The state of play
It is critical to tailor gender equality programs towards young people, because evidence demonstrates that they endorse myths about violence against women at higher rates than the general population. This same research found that:
- 80 per cent of young people agree that ‘it’s hard to understand why women stay in violent relationships;
- 46 per cent of young people agree that ‘it is acceptable to some degree to track your partner by electronic means without their consent;’
- 24 per cent of young people agree that ‘domestic violence can be excused if people get so angry they lose control;’
- 39 per cent of young people agree that ‘a lot of times women who say they were raped led the man on and later had regrets;’ and
- 61 per cent of young people agree that ‘a woman could leave a violent relationship if she really wanted to’ (VicHealth, 2013).
This research demonstrates that there is a critical need to engage young people. Children begin forming concepts of gender from two years old, and primary school aged children have already developed stereotypes about ‘boys’ jobs and ‘girls’ jobs (Victorian Gender Equality Strategy, 2016). According to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, ‘there is a need to implement primary prevention strategies that are designed to dismantle harmful attitudes towards women, promote gender equality and encourage respectful relationships’ (Victorian Gender Equality Strategy, 2016, 7).
Young people’s voices matter
On the other hand, we know that young people are engaged with social issues. According to World Values Survey data (2014), the majority of the population still believe that men make better political leaders than women – but this view is fading among young people. Any solution to gender inequality must necessarily engage young people, as the next generation of world leaders. As a youth participatory organisation, Chalk Circle works actively to address these concerns, ensuring that young peoples’ voices are heard and their potential for social change is galvanised.
Indeed, we know that the most effective way to engage young people is through embracing the voices and values of young people themselves. Youth participatory and consumer advocacy models dictate that “you shouldn’t talk about us, without us.” Despite the importance of young people’s voices from the perspective of both participation and effectiveness, young people are often not invited into these critical conversations, or their opinions, advice, and unique perspectives are sidelined or silenced by elders. This can lead to significant disengagement of and by young people.