Monthly Archives: September 2017

Gender Parity Children’s Story: “The Kid’s Committee” – Changing the world, one challenge at a time!

A group of 6 ten-year olds (three boys, three girls) have noticed that there are many problems in the world, but feel and know that they can take the lead in helping to solve them. One boy and one girl, Robin and Ray, share joint leadership roles in the group as equal partners. All members of the team have total respect for each other and are highly emotionally intelligent and equally physically strong. Each one is talented in advanced maths, science, engineering and tech. Each one is gifted in gymnastics and running. They are all able to speak 6 languages fluently each (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish). They are recognisable in their all black uniform – black t-shirts, sweatshirts and gymnastics leggings, with black trainers and socks. They all receive the same pocket money every week and do the same number of hours of the same chores and other unpaid work, like shopping, washing dishes, cleaning their room, visiting their older relatives and spending time playing with younger brothers and sisters. And, of course, they all go to school.

When they are not doing their chores and homework, they are busy saving the world. A sudden bleep on their smart-watches and the kid’s committee assemble, taking the lead in responding to emergencies of global importance with politicians, world-leading medics, bankers and educational gurus: influencing the future and saving the day. Their confidence is strong, and so are they. They all have complete awareness of their own strengths and feelings and are expert communicators, sensitive to the needs of others, inspiring confidence in all around them, empowering the future leaders of tomorrow.

Story 1: A Crisis in a Country Somewhere in the World

Robin placed the last washed dish on the draining board and stepped back from the sink. He turned around to dry his hands and smiled as his younger sister, Morgan, ran up and hugged his legs. Robin hugged her back and kissed her head, tenderly. Their mother walked into the kitchen, dressed smartly in a suit, holding a briefcase under her arm – she had just got back from work in parliament as government minister for economics (it was her job to make sure everybody had enough work and money in the country, and that the country could do good business with other countries too).

‘How are you feeling, Robin? Are you over your blues yet?’ Robin’s mum asked in a soothing and understanding voice. Robin had been a little sad because he hadn’t done as well as he had hoped in a tech competition at school.

‘Yeah, I’m good mum, thanks. I just felt a little disappointed that’s all – no-one likes to fail, do they? It’s how we respond to the failure that counts. I’ve decided to channel my downhearted spirit into my next effort, doing better next time, while I try to be happy for the person who did win!’ replied Robin, with a hopeful grin. ‘I think the important thing is to understand what I did that could have been done better in some ways, and learning from feedback from my teachers.’

‘That’s the spirit, Robin!’ cheered Robin’s mum as she walked out of the kitchen, taking off her suit jacket to change into sweatpants and drink a cool beer in front of sport on the TV. Morgan followed her mum and disappeared out of sight.

Just then, Robin’s watch bleeped and flashed. It was the signal for the Kid’s Committee to assemble. Robin ran into his bedroom, a mix of earthy colours and Amazon Rainforest inspired décor and plants, scrambling to put on his Kid’s Committee, all-black uniform: black t-shirt, sweatshirt, gymnastic leggings, socks and trainers. He was done in a flash and out of the door, running down the road to meet with the team at their usual place: the circular table by the photocopier in the 24/7 library at the end of Main Street.

It had been raining, and as normal a large puddle had formed in front of the entrance to the library. Robin jumped over it just as he would in the long jump at school. As he landed, Ray, his co-partner and fellow leader of the Kid’s Committee, fell to the ground with grace beside him, where she had ended up after vaulting over the fence between the library and her house, next door. They smiled at each other and entered the library together, greeting each other in Chinese, Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Russian, as was their good-humoured custom, because they could and they enjoyed it.

They approached their table, where their compatriots were waiting for them: the two girls, Jamie and Taylor, and the two boys, Jordan and Hayden. They were all dressed identically and chattering away in Arabic, the language spoken by people in the country they were about to go and help – a land somewhere else in the world. Robin and Ray joined in to get up to speed with the situation. Taylor briefed them.

