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Four Ways to Empower and Celebrate Women in the Classroom Using SDG 5

March 8th is International Women’s Day! At Participate Learning, we believe in lifting up the voices of all underrepresented people through education. This goal coincides with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.

At the root of the issue of achieving gender equality lies legal discrimination, biased social norms and attitudes, decision-making on sexual and reproductive issues, and low levels of political participation both domestically and internationally. An important step in making progress toward reaching gender equality is by teaching the next generation to be understanding and empathetic citizens.

Empowering women through education is key in this movement. With International Women’s Day approaching, read on to learn four ways to celebrate women and promote gender equality in your classroom:

1. Share positive stories of influential women through history curriculum.

It is not uncommon for textbooks and curricular materials for history classes to focus mainly on history through the perspective of men. It is hard for female students to envision themselves in history-changing roles when they rarely hear of experiences of people similar to them in class.

Consider incorporating female perspectives in each unit alongside the traditional history curriculum. To help in this endeavor, download these printable classroom cards to learn more about 24 women who have had a positive impact on the world. Students can play games with these cards to gain insight about the historical contributions of each woman.

2. Promote gender expression in your classroom.

School can be a place where gender stereotypes are extremely evident. Students can often group themselves based on gender and act in a way that they feel is supporting certain gender roles. Create a welcoming and inclusive environment for students that encourages authentic self-expression.

Strive to be an ally to all students by using their preferred pronouns and encouraging coworkers to become educated on various gender expressions through professional development courses. By affirming the identity of all your students, you are fostering an environment that supports learning for everyone in your classroom.

To learn more about how to teach students about gender bias and stereotypes, read this blog post on four ways to teach gender equity in the classroom.

3. Incorporate books into class written about women by women.

Not only is it important to incorporate literature about various perspectives of women, but it is important to support women authors by promoting books written by women. Women face many obstacles compared to men in the workforce so being intentional about the source of books is another way for your students to see you supporting women.

A couple of books targeted at elementary-aged students are She Persisted and She Persisted (Around the World) by Chelsea Clinton. These books tell the stories of influential women who, against all odds, made impactful, long-lasting change in their various disciplines. It is important for young children to hear about women in leadership roles so they can envision themselves in similar roles.

A book that is targeted at students in middle and high school is I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, an autobiography by Malala Yousafzai. This novel is a diary that recounts her time as an education activist while living under the Taliban at age 11. I Am Malala can show adolescents how they can be catalysts for change even at a young age.

4. Encourage students to share personal experiences about women who have inspired them.

One powerful way to have students learn about gender equality is by putting it into the context of something that is already familiar to them. Have students reflect on the influential women in their life and why they view them in that way. Facilitate a journal activity so students can write down their thoughts as they are reflecting and see if anyone wants to share with the class about the meaningful women in their lives.

Consider inviting women from all disciplines to come to talk with the class about their various professions. Make sure to include women from jobs not traditionally held by women such as police officers, engineers, and scientists so students can see women in all roles. This activity encourages community engagement and helps to build connections.

To learn more about how to incorporate conversations about gender into your classroom, download this infographic about how the wage gap disproportionately affects women and women of color or contact us for more information.