Voices for Change, a spoken word project from the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation, brought together six high school students from around Manitoba to share their perspectives on gender equality. Over the course of four sessions throughout January 2018, they learnt about gender equality and international development, collaborated with a professional spoken word artist and recorded with a professional videographer, producing their final collaborative piece ‘Shaping Us’.
‘Shaping Us’ blends multiple perspectives of gender equality together and tackles topics that are both locally and globally recognized as barriers to achieving gender equality. The piece provides the opportunity for audiences to learn more about gender equality and why the issue should matter to everyone.
*please continue reading for a discussion on gender equality, gender roles, ‘Shaping Us’ and the students behind the piece.
How do you stand against the force of alienation pressing down?
How do you choose between freedom and oppression if the choice has been made for you?
How do you peak expectations when margins split clear paths in half?
GENDER EQUALITY & EQUITY
An often unavoidable aspect of our society, gender can divide and define us. It shapes our practices and roles and too often, the ideologies and effects of these roles become rigid, subconsciously embedded as we navigate within the political, economic and social systems of our society.
As a social construct, gender refers to the social roles one may embody based on their sex or personal identification of one’s own gender based on an internal awareness (gender identity). Equality is defined as treating everyone the same. Therefore, gender equality is the state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected by gender. However, we cannot achieve gender equality without considering equity.
Equity is the process of giving everyone what they need to be successful. We cannot achieve equality without equity as the process of someone being treated the same and given equal materials or opportunities requires a series of steps that allows that same person to start from an equal position.
Gender equality is a concept for everyone because gender is an intersectional component in all global issues.
“Achieving gender equality” conjures up a variety of images. From girls attending school to women being paid equally worldwide, it produces cinematic moments of grand victories and the breaking of glass ceilings. Yet, among all of these triumphs, we have to remember our building blocks and common goals, that gender equality is an intersectional issue that sometimes requires a shift of ideologies.
Gender and gender roles are inherently within our political, economic and social systems. So, any change that we want to see happen needs to address gender equality and equity through a variety of actions. Gender equality may look like women attaining land ownership, having equal representation of men and women in government and law, recognizing the effects of a double burden and the importance of unpaid domestic labour, speaking out about sexual harassment, protecting vulnerable and marginalized populations from exploitation and abuse, and accepting people for who they are rather than forcing conformity within the gender binary.
These changes do not just happen with the snap of two fingers. It requires effort and action from the global community. Sometimes, it can be frustrating as large changes aren’t fast enough and small changes seem like a single drop in the ocean. But, whether it is through policy, law, programmes, campaigns or projects, these differences begin to add up. Along with all of these actions, we have individuals, global citizens like these six Manitoba teens, who are creating their own identity, redefining the rules and challenging how we think and use gender within our society.
TAKING ACTION – ‘SHAPING US’
‘Shaping Us’ brings awareness to these issues and views them from both local and global perspectives, using a voice that is both personal and internationally influenced. As a take action idea, the spoken word piece features young voices who are passionate about these issues for their own and future generations. Working through the concepts of gender stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination the students were able to express their concerns, producing a piece that both dissected social problems and identified solutions. As agents of change, these six strangers became friends and used their voice to create positive and sustainable momentum.
Your voice is a powerful tool. Shaped by perspectives, opinions, experiences and positionalities, your voice can merge thought and action. An important step toward social change, the ability to use your voice creates opportunities for learning and awareness. Yet around the world, there are citizens whose voices are restricted.
To deny a voice is to limit potential, stifle innovation, restrict forward movement and block perspectives and solutions.
So, whether your action is writing poetry, creating art, organizing a campaign, running for school or city office, use your voice.
AGENTS OF CHANGE
*Voices for Change is a spoken project hosted by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation. Gender equality sessions and information was led by MCIC staff. Steve Locke is a Winnipeg-based professional spoken word artist and facilitated the spoken word workshops and piece development. Sean Perrun is a Winnipeg-based filmmaker.
Mission: Gender Equality – World’s Largest Lesson
12 steps to achieve gender equality in our lifetimes – The Guardian
Intersectionality: how gender interacts with other social identities to shape bias – The Conversation
Written by: Keana Rellinger