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