Women, Politics and Public Life

This section is about how women function in society and the positions they accept and achieve in society. It will begin to explore some ideas about human rights and the rights of women. It will give you an idea about the roles that women play and what issues and challenges they face in everyday life. You will also find yourself challenging your own assumptions about women and what women do. When we say politics we are talking about how society is organised (where you go to school, who your friends, what you do for fun, discussions you have, what job you might get/ do) and how we are influenced by it as young women. This section will include some exercises and ideas for sessions about all this stuff and also around party politics and the ways in which women are involved in government. This section will start you off with some ideas to approach the topic with young women but keep checking the website for new resources which are being added all the time. Or if you have any good ideas for this section them please email us!

1. Here is a simple session you may want to use to get your group started:

· What does it mean to be a woman/ girl?
Take a piece of flip-chart and in a group draw the outline of a woman. Around the outline write down words/ phrases that describe her, what she is like and what she does. Think about things like her age, job, looks, what she wears, who she is friends with, what she does for fun and where she lives. Discuss what the group has written down and try and challenge some of the assumptions made about the picture/or encourage more discussion. You can use many different examples of women for your exercise. You may also want to incorporate discussion points such as:
· What did/do people expect of you as a young woman?
· Do you think you are treated the same as the boys you know?
· Would the same things be expected of the woman you have drawn if she was a man?
· What differences would there be if she was a man? E.g. in terms of her job, her friends, her family life, her responsibilities, her hobbies.

2. You can follow this session with a discussion or session about the roles women have adopted and how society influences them. You could encourage the young women to think about these questions:

· What do women you know do in everyday life?
· What roles have they adopted, e.g. what sort of things do the women in your area do for a living/ for fun/ for exercise?
· How is this different to what the men in your area do for a living/ for fun/ for exercise? Why?

3. One of things we want to think about is women in public life and we think that there are two parts to this. One is about women in everyday life, what women do on a regular basis in places that we visit/ go to/ outside our homes. The other one is about women who adopt high positions in “public life” for examples as lawyers, politicians, celebrities

Women around you – who do you see?
Collect some newspapers and magazines and in a group discuss some of the images which portray women in different settings. Try and collect a wide range of different newspapers and magazines, even from different years. You could start with some discussion questions such as:

· What setting is she in?
· What is she doing?
· How is she described and what does that mean to you?
· How does the image portray the woman?
· What position is she adopting in everyday life?
· Is this a good portrayal/ positive image? Why?
· What sort of women are not portrayed in the media?
· Do you think the men and women are portrayed differently? How? Why?

If you would like to expand on this session you could make collages/ art work of the pictures you found and present them to the group. You could also buy some disposable cameras and take some pictures of women in your area doing everyday things as a starting point for discussion or you could bring some pictures of women you know like women from your family or groups of friends. You will need to check procedure in case you need to get permission to take pictures of people in a public space. Ask the same questions as above and discuss the roles of the women you know compared to the ones you don’t know know and the ones in the newspapers and magazines.

4 This exercise could focus on women that we have heard of- famous women!!

· Collect some images of and research some famous women – like Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Jackie Smith, Ruth Kelly, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Isabel Allende, Mary Seacole, Marie Antoinette, Florence Nightingale, George Eliot,, Amy Johnson, Freya Stark, Dervla Murphy, oprah whinfrey and so on – whoever you can think of
· Why are they famous?
· Do they challenge our assumptions of women?
· What do we think about women who do extraordinary things?

We also want to encourage young women to think about the way in which women have been involved in political life . You could start by getting women to think about voting and who should have the vote – there are lots of good ideas on the democracy cookbook site.

Here’s a session that could get you thinking about how politics affects women and their families in everyday life and to get young women to think about why different people have different rights and are sometimes treated very differently.


Start the session by drawing a large outline of the United Kingdom. You can use flipchart for this. You are the prime minister and you want to make Britain the richest and most powerful country in the world. What sort of people do you need to achieve this? And who do you not need? Draw up a list of 20 different people who have different jobs, have different families and who have different backgrounds. You can only keep 10 people from the list – put counters or something to represent the people- onto the map and then decide who stays and who goes. You have 10 minutes.
Here are some examples that you can use but you need to come up with 10 more people so that you can have a good debate.

· A single African mother who is a nurse who has just moved from Nigeria
· A gay couple who both work, they are planning to adopt a child.
· A Pakistani family who have applied for asylum because their life has been threatened in Pakistan because they converted to Christianity
· A white male PhD Graduate who is an up and coming neuro surgeon . He has a slow growing brain tumour but he has just run the marathon in New York.
· A 16 year old white girl who has been in a lot of trouble with the police, she may be autistic. ( would you feel differently if she was a boy?)

You could start a debate about the Immigration policies and what words like asylum and refugee mean to us?. In a group think about why people are treated differently and how people are stereotyped. If you want to expand on the session and you are brave enough then you could role play the different people and argue their case to stay!


Play the Matching Game – The First Woman To


Women in Governance – download the document

Democracy Cook book women and politics