Gender Inequality in Nevada, USA
WAGGGS recognises that gender inequality is the root cause of violence against girls and young women and that understanding this is a great starting point for discussions before moving on to exploring violence against girls more specifically.
Stefanie from the USA, one of WAGGGS' Stop the Violence Lead Facilitators, began working on the issue of violence against women and girls in her state and community after attending a WAGGGS' ACTIVATE event in December 2013. Beginning in spring 2014, she developed a multi-session training programme for members of Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada aged 12 - 17 years.
In introductory sessions, participants discussed their understanding of “gender inequality” from their own experiences and observations. This was then followed by an activity to explore the positive and negative messages in pop songs such as “All about That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. One of the important learnings that was identified was the fact that the song mentions how magazines use Photoshop to create deceiving images. It was also recognised that lyrics like “shake it like I’m supposed to do” were negative because they enforced gender stereotypes. The documentary film “Miss Representation” was also screened at another event to illustrate the saturation of limited and disparaging portrayals of women in mass media.
“Shake it like I’m supposed to do”
A more targeted September 2014 training served to prepare high school-aged representatives attending the October 2014 Girl Scouts USA National Convention. Stefanie introduced the young women to the concept of intersectionality by illustrating the relationship between the status of women and issues such as access to education, employment opportunities, and institutionalised racism, to name a few. All of the data discussed reflected compelling statistics and issues specifically within the participants’ home state of Nevada.
The girls took notes throughout the trainings, asked some very poignant questions, and created important connections between the materials and their own lives. Comments such as, “My school expels girls if they are pregnant” demonstrate that participants noticed the unfair and discriminatory treatment between teen females and their male counterparts.
Stefanie observed that the girls began some great conversations during the training sessions. These workshops included some more advanced concepts that are typically tackled in university-level courses, yet participants were engaged throughout the sessions as they “unpacked” many cultural stereotypes.
This is a huge first step to then exploring violence against women and girls in more detail and very much reflects the themes covered in the first session of the Voices against Violence curriculum.