International Women’s Day; Inspiring Inclusion Outdoors

Happy International Women’s Day folks! As an organisation that is committed to equal opportunities and has a roughly gender 50/50 split across its employees at all levels this day is dear to our hearts. We are passionate about gender equality and ensuring that the women (and non binary people) we work alongside and the young women we work with, have access to the same opportunities and experiences that our male colleagues and young men that we work with do. This year, the theme is #InspireInclusion and this one felt particularly relevant for us within the setting of the outdoors.

A Great Equaliser

We’ve spoken before about the outdoors being a great equaliser, an environment that doesn’t discriminate on age, race, gender, religion, wealth, or sexuality. There is no way to get special treatment when you’re working or learning in an outdoor setting. The rain will fall on everyone equally, the sun will shine on anyone in the path of its beams, the wind will chill the bones of those it finds. Being outdoors puts everyone on an equal footing, everyone is invited and included in these spaces and that’s fantastic!

If you can see it, you can be it

The great thing about having such an even gender split within our colleagues is that it means there are plenty of women in the woods, working as Forest School Leaders, within our TLP team, or at The Outdoors School. These women work alongside our male colleagues, doing all the same Forest School or Bushcraft activities, such as fire lighting, using tools, tying knots, putting up shelters…etc. I think it’s far to say that a lot of these activities have traditionally been seen as male activities and so for the young people we work with to be able to see women (and non binary folk) skilfully doing the same tasks, is a brilliant way for them to realise that they can do these things too.

Leading by example

Finally, we try to illustrate to the young people that we work with that equal doesn’t always mean the same. We encourage them to identify what their strengths and weaknesses are and to learn alongside their peers, accepting help when they might need it, and offering guidance when they’re in a position to do it. We do this by leading by example. For our staff on site, if one colleague is particularly accomplished in whittling and another is trying to make their first carved mushroom (for example!), they might ask for some expert tuition. Within our sessions, it’s not uncommon to see our staff learning and improving on skills from those around them, whether that’s other staff or even the learners we work with! We love Vygotsky’s concept of a learning environment in which we are able to identify the ‘knowledgeable other’ and try to implement this in all our sessions. This means that the young people we work with are encouraged to identify who might be able to guide them on their learning, regardless of age or gender. This promotes inclusion as they sometimes have the realisation that they are that ‘knowledgable other’ and are able to assist those around them with their learning.

So this International Women’s Day, perhaps you could give some thought to how you’ll inspire inclusion this year? We’re going to finish by sharing some thoughts on collective action from the official website for the day…

World-renowned feminist, journalist and activist, Gloria Steinem, reportedly once explained:
The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

So together, let’s all help fight the good fight. All IWD activity is valid, that’s what makes IWD so inclusive. Join in and make IWD your day by doing what you can to support and advance women.

International Women’s Day website

Author: Hannah Durdin, Content Officer & Forest School Leader

Date: Friday 8th March 2024

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