Spent yesterday at a boys’ grammar school in Kent, at the invitation of the Assistant Director of Studies (Sixth Form), and on behalf of Womankind Worldwide, talking to fourteen year-olds about the issue of women’s rights. The school had courageously organised a whole day of workshops on this, as part of their enrichment programme.
We devised a series of activities that gave an insight into some of the work the charity does, setting it in the context of human rights. We were planning and revising our plans right up until the last minute, to make sure that the session was going to be workable and topical.The first activity, for example, was based upon photographs drawn from recent media coverage of events affecting women.
I ran the session five times over the course of the day, with the support of teachers from the school. Sixth form students also helped in some of the sssions. It was a very interesting experience, with contributions from the boys reflecting a wide range of ‘innocence and experience’. Someone wondered why, for example, you couldn’t just pop out and phone ‘Child Line’ if you found yourself being traded between families as a child bride somewhere in a remote corner of Afghanistan. On the other hand, when we played a game of chance about the factors that help and hinder young women achieve independence, one boy sensitively observed that it didn’t seem right to be approaching the subject by playing a game.
A couple of things really struck me, though. One: how little young people here, in England, actually know about how civil society is supposed to work. Since ‘Citizenship’ dropped off the curriculum into the dustbin of history, things have actually gone backwards. Their level of comprehension compares unfavourably with that of children educated in India who can tell you not only about their own constitutional arrangements, but about those of other countries as well.
Two: given how much time young people spend online, how little even the bright ones know about prominent items in in the news. You could count on the fingers of one hand the number, out of about 150, who had even heard of the Delhi gang rape.
Hats off to this school, though, for taking this initiative. Hopefully we have shed a little light into some dark corners. I, certainly, would be up for contributing again.
This photo by Lynsey Addario