From gym class and beyond: how girls are building solutions to gender inequality

We know that gender inequality is something girls experience early and often. That’s why it’s so important for teenagers to have space to speak out about these issues. As a facilitator for a Youth for Gender Equality Dialogue, I got to make space for other youth to do just that! I spent an evening with a group of Pathfinders, Rangers, and other youth from the Saskatoon community talking about how we can create a more gender equal world.

What’s Youth for Gender Equality (YGE)? It’s a three-year initiative that Girl Guides is part of, and it’s co-led by Plan International Canada and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Youth for Gender Equality engages youth across Canada to talk about how we can lead progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality.

A big part of the dialogue was for us to share our experiences of inequality. Everyone wrote down their experiences with gender inequality on a sticky note. To get them started, I wrote down two words: “gym class.” I’ve heard from others that gym class is a common place where young people notice inequality – and this held true with our group. Many of the other participants shared stories of feeling unequal in gym class.

After everyone shared and discussed their own issues, the issues were organized into categories like gender roles and responsibilities, health, access to education, and so on. Everyone voted on the categories they thought were most important, and then we broke into small groups to dive into the most pressing topics.

As groups, we worked on creating solutions for the root causes of the issues at an individual, community, and government level. Each group had the chance to present their recommendations to everyone and explain how they related to the root causes. Afterwards, everyone voted on which recommendation would cause the biggest impact and which recommendation was most pressing.

The best part? The recommendations will all be part of the first-ever youth-led SDG 5 Implementation Plan. This plan will be presented to leaders and decision-makers, including elected officials of the Government of Canada and used for program development and planning.

By being part of Youth for Gender Equality, I feel empowered that I can make a difference despite my age. It’s important for youth to have their say in creating solutions like this because inequality impacts our lives from an early age. Youth want to see change – but they need the space and the platform to make it happen. I was proud to be a part of this experience and that Girl Guides can create a safe space for youth to share their voices.

Guest post by Kaylee Dodds. Kaylee is currently a student at the University of Saskatchewan. She has been a girl member and Junior Leader in Lumsden’s multi-branch unit in Long Lake District, SK.

Youth for Gender Equality unites young people from coast-to-coast-to-coast, ages 14 to 24 of all gender identities in conversations about how to create an equitable society for people of all genders, abilities and races. A ground-breaking initiative based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Youth for Gender Equality project will launch the first-ever youth-led SDG 5 Implementation Plan on gender equality in the world. Girl Guides of Canada is a YGE partner organization.

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