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Gender Equity in the Early Years: Why Is It Important?

22/11/2018 - Posted by Georgena

Creating gender equity plays a significant role in preventing violence against women and children. Early childhood educators have an important part to play in modelling equal and respectful relationships; through curriculum, learning environments and interactions with children. The early years are a critical time when children’s notions of gender roles are shaped and the foundations for respectful play, friendships and relationships are established. Rigid stereotypes, attitudes and beliefs about gender are formed at a young age, which can limit and influence children’s aspirations, potential and relationships.

Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia shows that there are four key drivers of violence against women.[1]

These are:

  • Condoning of violence against women
  • Men’s control of decision-making and limits to women’s independence
  • Rigid gender roles and stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
  • Male peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Actions to prevent violence against women include:

  • Challenging the condoning of violence against women
  • Promoting women’s independence and decision-making
  • Challenging gender stereotypes and roles
  • Strengthening positive, equal and respectful relationships.

Recently produced Rainbow Fox picture book provides opportunities for early childhood educators to encourage conversation and reflection with children that promote gender equality.

Rainbow Fox: Gender Equity in the Early Years Resource Kit, is a project of Centre for Non-Violence and Communities for Children in Bendigo, Australia. The project forms part of the implementation of the Communities for Children Bendigo Family Violence Action Plan.

In 2017, Communities for Children Bendigo, Centre for Non-Violence, Kids’ Own Publishing and Lightning Reef Early Learning Centre partnered in a primary prevention project. This project included an education session with early years professionals, followed by four days of creative workshops with kindergarten children. The workshops were facilitated by an artist and author from Kids’ Own Publishing, and supported by Centre for Non-Violence. Forty-two children participated in the project, writing and illustrating Rainbow Fox, a picture book that reflects themes of gender equity and respectful relationships—with quirky characters who challenge gender stereotypes.

Here is an example taken from the teaching notes accompanying the picture book, and also included in the full Rainbow Fox kit.

    RAINBOW FOX COLOURS

When Rosie is brave she is green.
She changes colours.
If she’s rainbow she is friendly.
When she is brown she is feeling strong.
When she is red she is scared.
Pink means she is surprised. She is surprised because she had a dream.
Purple means she is grumpy.
If she is blue it means she is so happy to see someone.

 

Prompt:

The colour guide provides an opportunity to talk with children about feelings, including: exploring feelings, encouraging children to openly talk about their feelings, describing and labelling feelings, and modelling respectful responses to other people’s feelings.

 

Questions for children:

  • Rosie has been brave, friendly, strong, scared, surprised, grumpy and happy. What other feelings do you have?
  • What colour do you think you would be when you are feeling like that?
  • What would your face look like?

 

Innovative Resources is pleased to support the distribution of both Rainbow Fox—Picture Book and Teaching Notes, and Rainbow Fox Kit (including 4 posters and DVD) on behalf of Centre for Non-Violence and Anglicare Victoria’s ‘Communities for Children’ program.

 

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[1] Our Watch, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and VicHealth (2015) Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, Our Watch, Melbourne, Australia. Access a copy:
https://www.ourwatch.org.au/What-we-do/National-Primary-Prevention-Framework

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