New Nordic teaching material will learn students about women´s rights

A new website will teach Nordic upper-secondary students about women’s rights and encourage engagement. The content is based on the UN Women’s Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action. ‘It’s important that the students learn about their rights. This is a tool meant to change society,’ says Hanna Björg Vilhjálmsdóttir, upper-secondary teacher in Iceland.

NIKK spade symbolThe site is separated into 12 themes, such as work and equal pay, education, violence, media, peace and security and sustainable development. Everything is presented in a gender equality perspective. The teaching material has been developed within the framework of “A Gender Equal Nordic Region”, which is a project run by three organisations from Sweden, Denmark and Iceland. The idea is that teachers in various subject areas should be able to use the material, and that it will inspire students to get involved in these issues.

‘Icelandic schools don’t have any textbooks that deal with women’s rights and gender equality issues. This type of material is a good thing,’ says Vilhjálmsdóttir, who has been part of the project working group.

The Nordic countries have chosen somewhat different paths when it comes to teaching gender equality in schools. When Vilhjálmsdóttir started working as a teacher, she designed a course in gender and gender equality. It became very popular. After a few years, she was asked to train other teachers to enable them to offer the course at their schools.

‘Twenty-five of Iceland’s 33 upper-secondary schools are offering the course at the moment. It has sparked a lot of interest among the students. Feminist clubs have popped up at several schools!’

 

Advantages with electronic platform

Hanna Björg. Press photo.

Hanna Björg. Press photo.

The Icelandic gender equality course puts a strong focus on discussion and active participation. Everything from pornography and prostitution to labour market issues and politics is addressed and analysed from a gender power perspective. Vilhjálmsdóttir sees the new online teaching material as a useful complement.

In Iceland and Sweden, schools are required by law to teach gender equality in schools. The Danish national education act lacks a similar provision, which means that teachers are not required to address these issues.

‘I think relatively few teachers are teaching this stuff. Most of them probably already have a personal interest in gender equality issues,’ says Lise Bæk Vestermark, upper-secondary teacher in Roskilde and also member of the working group.

She likes that the website covers women’s rights in a wide range of areas. This enables teachers to choose whatever issue they want to talk to their students about.

‘One advantage with an electronic platform is that it lets you click on links to access new research or other continuously updated material. This way the content never becomes old and obsolete,’ says Bæk Vestermark.

 

Women´s Convention relatively unknown

The project behind the website came about after the Nordic Forum in Malmö 2014. According to Stéphanie Thögersen, project leader, many young people who attended the event showed a lot of interest and engagement in gender equality issues – something the project wanted to keep building on.

She says that schools and the public lack important knowledge about the UN Women’s Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action.

‘Most people have heard about the Children’s Convention, but the Women’s Convention remains relatively unknown. Feminist engagement gets even more effective when young people learn about their rights and how they can let this knowledge guide their efforts,’ says Thögersen.

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This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.

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