
  • Make more jobs accessible to different genders
  • Freedom of choice
  • Change attitudes
  • To make sure men and women get treated equally and have the same rights
  • Boys and girls shouldn’t judge each other by what they look like
  • Everyone having the same opportunities
  • That men and women should share their feelings
  • To make every man, woman and child get along so everyone should stop bombing and attacking people.
  • For people to aim for their dreams

Finally, we asked them ‘As a peer mediator, what could you do to make it fairer?’

  • Talk to the school in an assembly, about genders getting along with being friends and making sure you are able to do what you want to do. E.g. being able to play football if you are a girl.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
  • To make sure you’re not taking sides
  • Don’t judge people by their gender
  • Giving people the opportunity to play
  • Make girls try to play sport and not make boys make fun of them
  • Play together fairly. Treat people respectfully. Practise together.
  • Collaborate more
  • Listen to other people’s opinion
  • Encourage people to believe in themselves and do what they want with their life
  • Use encouragement to build their confidence
  • Make a rota (that’s clear) for girl’s football on a certain day, same with boys, ‘We have a rota but whenever I look at the football pitch and there are always boys, the same boys.’

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Our reflections

We really enjoyed the workshops and felt very encouraged by the opinions of the young people. We realised we had the benefit of being with a selected group of hand-picked 10 and 11 year olds, trained in listening and mediation. The children were forthcoming in their views and able to discuss their differences. They had strongly held views about the importance of equality – between men and women, boys and girls, black and white. This held true for occupations, emotions and relationships. We were very interested to hear that some girls and boys did not like the banter about ‘Girls are best. No! Boys are best.’ which they said was very prevalent in their schools. ‘Because we are all human beings. We want to be treated like human beings.’ However, in the everyday experience of playground football, girls expressed their reality of exclusion. This held true across all 10 schools represented. It may be boys had not heard this before and discussions like this could make a difference, especially as peer mediators are mostly engaged because of conflicts at play times. However, some boys’ view that they were more competitive than girls seemed insightful, and may reflect an underlying culture.

Thoughts for the future of the Gender Respect project: We were encouraged that some children spontaneously suggested holding an assembly on gender equality. We hope their teachers will be able to support them in this. This idea may be developed at the young people’s conference later this month. All the children said they would love to come to a Gender Respect student conference if there was one in the future.