Blog post written by Lisa Öhman, intern at the Girl Child Platform
Many of us would agree that gender equality must begin in early ages, but why is this so important?
The Swedish School Inspection has now presented a report of their review of preschools’ work with equality. The purpose of this review was to see if girls and boys are given the same opportunities to try and develop abilities and interests without being limited by stereotypical gender roles. Research and investigations have previously shown that if there is a lack of a conscious equality work then stereotypical gender roles can be strengthened instead of being made visible and questioned. The conclusion of the review was that the Preschool policy on gender equality is not clear or defined, and can thus not be used effectively.
It is imperative that equality is worked with consciously in preschools through a girl perspective – by which we mean that girls have limited possibilities to live a life free from discrimination and the conviction that this must change – because it is in early ages where gender roles are created. Unequal treatment and discriminatory gender roles in school are recurrent themes in responses to our campaign GirlSmart (in Swedish: Tjejkunnig). Many girls express that there are expectations on girls and boys to act in stereotypical ways based on gender roles, specifically in the school environment. The responses we’ve gotten have often claimed that girls are expected to be “good girls” and to be quiet in school, while it is socially accepted that boys take up space and let themselves be heard. One girl also argued that boys and girls could be treated unequally in different ways:
(…) Sometimes the girls in a class can be taken so seriously so that the guys are not being taken seriously at all. Then there are schools that take guys more seriously than girls. I think that you need to find a limit for what is treating both sexes equally and what is overestimating women/men.
It is thus important to work consciously with equality from the beginning so that these types of gender roles are not strengthened but instead questioned. That there is conscious and consistent work for equality throughout education is important when creating an equal and safe climate in schools, communities and in society overall. This is how we create long term changes in the patriarchal society that we currently live in.
Cover photo: Daiga Ellaby