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Thinking of becoming an activist with UNICEF?

March 14, 2016

 

Ever since 1st class I've wanted to be an activist. Well no, ever since 1st class I've wanted to make a change in the world, to leave a positive remainder on our planet. Once I got into secondary school I joined the Peace and Justice group and that's when I started focusing down on being an activist, on actually going out and talking about issues or actually going to countries and do the changing myself. So in September, when we were all told about getting work experience UNICEF were the first charity I went to, maybe it's because I follow UNICEF on social media and it was the first charity that came to mind or maybe it was the first one that Google regurgitated I'm not sure but I definitely chose UNICEF to figure out if working for UNICEF and similar organisations would be something I was good at.

I learnt a lot on the training on Monday. I learnt that being in a room with 30 other young people who want to change the world is terrifying. I've never before felt so nervous to share an opinion than in a walking debate with a classroom size group of young people who have such educated thoughts and ideas on global goals. I chose the gender equality workshop later that day and I learnt a lot there to. I learnt guys weren't concerned with Gender equality bar two out of 30 plus. I learnt that it was more of an issue for women. I learnt that guys didn't know or understand that they are so badly discriminated against in society, but aren't welcome to the conversation, because what could a man know about a woman's problem? I learnt over 40 minutes that men rarely get a say. The workshop was amazing and I loved how deeply we got into the mess that is gender inequality but it also really bothered me how men just weren't talked about. I also learnt that presenting a workshop or a talk was going to be a lot more challenging that I thought. As someone who has been suffering with anxiety and anxiety attacks since June 2015 I still am not sure how it affects me or my ability to do stuff like this, public speaking and debating and presenting etc. So when the task of presenting a campaign my fellow activists and I planned out I quickly figured out that yes, this was going to suck, but at least I figured that all out on Monday, and not Friday morning in front of 15 teenage boys. Additionally, I learnt how much it takes to be an activist. How hard it is for Nikita, Vivienne, Maeve, Ruth and Marina. How much stress and organisation and how little time they must have to plan out workshops and talks. In short I just got a really good idea of what being an activist would be like.

 

So I chose to tackle gender equality. I chose this for a few different reasons. First off, my findings from just the workshop alone. Men didn't feel like they had a voice, and I want to change that. Another reason is, the main secondary schools in my area are single sex, and I felt that arguing my own all girl school that inequality against men isn't an issue. Why talk about how fathers are belittled in our society and men are not given the same emotional support or mental health services as women when we can talk about the pay gap or slut - shaming?  I thought by talking to the boys' school I could invite and encourage to start talking about this and remind us all that they are victims of gender inequality and that we as a population are fighting against inequality not men vs. women and vice versa.

Technically I have carried out an action in my school. I carried out an action in the all boys' school. I showed a group of 14 Transition Year boys a power point I made about Gender inequality and how it affects males too, I then asked the guys to fill out a short survey about how gender inequality affects them, I then showed the group a short video by Ben Acherson on gender inequality affecting men, a poem by Guante called "10 Responses to man  Up" and a Ted Talk about how gender equality is good for everyone by Michael Kimmel. I plan to stay in touch with the school's Amnesty Group and tackle the issue of gender inequality in their school and also give the same talk to a group of girls in my school and compare responses and report my findings to both schools and from their tackle the misconceptions of gender equality in both schools.

 

There have been so many challenges I've lost count. To begin with, I wasn't able to do the workshops in my school because the whole school was doing exams for the week that transition years were on work experience, so up until one 'o' clock on Tuesday afternoon I didn't have anywhere to do the workshop.  Secondly, anxiety was a big issue and there were so many times I just wanted to pull out of the whole week entirely. Thirdly I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to get through to teenage guys or make them interested in a topic that roughly three of them actually wanted to take about and the rest just wanted to miss class. I also found this week really stressful. I don't think I fully knew how the week was going to pan out and Monday was definitely a shock, and then for the rest of the week it was just meetings and rehearsing and confirming and rehearsing and printing and researching and rehearsing and asking friends' opinions and definitely a tough, tough week. However, I had many successes. Firstly, I got pretty rad feedback from the guys I spoke to, and after a coffee and a little breather I felt amazing after the workshop. I'm also really proud of what I've accomplished. The change that I was talking about at the start has happened. A little piece of the world changed because I plucked up the courage from thin air to talk about an issue that was bothering me and actually educate people on the subject of gender equality. I've also left a good impression of my UNICEF and my school's Peace and Justice group on the boys. school. I've showed them that we care about them too and we understand that they suffer too, and hopefully the two groups will be able to accomplish amazing things in the future.

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