On March 8, the British International School of Washington observed International Women's Day. This annual event honours women everywhere, the achievements they have made, and the doors they have opened. It is an opportunity for people to show support for equal rights.
"We want all children to know that they can be anything they want," said Year 3 Teacher Kelly-Anne Smith, who helped to develop this year's International Women's Day programme for the primary school students at BISW. "A person's gender or sex at birth should never be a barrier."
Ms Smith and the BISW staff developed lessons that confronted stereotypes about women. Some lessons involved the International Women's Day 2021 campaign hashtag #ChooseToChallenge to show solidarity with people on social media who had advocated for women's equality. Furthermore, many students and staff wore something purple to show support for the cause.
"Sometimes, young children find it surprising to see that not all people live the way they do or have the opportunities they do," said Ms Smith, who explained how certain experiences reinforce gender stereotypes in the minds of young people. BISW teachers shared thoughtful examples of conditions women encounter differently around the world. For example, some year groups learned about the impact of unpaid care work and wage gaps between men and women. Plus, classes looked at organizations such as Women First, which promotes gender equity.
According to Head of Primary Katie Benson, people should learn about and always celebrate women's achievements. Nevertheless, she sees International Women's Day as a chance to highlight and discuss multiple important issues at once.
"As educators, we always consider how we can inform the next generation and expand young people's minds," said Ms Benson. "Students have to see positive examples of inspirational and successful people as role models, so for International Women's Day, we spent time looking at women who changed the world."
Ms Benson held a virtual assembly to talk about notable women throughout history and to share facts about inequality. The assembly included several BISW parents and guardians, who spoke about the impacts women have across various fields. Additionally, the assembly helped students understand some of the equality women face in many areas, and it showcased proactive approaches towards equal rights in other places.
"My mother inspires me," said Ms Benson. "She was also in education and became a headteacher when I was young. Growing up in a family of advocates for equality, I knew I could make a difference in the world. I hope that when our students learn about equality, they see they can make a difference, too."
Ms Smith shared a similar sentiment about women who shaped her, and she and clarified that people in history books are not the only sources of inspiration.
"The people who inspire us can be famous, but there are inspirational people all around us. For example, my mother is always one of my inspirations," Ms Smith said. "As a class, we made portraits of inspiring women. Some students chose celebrities or politicians for their portraits, but one person chose another student in the class. I love the fact that she looked next to her for inspiration and said, 'Actually, she is my inspiration!'"
International Women's Day is in March, which is Women's Month. But every day is a great day to discuss women's empowerment and equal rights.