By Charlotte Lewis, Youth Project Worker
Do you work with girls and young women who are keen to play a more active role in tackling gender inequality?
Here at Girls Circle we are often asked for advice on how to support girls and young women to set up a club and group in their school or youth centre. We offer training for professionals and workshops for young people on establishing a Girl Empowerment Group, and our Heart Club comprehensive facilitator manual and activity packs also provide a step by step approach, but if you’re keen to get going, read on for our handy hints and tips to starting a gender equality group with boys and girls, or a Girl Empowerment Group.
Getting a group or a club going can be the hardest part. Here are some ideas for getting your group off the ground:
- Getting to know you – Design a short and snappy questionnaire that can help you get a little more info about who’s in the group, why they’ve joined, along with what they’d like to achieve for themselves and their community.
- Snacks – The key to good flow in a club is keeping energy levels buoyant. We like to bring along a mix of healthy fruit and nuts with the odd indulgent chocolate biscuit or flapjack – food is always a draw!
- Toolkit – Pens, pencils, A4 and A3 sheets of paper, sticky notes and flipchart paper are all essential tools to get those ideas big and bold. You might like to think of ways you can document your progress too, do you have a camera on your phone? Does your school or college have a tablet you could use?
- Group Agreement – This is a great way to cement some trust within your group, especially in an early session. Share and discuss some guidelines that you’d like to have for the sessions ahead, things like “When someone else is talking, we will give them our full attention” or “No phones” or “Anything posted to social media will be agreed first by the whole group”
- Car Park – Discussions can get wonderfully animated and exciting, but they don’t always stay on track. If you feel like a conversation or idea is a little off topic and better suited for another time then ask if it might be better suited to the “Car Park” This is a large piece of paper that is always popped up on the wall during the session to hold any ideas, thoughts or questions that can be parked for a better time. This is a great way to ensure that everyone feels heard!
- Time – Give yourselves the gift of time. You might feel like your goals can be solved in a few sessions but lots of interesting discussions and debates can come up once you get to work. Allow for good amounts of time when you are planning the activities in your sessions so you can feel calm in their delivery and any new ideas, thoughts and discoveries can be welcomed rather than rushed.
- Before you can fly you need a pilot- We all know that when it comes to subjects we are passionate about, we want them to be perfect. This can be an enormous pressure to put on yourself, so why not look at this project as a “pilot”. A pilot is the first testing stage of any product, programme or new model – a test-drive if you like.
- Registers & contact sheet – This is a great way to keep an eye on attendance to provide more info about the success of your group i.e. – do numbers go down around exam time? Do they go up when you invite in a guest speaker? Are there certain days of the week or times that work better than others? The contact sheet is a simple way to ensure nobody misses out on any information from the group, including room changes, cancellations or even celebrations!
- Guest speakers – There are some incredible individuals out there who love to inspire others with their stories. Does your school or college have any famous or successful alumni that might like to return to their roots? You might be surprised who accepts your request to come and speak.
- Shout it from the rooftops! – Social media is all around us these days so let’s take the chance to use it for good! You never know who might be scanning through Facebook feeling isolated and may see your group as something to help them reach out. We love sharing articles, videos and podcasts we’ve discovered along with opportunities we’d love people to be a part of. Social media responsibility can be shared between group members, too.
- Agenda – This document can really help you reach your goals, and it’s a great responsibility to share out between the group. Ask yourself questions like: What exercises/activities do we want to try next week? What news would we like to share with everyone? What things do we need to organise for our event that’s coming up?
- Minutes – Another responsibility to take in turns. If you like to be formal, each meeting someone can agree to take the minutes (the notes of what subjects have been covered at the meeting) to be sent out to everyone so that they are well-informed for the next. This is great for anyone who can’t attend as they feel like they didn’t miss anything. This is also a great document to remind yourselves how much hard work you’ve all been doing over the last few weeks or years- often we forget to celebrate this!
- Resources – We love collecting videos, YouTube clips, articles, blogs, photos, books, etc to keep our sessions full of variety.
- Session Planning – This is a really great skill to develop, and believe us the prep work pays off! Plan out your sessions using the agenda and pop little estimated times next to each activity (it always surprises us how time flies!) If you’re ever feeling stuck, we’ve our wonderfully easy to use Heart Clubs Facilitator Manual and facilitator Activity Pack with so many easy to use activities centred on body-image, self-esteem, aspirations, gender equality and more.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, coming soon, with more tips to help you plan your sessions around gender equality themes, and exploring ways to start a Gender Equality Group or Girl Empowerment Group in your school or youth setting.