Being a change agent -new gender equality workshop held by PULSE

Have you ever tried teaching over 120 kids? The large number in and of itself can create several challenges. The tutors in the Field Band Foundation do not only have a big group of members to teach, the children and youth they work with are from different cultures. They might speak different languages, have varying family backgrounds and difficult situations at home, and some of them are living with a disability. Being a field band tutor for all these members really is a varied and vibrant job!

In our workshops, PULSE try to present topics, facilitate discussions and create activities that can increase the tutors’ knowledge. We also try to give the tutors tools and inspiring thoughts that can be useful in their everyday work with the field band members. In the last month we have had two workshops in the Free State region, for the tutor teams from Parys, Viljoenskroon and Kroonstad. The first workshop focused on disability awareness (see our blog post Putting People First)  On Friday May 13th we had a gender equality and social inclusion workshop.Our goals for the gender workshop were:

  • – to provide fundamental knowledge about gender and minority challenges in both the local and global society,
  • – to give information on and explore our own and others’ attitudes preventing equality in society,
  • – to explore how to be a change agent.

We also wanted to challenge the tutors to reflect upon the gender situations in their own bands and community. The Field Band Foundation is founded on values such as empathy, self-belief, diversity, respect and equality. PULSE believes that awareness of gender equality and social inclusion is a crucial part of fulfilling and implementing these values into all field band rehearsals and empowering all individuals that are a part of a field band.

In our workshop we first and foremost discussed the difference between sex – biological differences between men and women, and gender – characteristics of men and women that we learn in our culture and society. This means that our sex does not have to decide how we behave, but that in our own culture there are many norms around how our gender is supposed to act. Some of the questions we asked the tutors during discussions were – What is expected of a man and a woman in your society? How are the typical gender roles in your community? How is the gender equality in the Field Band Foundation? What do you do in your field band that hinders gender equality? The Free State tutors were both eager and interested in finding ways to develop the set gender roles in their community and in their bands.

Developing and changing the gender roles in a community is not done in a day. However, trying to accommodate for a more gender equal field band is a task that all tutors can start today.

The workshop participants had an eye opening experience when they learned that only 21 out of 102 field band tutors are female. In the brass section you will only find one female tutor but 40 male tutors, and in the pit section 3 out of 17 tutors are female. In the percussion section there are no female tutors at the moment. On the other hand, there are only 6 male dance tutors, while there are 17 female dance tutors. The gender distribution among tutors in the different sections of the Field Band is not very balanced. One way forward is to start including girls that can be encouraged and challenged, and maybe one day become a tutor in the male dominated sections. How a tutor treats a boy or girl member might not always be equal. Why? And is that right? To broaden the tutors’ horizons on this we always came back to the question – how can we be change agents?

Through group discussions, role play, quizzes and transfer of knowledge sessions, the workshop participants came up with several ideas of how to improve the gender equality and social inclusion in their bands. Some of the specific advice that the engaged participants came up with were to work as a team, to talk about and remind ourselves of the FBF values, to introduce new members properly, to use the members’ strengths, and not taking sides.

Change agents, implementation of knowledge and ideas were words that every one brought back to their bands after the workshop. We wish the Free State tutor teams good luck with testing out all their new input and ideas in their bands and we hope to reach out to even more tutor teams with these issues in the months to come.

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Written by Siri Thorson

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