“The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.” Aung San Suu Kyi
March is Women’s History Month in America. It is a month designated to commemorate and encourage the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. However, I want to invite you to join the celebration of this event even if you don’t live in the United States. My heart tells me this is the perfect time to remember the courageous work of many women through history around the world.
March is a month we should take as ours to celebrate our achievements and teach our children about the relevant, and many times unknown, role of women in history. But how do we bring such an abstract commemorative month to the reality of our own home? How can our children benefit from the study and observance of women’s history?
How do we get our boys and girls engaged in the celebration of the vital role of women for human kind?
Like I have said in many articles I have written before, everything begins at home. Women empowerment, equality and development aren’t the exception. As parents, we need to be committed to raise children respectful of the rights of girls around the world. We need to educate our boys to actively participate in the observance of human rights for women in society, and we have to teach our girls to go for those rights without feeling threatened, unworthy and rejected.
Children learn in different ways, some learn by seeing, some by hearing, some by reading, some by doing. Giving your child chances to explore diverse resources is the most effective way to teach him about women’s history and Human Rights. With these five tips for Empowering Girls at Home, your kids will discover new ways to equip themselves with useful information about women empowerment across all sectors of life. Remember, this is just the beginning, you as a parent will need to expand and nurture the path of learning.
5 Girl Empowering Tips for Kids at Home
- Good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. Be truthful to what you preach and teach your kids about. Start by exercising gender equality at home, get rid of old beliefs and erase from your vocabulary things such as “this is a girl’s job”, or “let your sister wash your clothes because she is the girl of the house”. Those words and that kind of behavior just encourage more inequality in our communities. Quite the contrary, promote team work at home. Let’s all together load the dishwasher, vacuum the living room and work in the garden. Assign chores to your kids based on their age and skills and not their sex. Please be conscious about your own biases, we cannot forget that we are influenced by our experiences of the past and our own cultural backgrounds. Many cultures promote different treatments for men and women and it isn’t that easy to go against what you have been taught and what you have believed for many years. However, girls around the world deserve a brighter future and you and your family must actively make it happen.
- Create a toolbox for the family. How can we battle inequality and ignorance without the right tools? Let’s equip ourselves and our children with information about the important roles of women throughout history. But let’s not just focus on the past: encourage your children to watch age appropriate documentaries about the living conditions of girls in different corners of the world, talk about it, support their learning by being there to answer questions. I have found quite useful resources on the Women’s History Month website. From letters written by Abigail Adams to videos about women in science and technology, such as an interesting interview with astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan.
- Pack your suitcases and fly away. Traveling is lethal to bigotry. Plan trips with your children to learn more about other cultures and meet people from distinct backgrounds. Dare to hang out with people different from you to get to know the reality of many women of our society. If traveling is not within your means at the moment, explore your own backyard. Visit museums in your city, borrow books about women’s history from your local library and participate in gender equality events in your area. Remember that books are a great way to travel with our imagination. Make a plan of activities and questions to encourage your children to deeply engage with their reading material and invite them to share their newly acquired knowledge with relatives and friends. This will teach them to speak up for themselves and support the cause of others. Empathy anyone?
- Time to dress-up. I usually use costumes as teaching tools, bringing learning to life. When we lived in the United States it was Halloween. Now that we live in Germany we have “Fasching” or Carnival. These two traditional celebrations have given us the chance to learn more about important characters of history. My kids and I choose costumes that are somehow related to someone different and special. This year my daughter helped me dress up as Frida Kahlo. You would think “what a mainstream costume”…. booh! But when you combine something trendy with a little bit of research, the result is a very meaningful outfit. Together, my daughter and I, learned about Frida’s sad story, her conflicts for being different and her struggles for women’s right. We even shared our discoveries with the boys who were pleasantly surprised to know that Frida Kahlo’s father was German. Choose the costumes that better fit your family’s needs. Our goal is to teach each child accordingly to his or her personality.
- Game night is great for talking. It has been proven by many studies that spending quality time together as a family helps develop tighter and more meaningful relationships and that our children grow up with a stronger self esteem when having a loving bond with their caretakers. Game night is one of the more common suggestions to promote family bonding. And you know what’s even better? We can take advantage of the time spent together to chat about relevant events and interesting stories from around the world. This would be the perfect moment to get to know your child’s opinion about working moms, girls wearing headscarves at school, and your daughter’s dream job. Have a talk about traditional male and female employment roles and show them examples of the opposite (male nurses, women firefighters). Listen to what your kids say but don’t judge. Our children are directly impacted by the media, traditions and their peers behavior. You should act as a guidance and effectively drive your kids to reason and understanding of basic Human Rights.
As you see, what’s important is that we as parents don’t reinforce traditional gender roles (girls can take out the trash too and boys can do dishes), give enough information about gender equality and encourage intelligent conversations about what’s wrong with society’s behavior towards women. Trust your child and his or her ability to understand new things, point out what’s wrong with the message given by some TV shows and video games and have a nice discussion about it. Your children need to learn in a safe and loving environment and we are responsible for that.
Have a very fruitful Women’s History Month with your family!