International Women's Day
International Women's Day takes place every year on 8th March. It is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality – one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. This year’s campaign asks everyone to #PressforProgress in order to achieve a more gender-inclusive world.
The Global Learning Programme in Wales (GLP-W) has created this resource to support teachers wishing to develop their pupils’ knowledge of interdependence and equality, while encouraging them to consider the concepts of fairness, agency, rights, respect and social justice, and how individuals can make a difference.
This resource is targeted particularly at Key Stages 2 and 3 and 4, with some opportunities for older pupils. It will particularly support teachers in developing:
- pupils’ knowledge and understanding of gender equality, and some of the issues and challenges that girls face around the world today
- pupils’ knowledge and understanding of global themes, including rights and social justice
- pupils’ enquiry, critical thinking and discussion skills
- opportunities for pupils to consider their own and others’ values.
It will also help teachers to investigate how women have worked to make the world more just and sustainable; contributed to development, the reduction of poverty, and sustainability; and challenged injustice.
Resources and links
International Women’s Day:
UN Women http://www.unwomen.org/en with this interesting infographic and YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/UNWomen
1. Girls' and women's rights and the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (also known as the Global Goals) were launched in September 2015, with the targets due to be achieved by 2030. If the goals are achieved, then more children will go to school, fewer people will die from preventable diseases, and girls and women will have the same opportunities as boys and men. This resource focuses in particular on Global Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Suggested activity resource: girls, women and the SDGs
Aim: To understand the SDGs and the links with women and development
- Explore the SDGs using one of the many interactives and lesson plans on the GLP-W list, focusing particularly on the aim of the goals.
- Print copies of the SDG graphics and cut into cards (one SDG = one card). Get pupils to identify which SDG/s involve girls/women directly. Discuss which involve them indirectly, and how. Draw a concept map to show their involvement and how the goals are linked.
Development and the SDGs
2. Giving girls a voice through education
Since 2000 there has been much progress in tackling poverty and development; however, there is still a long way to go, in particular in supporting girls and young women. For example, the UN reported in 2013 that in many countries:
- girls still often have fewer opportunities for education, future careers, and participation in government
- girls tend to be less secure in their work, being limited to more vulnerable employment, and to enjoy fewer social benefits
- girls continue to suffer from violence and abuse.
Education plays a key role in overcoming poverty all around the world; for example, girls who receive an education are more likely to access better jobs and earn higher salaries, which can help lift their families out of poverty. Educated girls are more likely to wait until a later age to be married and have children, which means both they and their children are more likely to be healthy. They are also more likely to understand their rights and speak out to claim them, including the right to protection against violence. Each extra year of schooling can help increase a girl’s prospective wages by up to one fifth (Source: DfID).
Plan UK (2012 Youth Summary) lists a number of barriers to girls’ education, largely in developing and emerging countries, including:
- Early pregnancy: Early pregnancy often follows early marriage, with girls as young as 15 becoming mothers, which gives them very little opportunity to continue their education. Early pregnancy can also be a very serious risk to a young girl’s health; girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than those in their 20s, and their babies are also at a higher risk of dying.
- Household chores: Girls may be kept out of school in order to do household chores, especially fetching water where there is no piped supply. Plan UK’s research in Guinea Bissau found that girls often spend eight hours a day on household chores, compared to three hours for boys.
- Poverty or schooling cost: The cost of sending a child to school can be prohibitive to families on very low incomes. Even when schooling is free by law, as it is in many countries, there are often still costs related to uniforms or school books. Families often decide to prioritise a boy’s education when funds are limited; girls are perceived as having less chance to get a job or earn a good income.
- Violence in schools/teacher abuse: School is not always the safe environment that it should be, especially for girls, including physical and psychological violence, sexual violence and bullying. Girls are often most vulnerable where gender discrimination and unequal power relations between children and adults exist.
- Distance: In poorer, more rural areas of the world, having to travel a long distance to the nearest school can present significant challenges, such as the cost of transport or the time it takes to walk. Long journeys are often associated with risk and danger, for girls in particular.
- The empowerment of girls is vital to achieving a fair and equal world. Empowerment means being able to make choices and decisions about your own life and future, and this is particularly important for young people. It can be all too easy for adults or governments to take decisions for children without understanding, considering or acknowledging the impact they have on those children’s lives.
Empowering girls to engage in meaningful participation and decision-making about their lives ensures that their views and rights are taken into account, and that the decisions made will be more likely to improve children’s lives. Engaging in participation is also important for a child’s development into a responsible adult and an active citizen in their society, wherever they are in the world.
