The first stage was meeting with the youth worker to work up plans we had initially developed over e-mail. This in a way was one of the most interesting points for me, as I went along with a series of research questions, but not at all sure of how to translate them into an event and series of activities which would both be enjoyable for young women and also a productive learning experience for them. But by the end of the meeting this was all in hand and we were in the process of devising a series of exercises and activities which we thought would include a good mix of new information and ideas and opportunities for young women to develop and express some of their own thoughts.
One of our initial decisions, taken prior to the application even, was to select a topic which would provide a focus for our overarching interests in feminism and young women’s lives. We decided on education and aspirations as a focus, for a number of reasons, not least because I was clearly coming from the University. But we also identified local youth groups as an important point of contact for a public engagement programme as participants may be considering, or more importantly, failing to consider, the University as a possible choice for themselves. Relatedly in the process of planning and running the event local youth workers would develop contacts with the University and knowledge of the possibilities open to young local women. The focus on education and aspirations then provided a theme for the event.
Amelia came up with a title for the event, ‘Think about it!’ and we planned and designed a flyer to advertise the event, which Amelia circulated widely, as well as targeting specific youth groups:
Roller Sports Club, Hulme
Powerhouse Youth Club, Moss Side
Asian Young Women’s Group, at Longsight Youth Club.
We then went away to progress this individually and I worked on developing some of the ideas and preparing and collecting materials. That said, in addition to all the planning we also continued to refine our plans on the last day and indeed during the session in response to the ‘needs/interests of the day, as we continued to think through what activities to finally settle on and how these might work in practice. But ultimately through a mixture of discussion, practical creative group work, and role play, the young women were asked about their aspirations, introduced to some basic ideas about feminism, and led through activities to discussions about whether they planned to go to university, what they thought of higher education; why they would or wouldn’t go to university; what choices they see for young women, and how they see these choices shaped; what role youth work can play in this; what universities could do to be more plausible options for young women; and whether the possibilities for girls have changed over time.
The activities included:
Arrival Sign in; Short questionnaire and consent form; and food
Icebreaker including names and what people wanted to be when they were older
Ground rules eg mobiles on silent
Short video on ‘What is feminism’ and brief discussion (including ‘can men be feminists’ etc)
Activity: ‘Would you believe it!’ various statistics and facts about women’s lives eg around gendered pay gap; number of women MPs (including numbers of Black women MPs, lesbian MPs), as well as on rape conviction rates and experiences of homophobic bullying by young people etc; true and false posters on different ends of the wall, with everyone having to run up and down the room according to whether they thought the various statistics presented were true or false, with short discussion of these
Role play with props: ‘Imagine’ … you wake up in a parallel universe where girls stay home all the time and are not allowed to go to school and you are part of a panel of visiting experts from another planet, where all girls can go to school and university and work outside the home, and your job is to convince people on this planet of the importance of girls being able to do whatever they want …
Craft activity: ‘University Challenge’ to build a 3D university as they currently imagined universities and then what they saw as their ideal learning environments
‘What young women want’ Postcards: a short activity completing a postcard on ‘what young women want’; this is part of Feminist Webs’ ‘Post Feminist’ project, where young women are asked to complete postcards on ‘what women want’ and these will be gathered and collated into a Post-feminist Postcard booklet, which will be launched at the national (at the Women’s Library in London in International Women’s Week 2010) and regional launches (Manchester April 2010) of Feminist Webs, and sent to MPs and key policy-makers.
‘Time travel with the doctor’: me explaining what a doctorate was and then leading the young women on an imagined journey to the future where they can be whatever they want – and using post-its to put these on the wall – all to the Doctor Who theme tune
All rounded up with a one-word summary of the evening from everyone.
And a final questionnaire.