Gender equality has somewhat become a term with no clear meaning. Something that most people want, but something that very few will enforce. To some it may even be seen as a topic of controversy, even though it shouldn’t be as equality is a right, not a choice.
At Woodside High, we wanted to offer other schools the opportunity to have an example of what pushing for gender equality in all subjects can lead to so that they don't end up starting from the beginning.
This year, Woodside High students hosted a very special Future Youth School forum in partnership with Oxfam. Future Youth School Forums are structured events led and organised by students, enabling them to explore issues, collaborate and share ideas for action on social justice issues. We hosted a forum last year on the theme of Refugees, and this year the theme was Gender Equality – and what better day to host it than on International Women’s Day!
We worked really hard throughout the term to prepare for the forum. Not only did we plan our own work on campaigning for better gender equality, but we also organised, coordinated and hosted the forum where students from Duke’s Aldridge Academy and the London Academy of Excellence attended. We are very passionate about the topic and tackling challenging global issues on gender equality, discussing global and local concerns and seeing what problems really need addressing and how is no small feat but one that we all embraced.
The day itself had many different, exciting elements. We were delighted to have Catherine West, MP, as our keynote speaker. She reflected on youth participation and voting rights for 16 year olds. She encouraged us to pursue our work and be a positive force for change.
In addition to exciting workshops and activities, we also organised an amazing exhibition which not only could the Forum students enjoy, but our whole school. Incredible photographs from across the globe were displayed, linked with the United Nation’s sustainable development goals on gender. The exhibition also included special videos for students to watch, a reading area with books on the history of women’s equality and a photobooth area where people could choose to make their own statement with some of the placards that we had made.
Woodside, Duke’s Aldridge and LAE students also took part in an international conference call with Leonardo Da Vinci Firenze School in Florence, Brentford School Forum participants and Sir John Lawes Forum participants – all of whom were having their forums also. It was a fantastic opportunity to share some of our work and really feel part of a global network taking part and working towards a shared goal.
As a student in year 10, put in his closing speech
“The most important thing about today is that it is a starting point. A starting point for all of us to involve ourselves and our schools in the movement for Gender Equality – because it’s such an important issue that can only be solved if we all work together. It takes action to change the views of others; we know that, and with that knowledge comes the understanding that we have the power to change our world for the better.”
We wrote a book following our work at our forum to capture our work. We wanted to take action both within our school community and beyond to help to create a better world for us all. The work done on this has been extraordinary and it has truly had a lasting effect on not only the inner workings of the school by making sure that gender equality is not something that is ignored or pushed aside, but also the students who are becoming more aware of gender inequality in its many forms.
On Monday 21st May 2018, three members of Woodside High’s Oxfam Youth Ambassador group members went to Parliament to attend the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Global Education for all event to discuss education, sustainable development and global citizenship. We presented our work to Stephen Twigg, MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee and Harriet Baldwin, Minister of State at the Department for International Development as well as Jess McQuail, CEO of Think Global and senior staff from Oxfam. We spoke about our work and shared our book with those present. It was a fantastic opportunity to not only share our work but also hear from others who are working so hard to campaign for equality.
We hope that our work will help inspire others to push for gender equality wherever you may be because this isn't an issue that can be solved by one school or organisation, it has to be every one of us and if that is not possible now, then we have a moral obligation to educate ourselves and each other to make sure that others do not face the same doom.