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#BreakTheBias for International Women’s Day

To mark ‘International Women’s Day, two of our Sixth Form pupils discuss Bryanston’s collaborative work with United World Schools’ ‘Girls will be Girls’ initiative, and explore their defining moments for gender equality over the past year…

Esme T and Bryanna A

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. The campaign is asking people to strike a pose by crossing their arms to help break the bias and encourage people to further commit to the creation of an inclusive world.

The following words are from the International Women’s Day website:

Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women's equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.

Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can break the bias in our communities.
We can break the bias in our workplaces.
We can break the bias in our schools, colleges and universities.
Together, we can all break the bias - on International Women's Day (IWD) and beyond.

Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field.

Are you in? Will you actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it?

Will you help break the bias? 

Cross your arms to show solidarity.

In assembly last week, I (Esme) addressed pupils and staff to discuss Bryanston’s work with United World Schools and the charity’s ‘Girls will be Girls’ initiative.

If we want to strive for all children to be in education, that includes girls. Often, we disregard factors that can prevent girls from going into school. If we continue on a bias beaten pathway, we won’t be able to achieve this. There must be an acceptance that there are gender inequalities in school, these in turn can promote health issues that cause more girls to drop out each year. We must actively counter this.

Our A2 Charities Weekend just gone helped raise funds for United World Schools to help fund an initiative called ‘Girls will be Girls’ which the charity is running from April to July 2022. This initiative is geared specifically towards helping girls in education. United World Schools has secured UK Aid Match for this campaign. This means that all UK public donations will be doubled up to 2M to support girls’ education programmes in Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, and Madagascar.

Poverty is a growing issue worldwide and is multifaceted in its impact. We must realise the danger that poverty has, particularly on young girls in developing countries. Bryanston is helping to be part of the solution by raising funds to support a safer future for the education of women. This is fundamental in forging a societally equal playing field. Education is a pillar for growth, and essential for helping girls everywhere get further in life.

United World Schools provide training education for building more gender inclusive environments for working, as well as providing education and facilities needed for girls’ hygiene and health.

At Bryanston we have recently introduced sanitary products available in all the girls’ bathrooms and gender-neutral bathrooms. Period poverty is a huge problem in countries like Cambodia, Madagascar, and Myanmar, and stretches further into more developed countries like the UK. It is often overlooked, and it is factors like this that make school and day-to-day life far more difficult and complicated.

By fundraising for United World Schools, we are hoping to better education for girls, both in quality and accessibility. Currently girls aren’t educated as much as boys. In countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence (‘FCV countries’), girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys are, and by secondary school they are 90% more likely to be out of school than people in non-FCV environments.

Pupils and staff gathered to strike the #BreakTheBias
pose on the terrace at break time today

At break time on Tuesday 8 March, Bryanston pupils and staff gathered on the terrace to strike the #BreakTheBias pose to show support and solidarity for ‘International Women’s Day’ today.

This collective effort was organised by pupil Greta A and pupils have also been encouraged to wear any purple, green and/or white (the colours of the women’s suffragette flag) if they would like to, to show support of women everywhere.

Greta has also co-ordinated a board in Main Hall for all girls and female staff to sign if they would like to, which will be turned into a piece of art at a later date to represent the bond that we have as women.

What were the defining moments for gender equality in 2021?

  1. In 2021, 8 countries elected or swore in their first woman Head of State or Government, with Barbados, Estonia and Moldova having women as president and prime minister for at least part of the year. Albania has a record setting 70 percent women cabinet, Germany has its first gender-equal cabinet, and Iraq and Kosovo exceeded their gender quotas for parliament. In January, Kamala Harris took office as the first woman Vice President of the United States and is notably the first Black-American and Asian- American to fill the role.
  2. In March, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took office as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, making her both the first woman and the first African to hold this position in the organization’s 16-year history.
  3. Spain approved a bill defining all non-consensual sex as rape, in a move meant to centre survivors and toughen penalties for perpetrators. Based on a ‘yes means yes’ model, it will require explicit consent for sexual acts. Spain joins 11 other European countries who have expanded their legal definition of rape in this way. The bill also reclassifies street harassment and female genital mutilation as criminal offenses and introduces imprisonment for work-related sexual harassment.
  4. The Higher Islamic Council in Lebanon approved a Family Law amendment, including a new chapter on the marriage of minors. The new legislation bans the marriage of children under the age of 15 and stipulates that girls must give their consent to marry, or else the marriage can be annulled. Ending child marriage – any formal marriage or informal union involving a child under the age of 18 – is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  5. Switzerland announced that same-sex couples would be able to marry or convert their registered partnerships into marriage in the country, following a popular vote on the subject in September when 64.1 per cent supported same-sex marriage. In December, Chile’s Congress passed a law to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the 31st country where same-sex marriage is legal. While there are still 69 countries that have laws criminalising homosexuality and a long way to go until there is universal recognition that love is love, 2021 saw some promising moves to decriminalize same-sex partnerships.

We hope you’ll join us in striking a pose and crossing your arms for solidarity to mark this year’s ‘International Women’s Day’ campaign.