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Girlguiding Scotland research reveals how vital it is for us to champion gender equality

29 January 2020

Nicoletta Primo from Girlguiding Scotland responds to Call 13 and young campaigner Ruby’s work on challenging gender stereotypes in the context of supporting children to be human rights defenders

Ruby: “I was looking though a clothes catalogue and noticed that the girls all had pink dresses, all pretty and sparkly. That’s not helpful…boys and girls don’t get treated the same and not just with clothes.”

Sadly, Ruby is absolutely right. Our Girls in Scotland research (published in 2018, click to read) found 77% of girls aged 12-25 said they are treated differently because they are a girl.

Much progress has been made on the long road to gender equality and while there’s lots to celebrate, there are still many potholes to fill before girls and women can feel truly equal in their everyday lives.

We know that girls and young women feel pressured to change how they act to fit in and even at home there can be different expectations on them because of their gender. A fifth of girls said the rules were different for the boys than the girls in their family and over a quarter said they had to more housework “because I’m a girl”.

It doesn’t help either when external influencers, like the catalogue Ruby was looking at, reinforce gender stereotypes. Constantly propping up preconceived ideas about what someone will like or how they will behave based on their gender is limiting and insulting.

As Ruby says in the conversation recorded as Call 13, she likes to climb trees and loves adventure, and obviously sparkly dresses are no good for playing outside in. But for many girls looking at the catalogue they may feel like they have to wear those clothes because that’s what’s expected of them. In fact, we know this is the case. Our research found that one in three girls and young women aged 7-25 said they felt like they had to play with certain toys or wear certain clothes because of their gender.

Children and young people are frustrated by these stereotypes and we need to listen to them when they tell us this. Children in Scotland’s 25 Calls campaign to change children’s lives for the better has the voices of children and young people at its centre and we need more of this.

At Girlguiding we’re always championing our young members to stand up and speak out on the issues that matter to them. We’re proud to use the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as the framework for working with, and for, girls and young women. We know their rights and we want to ensure they know them too, and equally important, how to defend them.

As part of our programme we offer badges in ‘My Rights’ for Brownies (age 7-10), ‘Human Rights’ for Guides (age 10-14) and ‘Women’s Rights’ for Rangers (age 14-18) where girls and young women have the chance to explore what it means to have human rights and what they do for us. When we empower girls and young women to recognise their rights in their everyday lives, they take this thinking into the world. Knowledge is power and knowing your rights and how to protect them is a step towards a society that is fair and equal.

One thing’s for sure, it’s just as well we have human rights defenders like Ruby to challenge stereotyping and stand up for a more gender equal future. And what’s great is that we can never have too many! We know that Ruby’s actions will be a huge inspiration for girls and young people to use their voice and challenge injustice when they see it.

Nicoletta Primo is the Policy and PR Officer at Girlguiding Scotland.

She is responding to Call 13 of our 25 Calls, "Support children to become human rights defenders.” Click here to read the call

About the author

Nicoletta Primo is the Policy and PR Officer at Girlguiding Scotland

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Call 13

"Support children to become human rights defenders." By the Children's Commissioner, with young campaigner Ruby

Click to read the full call

25 Calls campaign

Find out more about the 25 Calls campaign, view press coverage and read further responses

Click to find out more