Suggested activity resource: education for empowerment
Aim: To understand the importance of education in terms of impact on girls' life chances, and choices and links to a development
- Investigate the impact of child labour or early marriage. Plan International and The Girl Effect have videos you could show about the impact on girls’ lives. Oxfam’s ‘Explore girls’ education’ activities focus on Afghanistan in more depth.
- You could use the UNESCO interactive to explore the gender gap in education in a variety of countries
Aim: To understand the importance of empowerment through education
- Investigate the case studies from different countries, such as Oxfam's 'Welsh Baccalaureate Education' pack
- The following Girl Effect videos are available on YouTube: ‘Being a Girl Journalist in Rwanda’; ‘Consolée the guitarist’; ‘Anita from India’
- How do these case studies link to the barriers to girls’ education and the barriers to gender equality?
- You could extend the work to investigate gender equality in different countries using the British Council’s ‘gender equality through citizenship’ activities or Oxfam’s ‘Bringing data to life’, Key Stage 3 numeracy investigations.
- ‘Explore Girls Education’ focuses on girls’ education in Afghanistan
- ‘Welsh Baccalaureate: Education’ focuses on the barriers to education in Afghanistan and Pakistan
- ‘Bringing data to life’, Key Stage 3 numeracy investigations focused on the empowerment of Ethiopian women smallholders
The British Council
The Girl Effect:
Pathways of Empowerment:
He named me Malala
- Movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE5gSHJkusU
- Film and lesson plans: https://www.docacademy.org/malala/ (login required). The resources explore the importance of girls’ rights to education and 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 literacy, PSE and as stimuli for Philosophy for Children (P4C).
3. Patterns of gender inequality
The reasons for gender inequality
Gender inequality is a significant barrier to girls around the world, including the UK, living their lives freely, and fulfilling their potential in a safe and enabling environment. It is a highly complex issue, with many of its roots in traditional social norms and perceptions of the place, status and role of women. Today, many girls and women face inequality both in having a voice in decisions that affect them, and in their ability to make choices about their lives. The results of this are very significant on a global scale, as Women Deliver suggest. Half the world’s population are women, and yet:
- women make up over two thirds of the world’s poor
- women also make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults
- a quarter of the world’s women are abused physically or sexually during pregnancy
- over 100 countries have laws restricting women taking part in the economy.
Investing in girls can be transformational – for their family, their community and for their country. Investing in girls and women is good for them in their own right but can also translate into better educated and healthier children, breaking the cycle of poverty across generations. So investing in girls and women is widely seen as a priority for development.
Suggested activity resource: education for empowerment
Aim: To understand the importance of education in terms of impact on girls' life chances, and choices and links to a development
- Build up a picture of global patterns of gender inequality through world maps, for example using the British Council’s ‘gender equality through citizenship’ lesson 4 resources
- Alternatively go direct to the Women Stats website and choose five or six maps showing different patterns of inequality. Ask pupils to identify what the maps show and why it is important, then use their atlases to identify patterns such as highest and lowest countries/regions, and any common patterns across the maps.
- Alternatively use the Country Cards to investigate global patterns of gender inequality (see Appendix 1)
- You could identify a range of case studies of progress in different parts of the world. Allocate these to different pupils to investigate using a common format before presenting their findings around a large world map (see Appendix 3 Case Study Template at the end of this resource).
- To summarise the work, you could use the Women Deliver website to model different types of infographics before challenging pupils to compile and draw up their own infographic to summarise the global picture.
- You could link pupils’ findings to women’s rights in the next activity.
UK government case studies
4. Understanding the International Rights Framework
Children all around the world have rights, no matter where they live. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) details what these are, aiming to protect these vulnerable members of society from exploitation. It is the responsibility of governments to see that these rights are upheld; however, in many places, they are not. For example, UNICEF suggests that over 100 million children worldwide carry out dangerous work, often away from their families, rather than going to school.
Child rights are a set of freedoms that are protected, for example the freedom to have an education, or the freedom to practise your own religion. Understanding children’s rights, and in particular girls’ rights, helps us to understand why it is important to support them in making choices for themselves, and in having a voice in decisions that affect them.
Suggested activity resource: understanding human rights
Aim: To understand the background and principles behind human rights
- Children's Rights Wales and Amnesty International provide a range of suitable resources, many biligual
- The British Council 'Connecting Classrooms - gender equality through citizenship': lesson 3 explores needs, wants, rights and equality
Aim: To encourage pupils to think about what their priorities are in terms of rights
- Oxfam provide a series of lession PDFs, including: 'Developing Rights: Unit 1 Lesson Plan 1 Planet X', which explores establishing rights on a newly settled planet
Children’s Rights Wales: Welsh Government site including videos, activity sheets, games and other resources focused on the UNCRC.