‘It’s like this,’ began Taylor. ‘There are no women involved in politics at all really in this country: no women in parliament, only 10 women ministers, and in the last 50 years there have been no women involved in leading the country as head of state. Also, only a quarter of women there have jobs and those that work earn on average less than a third of what men earn. There are only a few women in this country who make it to being someone involved in making or enforcing the law, senior official or a manager, and not many more professional and technical workers who are female. Only half of girls can read and write and very few go to college or university – something needs to be done!”

Ray gestured to speak, “It’s true – I got the same news today. What we need to understand though is that at the moment that country is war torn and also that the people are living through very difficult times – lots of people are at risk from illness and disease such as cholera, and there is just no peace in the country – we need to think carefully about how we can help – I think our government even advises people not to travel there because you could easily get killed.”

Hayden stood up and conjured up their virtual reality planning board over the middle of the table, scribing the words ‘Action Plan’ with his finger. Poised ready to take minutes and bullet point their ideas, Hayden stood with finger hovering, ‘Ok team, what shall we do?’

Jamie lurched forwards with vigour: ‘Number 1 – get all warring parties to agree a ceasefire and install peacekeeping arrangements with troops and police as needed!’

Jordan spoke next: ‘Number 2 – get aid and medics in to ensure health and survival of all!”

Robin jumped in: ‘Number 3 – speak with the country’s leaders to help them understand why they need to have equal numbers of men and women leading their country and work with them to help them achieve that. Help them to see that their own country would do so much better because of it and they would eventually be part of a thriving global economy, currently transitioning through the Fourth Industrial Revolution.’

Taylor contributed: ‘Number 4 – open up access for equal numbers of men and women to work in law, senior positions in organisations and as managers – and make sure they are all paid the same! Change the laws that don’t protect women or that leave them disadvantaged somehow.’

Ray: ‘Number 5 – get all children, boys and girls, into school and college, empowering them and building the confidence of each and every one to work together, with respect, as leaders of tomorrow!’

Hayden drew a line with his finger under point 5 on the virtual screen and printed out a linked list of jobs at the photocopier next to where they were sitting for each of them to do in order to make their 5-point action plan work. They each looked at their list, nodding and raising eyebrows in acknowledgement of what they had to do.

‘Simples!’ said Ray. ‘We’ll meet a week today, same place and time, when we’ve accomplished the mission!’

~

A week later they met in the library. Jamie cartwheeled in through the window. She was the last to arrive and Taylor was doing chin ups on the monkey bars in the playground outside while they were waiting. Everyone else was sitting chatting round the table in Arabic again. Taylor jumped over the fence and ran in to join them once she saw Jamie had sat down.

Robin spoke first: ‘Well done team! And congratulations to that country, which now has equal numbers of men and women in parliament, in occupations making and enforcing the law, in positions of management and leadership in every organisation, at every level, and equal pay for similar work between males and females. Even the head of state has become a marvellous example to all and decided to do the right thing and share leadership with a woman as empowered and equal partners. It’s tremendous! There are equal numbers of men and women in employment overall too.’

Ray: ‘Perhaps more importantly for that country, after many years they have stopped fighting and there is peace inside the country and no-one at war with them from the outside either. They have all benefitted from aid and medical help, everyone is healthy and surviving now, and no-one is at risk from any major health issues.’

Jamie: ‘And all girls and boys are going to school and college, being trained in skills and knowledge equally, with leadership training and development programmes helping all. No-one is afraid of being physically hurt or treated badly, and everyone respects each other. All jobs and all careers are open to everyone, and boys and girls and men and women now take an equal share of chores at home or helping caring for children or elderly relatives. This means that everyone has the same amount of time and energy to become educated to the best of their ability and take part in work that they are capable of, without being held back. Also, girls aren’t allowed to get married and have babies so young anymore – they’ve made a law about how old they can be to do that.’

Hayden: ‘I was so happy it made me cry – after women were allowed to be in parliament, so many things changed so quickly. Now, men and women can have the same number of days parental leave from work, and the same amount of maternity and paternity leave. Men and women get the same amount of wages paid to them while they are off work during maternity and paternity leave. The government now supports and provides childcare and child allowance to parents.”

