Challenging the status quo – it’s never too early to start

Posted on: 2nd March 2017

With the right intervention at the right time, the Body & Soul model of care builds hope and resilience among members. Many of our programmes are built around resilience training because this has been shown to mitigate the effects of adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect and poverty. Here Rebecca, head of the Base programme (for 10-12 year olds), describes how she used a group discussion about feminism to encourage young members to stand up for what they believe and have the courage to challenge things they don’t think are right.

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After one of the Base members expressed an interest in exploring feminism, I arranged for us to have two ‘Base talk’ workshops on the subject. We started off the first session by discussing what feminism means, and they came up with some pretty good thoughts:

  • Equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender
  • Not living up to stereotypes and just being yourself
  • Why does being a girl determine how strong you are, or your ability to do things boys do?
  • Why are girls regarded as the ‘weaker gender’?
  • Jobs shouldn’t be limited for girls

All of the young people expressed anger and frustration that males and females are still unequal across many roles. They suggested it was unfair and one of the boys said he would be sad if his sister was treated unfairly. Another boy made the point that it runs both ways and that ‘boys are affected too –people at school say I shouldn’t do ballet’.

Discussing topics that may not be covered in the school curriculum encourages our young members to question society and the status quo, instilling in them the idea that their voice deserves to be heard. By fostering a sense of psychosocial wellbeing in this way, we find that our members feel better able to question stigma surrounding HIV and to have the confidence to educate others on the issues faced by people who are stigmatised.

Our lively discussion continued into the second ‘Base talk’ workshop the following week, and everyone was proud when one member told the story of what had happened in the intervening period:

‘My teacher was describing the feminine and masculine pronouns in a French lesson and had completed a display board. He had put a muscle picture for the masculine side and a flowery dress for the feminine side. I raised my hand and asked why a girl couldn’t be strong and why a boy wasn’t allowed to wear flowers. The teacher agreed with me and the next day, he had changed the display board.’

That’s a result, I think.

Muscles and flowers



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