AccessHC gender equity program Free to Be Me is moving online to provide the gender equity program to more people in our communities and make gender equity training easier to access.
From a young age, children begin to form ideas about what it means to be a boy or a girl. For example, a statement like ‘boys don’t cry’ sends a message that boys shouldn’t express their feelings. These gender stereotypes can be harmful because they make children feel that they must look, feel or act a certain way.
Research tells us that set gender roles can lead to gender inequality – one of the key factors leading to men’s violence against women. Challenging gender stereotypes can help children to build respectful and equal relationships, express emotions in a healthy way and promotes gender equity.
AccessHC has been providing early childhood centres and kindergartens across the Cities of Boroondara and Manningham with the opportunity to be involved in the gender equity program for over two years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the team started utilising a more virtual model to continue support when face-to-face training was not possible. The model was embraced by time-poor educators who previously struggled to fit professional development activities into their schedule.
Free to Be Me has been re-designed using a co-design approach with early childhood educators and feedback from users to ensure it meets their needs on a web-based interactive platform to:
- enable centres to complete the program more independently
- allow more centres to participate across Victoria
- better integrate the program and assessment tools within early childhood education and centres’ existing quality processes
- support the program’s long-term sustainability.
The self-paced online program works by providing early childhood educators with education and training to improve their gender literacy and make changes at their centre to ensure it is a safe space for everyone.
New and improved features have been included based on feedback. The program will be piloted in 2023 before being rolled out more broadly.