- ‘Poverty and Human Rights’ includes material on the UNHDR
British Council: ‘Connecting Classrooms – gender equality through citizenship’; Lesson 3 https://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/classroom-resources/list/gender-equality
5. Proposing a solution
Now that your pupils have examined the causes and impacts of their chosen topic or issue, you might ask them to start looking at what needs to change to support girls to have a voice, choice and control. One option is to make a presentation to show how their proposal:
- improves or reduces the negative impact on girls’ lives
- supports girls’ voices or gives girls a role in decision-making
- can make a lasting, sustainable change
- helps reduce poverty.
In proposing a solution your pupils might consider some or all of the following:
- What are the benefits when girls are able to make decisions about their own lives? Are there any disadvantages and, if so, how could they be dealt with?
- What do you think needs to change to help girls have a voice/make their own choices? What are your reasons for thinking this?
- What solutions are already in place (e.g. what have people, governments or others, already done)?
- How could the change come about?
- Who needs to be involved (girls/ families/society/school/government/the UN/us) and what do they need to do? Who should lead the change and why? How can we help this to happen?
- What could stop this happening? What dangers could be involved and how could they be overcome?
Appendix 1: Activity – scoring gender equality
Pupils look at a data set of statistics about gender equality and make comparisons between different types of scores. This may support lessons in mathematics and numeracy related to handling data and lessons in geography when investigating patterns of gender and development.
You will need:
Build up the big picture by investigating which countries are in the data set.
- You could play Top Trumps™ using the country cards.
- If you are planning map activities or a display later, pupils could use atlases to identify and locate the country cards on a world map.
- You could use the 30 country cards to familiarise pupils with the countries, for example by forming a country continuum in your classroom or hall, e.g.: longest to shortest time in school for girls; most to fewest women in parliament; best (lowest) to worst (highest) equality score. Prompt pupils to discuss any patterns or theories they notice, and any exceptions and surprises, for example:
- Are countries where women are generally better off also fairer for women? (Compare Gross National Product (GDP) per capita and gender fairness score.)
- Are countries with more women in parliament better places for women? (Compare percentage of women in parliament with gender fairness score.)
- Are countries with more women in the workplace better places for women? (Compare women in the workforce with, for example, life expectancy or deaths in childbirth.)
- Do women live longer in richer countries? (Compare life expectancy and GDP data.)
- Are there countries/regions that show the patterns and others that don’t?
Discussions with pupils may draw out some key ideas such as the following:
- Not all countries score equally well for things like gender equality, being well off or having better health. This applies within countries, as well as across the world.
- These things can be related – e.g. being better off might be an advantage for being healthier or better educated. However, there are exceptions, and this may not be a hard and fast ‘rule’.
- What are pupils’ thoughts on whether differences should exist? What is the more desirable state of the world?
|Average years in school
||The average years of education a woman has had
|Share of seats in parliament
||The % of MPs who are women
|Women in the workforce
||The % of women working or looking for work
||How many years a baby girl can expect to live
||The lower the score, the more equal women and men are
|Deaths in childbirth
||The number of mothers who die in every 100,000 births
|GDP per person
||The income of a person in $, divided by the number of people
Appendix 2: What about the library?
This activity enables teachers to investigate the books pupils can access in their school library. Through being on the library shelves, books are being recommended to the pupils by the school. The library audit gives teachers an overview, enabling them to determine which books provide a balanced view of the world, locally and globally.
You could inspire your pupils with the story of 11-year-old Marley Dias. Her #1000blackgirlbooks appeal grew from her frustration of only being given stories ‘about white boys and their dogs’. She started her own collection of books with representations of black girls. Take a look at this list of books featuring black girls.
Download the RISC’s ‘What about the library?’ activity.
Start by considering the extent to which the books:
- reflect both traditional and contemporary lives, urban and rural environments, rich and poor and those in between, in all continents
- emphasise similarities and acknowledge differences between people and places
- reflect the experience, culture and language of Wales
- celebrate the contributions and achievements of both women and men, and from societies around the world.
To mark International Women’s Day, you could ask pupils to look at the non-fiction section of the library, and compare the number of biographies of men and women. Alternatively, pupils could audit the images and content of geography, history or PSE textbooks.
Idea for further activities:
Key Stage 2: Make a list of missing biographies of women and ask the school to buy them or fundraise for them.
Key Stages 2/3: #PressforProgress! Follow IWD’s 2018 theme and write a persuasive letter to your school’s librarian or head teacher to convince them to buy more books about women. You could use the Send My Friend to School activity sheet for ideas on how to write a convincing speech.
 Activity based on RISC’s How do we know it’s working? http://www.risc.org.uk/toolkit
Appendix 3: Case study template
Download it here.
Resource created by the Geographical Association and DECSY for the Global Learning Programme Wales.