Boys at Grammar School Learn about Women’s Rights

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.




Source unknown

Afghan Women

This photo by Lynsey Addario

International Women’s Day 2013

Scanned the television news this morning. Don’t know why I even bother with the annoying BBC ‘Breakfast’, which is nothing but patronising pap. It’s not a news programme, dammit: it’s a magazine programme. Why even pretend? If a magazine programme is what you want, you might as well watch ITV, where at least they understand the conventions.

Anyway, on to Al Jazeera and then Russia Today. Not a SINGLE item to mark International Women’s Day on any of these channels! Plenty on the BBC, though, about the disastrous performance of the English (men’s) cricket team in Australia, as well as an impenetrable and meandering item about the price of a pint of beer in English pubs.

Are those who run these channels and shape these programmes not aware of any of the issues affecting half the world’s population, or do they just not give a damn? Are they completely impervious to any recent events, such as:

the impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ on women’s rights; the turmoil in India over the dreadful gang rape case; Iran’s efforts to reduce the number of women in higher education; the Turkish government’s attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights; the astonishing incidence of gender-based violence throughout the world; the Malala Yousafzai case; the exploitation of vulnerable young women for sex by groups of unscrupulous men in our own country, and the misogyny endemic in some of our own (academic) institutions and in the minds of many of our young people.

Hundreds of events were scheduled to take place today in London alone to mark IWD, but none of them, apparently, was worthy of mention.

It was an unwise move to downgrade the status of IWD in this country. As current events show, equality may be a bold concept, but it’s not well understood and it’s existence is fragile. Women’s equality with men if/where it exists, is hard-won, and the fight is far from over.

Surely to goodness our TV media can do better – much better – than this – and surely we ought to be requiring them to do so?

To blog or not to blog

Well, I’ve debated this matter at some length, and come to no useful conclusions.
The general consensus is that no writer worth their salt can afford to be without a blog these days. Some eagle-eyed agent or publisher may be watching and may select you from among the throng, flourishing a lucrative multi-book deal contract. Whoopee! Every literary aspirant’s dream. I have even met someone who claimed to be one of these feted creatures. It was like sighting a unicorn.

Personally, I’m of the view that if I’ve got time to write – instead of fixing problems with my IT arrangements, disinfecting the swing-top bin in the kitchen and paying bills – then I ought to be, er, writing.

And don’t expect to see much here about the writing process. My view is that that’s for me to know, and for you not to be aware of. (Like dirty bed linen.) In any case, thinking is more important than writing, and if I’m thinking something profound, shouldn’t I, er, be writing that down?

All this said, today, I felt outraged, so I’m going to give it a go…