Taylor: “Now there is much improved health for everyone. There is no difference in the number of girls or boys being malnourished, having heart problems, cancer, breathing problems or other big problems. And, less mothers now die than ever while giving birth, and abortion is allowed if a woman’s health is at risk. Every pregnant mother gets a trained medic to help them in childbirth and there is excellent antenatal care for all.’

Jordan: ‘There are suddenly an equal number of male and female PhD students and STEM students. We have looked at the figures and seen that men and women are both showing that they are equally skilled in every subject, job and technical area.’

Robin: ‘What I like is that men and women are now deciding to wait until they are older before they have children, and really thinking before they have babies and planning their family well. Also, changes in the law mean that women and men both have the same legal parental rights in marriage now or even after if they get divorced too.’

Ray: ‘And, men and women both have equal rights and access to bank accounts and financial services, daughters have the same inheritance rights as boys, and women can own, control and use land and other non-land assets equally with men now.’

Jamie: ‘Also, equal numbers of men and women are voting in elections and are standing as candidates in elections both nationally and locally.’

Ray: ‘It’s all amazing! I was so angry before about the differences between men and women, and girls and boys – everybody should have the same chances, they are both worth the same as equal human beings and they are equally capable! Girls’ and boys’ brains are the same and we have the same muscular strength until at least the teenage years if we train the same’. Ray ranted as she did 100 press-ups on the library floor to get rid of her aggressive feelings.’

Robin: ‘I’ve come over all emotional! Another triumph for the kid’s committee! I can’t wait until I’m working in my chosen career as a midwife when I’m older. I really desperately want to help women give birth safely and make sure their babies thrive and prosper.’

Ray: ‘And I can’t wait until I am running for office as Prime Minister – to continue leading our great nation forward in global synergy in equal standing with all other strong men and women all over the world!’

Jamie: ‘I’m looking forward to being in politics too! I believe strongly that our country’s policies need to keep being improved for the benefit of all, not just the few!’

Taylor: ‘It’s engineering and high tech start up entrepreneurship for me! I want to empower every man and woman to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution!’

Hayden: ‘You inspire me all: I want to be a therapist and help people who have mental health problems – I want people to enjoy their lives and be happy and to help them communicate their feelings better!’

Jordan: ‘I’m going to be a make-up artist – I love creative stuff – and I am really looking forward to having a family and children when I’m in my late 20s – I think being a caring and loving father, taking a hands-on role with your children is such a privilege.’

With that, the Kid’s Committee disassembled for another week, happy and content that they had set the world to rights with gender parity once again.

Social & Edu Reform in UK Now: What Would Dickens Do? What the Dickens Would you/Should you Do?

There now follows a party political, no, sorry, individual opinion type broadcast on behalf of the, erm, people. The people of the UK who are disenfranchised, suffering from social inequality and under represented by fault of history or social evolution or some other disadvantage. Who are we talking about? It’s women and ethnic minorities who don’t have equal respect in terms of current gender or other types of pay gaps. It’s the systemically under privileged who have socially and culturally evolved into positions of lower economic class, security, opportunity, advantage and wealth over time. Shock and horror you may gasp, how dare they speak out as if they are entitled! Entitlement belongs only to the entitled. Based on what entitlement though?

Look back through the history books and you’ll soon see that entitlements of the currently so called privileged are founded on very precarious foundations of exploitation, oppression and abuse. So is it entitlement then or just whitewashed injustice which somehow people manage to wash their hands out to avoid guilt or blame by the distance of time and othering? It wasn’t me! I didn’t do that. It wasn’t me who kept women as objectified property as a household good. It wasn’t me who took the slave ships to Africa and kidnapped people, enslaving them and robbing them of their own history, cultural, social and human capital. It wasn’t me who benefitted from that industry and was able to take advantage of the evolution of capitalism in the UK based on the industrial revolution that took place around it. It wasn’t me who prospered because of all that… oh, wait…

But how far in the history books must we go? Haven’t civilisations always conquered the weak and exploited them? The Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the British Empire, etc, etc. Didn’t England itself defend itself and lose against the invasion of the Normans, the Romans, the Vikings? How far back, if we chose to do so, must we go to start making reparation for the history of economic social injustice and how it has evolved into the current beast it is today? Well perhaps a good lawyer or two could sit down and work it out.

It’s true: the history books don’t make for very pleasant reading if we were to start unravelling and building a case for compensation for social inequality of the gender and ethnic minority exploitation kind. But imagine if you will how an honest appraisal of the economic damage done might look on the balance sheet if for the sake of argument, it were calculated. And why shouldn’t it be calculated and claimed against? Wouldn’t Lloyds of London be very quick to claim against much less noble materialistic economic losses? Who would stand to make the biggest losses if this came about in such a day of reckoning? If claim upon claim for retrospective compensation were made it would certainly address current inequalities, so much so that perhaps the bankruptcies and loss of land and entitlements going back to feudal times would cripple the foundations of current society. But wouldn’t that be an honest treatment of social inequality? And wouldn’t it be one that would probably stop gender pay gaps and the like (to say the least) from arising again. If people couldn’t afford the law suits, would they ever dare pay a woman any less than a man for the same work done?

During the Ofqual reforms of now current GCSE English exams and specifications we were reintroduced to Dickens. I was irritated by that at first. However, I now applaud it. It reminds us of the power behind the social reformists of the time. Dickens was a social reformist, arguing against poor laws and amendments that didn’t really help the poor, and in fact kept them poor and maltreated. There were and have been great social reformists throughout British history that have stood up against social inequalities and injustice, and improvements have been made on the basis of this. Social reform groups included the Chartists, the women’s rights movement, reforms led in parliament by such as Earl Grey, Lord Melbourne and Robert Peel, and political leaders who saw through great reforms in their time such as Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, Lord Salisbury and Herbert Asquith.  The social reforms that took place during those times were momentous and helped the UK to become the so-called democracy that it is supposed to be today. But what does it mean? Who are the social reformers of today? What do they need to do?

History is the greatest judge but do we really have to wait for the history books before we realise something should have been done? The facts are staring us in the face quite rudely. It’s true that white privilege exists, while it’s also true that young white males also often underperform and are underachievers in areas of social deprivation. If Dickens were alive and writing today with his hat of social reform on, what would he be writing?

I think it would be a dystopian novel, set in the near future, where those with white (often male) privilege sit and rub their hands about how good they’ve got it, but all along there’s a people’s revolution brewing, much like the Russian or French Revolution, and very quickly those with white privilege will fall from their lofty seats of historically founded entitlement at the hands of a change in legislation: the introduction of the ‘Social Inequalities Compensations Claim Act’, which provides free legal representation to make retrospective claims for compensation of economic disadvantage (back pay with interest) due to current or historical kidnapping, enslavement or exploitation of individual, family or ancestral blood ties. Such claims will allow any protected by criteria of Equality Laws to level current economic disadvantage by proving current or retrospective inequality due to being treated unequally, and exploited, kidnapped, enslaved etc. This dystopian novel will seem dystopian for those whose worlds would crumble. It would possibly give them as characters a chance for redemption if they were to then have an Ebenezer Scrooge like change of heart and embrace the new social reforms. The novel would of course have a utopian ending from the perspective of all those suffering under current social inequalities. Economies would be wrecked and ownership entitlements would be all up in the air. But isn’t this what would be really needed in order to create real change to REALLY address social inequalities as we see in our world now?

The history books, as said, will judge. When looking at the history of the Russian and French Revolutions, it is easy to take side with the peasants. Something did need to change. As to what change is needed now and how it could happen is still an open book.

In the meantime, what we do urgently need is to: close the gender pay gap, even up representation of women and ethnic minorities at senior leadership level, and provide free childcare for employees around flexible working times. I don’t think that’s too much to ask when company cars of top executives (mostly white males) are BMWs. Is it?

I’d like House of Lords support with this. And monarchy led projects. Please.