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Safe Schools – A Nordic Method for Student Participation and Norm Criticism

Through the Safe schools project, the organisations Likestillingssenteret KUN (NO), Ekvalita (FI), and Elevernas Riksförbund (SE) will develop a joint Nordic method based on norm criticism, in order to create an inclusive and equal school with a focus on increased student participation.

This will be achieved through five distinctive work packages which involve students’ councils, deans and student representatives in secondary schools in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Åland.

Schools should contribute to equality and democracy, according to the curricula of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Åland. We know that norms and the breaching of norms cause some students to be subjected more frequently to offence, bullying, harassment and discrimination. This is sometimes linked to the legally defined discrimination laws concerning gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ethnicity and disability, but there is also a connection between different forms of oppression. In order to counteract the forms of bullying currently manifesting in Nordic schools, we must address questions about equality, power and norms. The project aims to contribute to this effort.

The project will, in co-operation with students’ councils and student representatives, test and further develop methods that can be applied to promote student participation, as well as the relevance of students’ councils and their impact. Students gain insight into their own rights, and into norm-critical method, and tools to evaluate their own school in relation to, among other things, the

Convention on the Rights of the Child, school legislation, and political goals concerning equal rights. They must themselves define what is useful and relevant to them, and will thereby provide input regarding the working method. The students’ analysis should be discussed with the school management and provide a foundation for practical efforts and further collaboration.

The project is launched in one pilot school in each nation, to develop methods and implement these in twelve schools in total. Based on the experiences from workshops held with the students, discussions with the school deans, and the process of developing and testing the method material, we will also establish guidelines for the school management. The project group is responsible for design and structure, but students are involved to influence the actual contents.

The project will finish with a digital launch, presenting it to the respective target groups; deans, students’ councils and student representatives throughout the Nordic countries. The student representatives will be the ones to continue the work in new settings, and further disseminate the method in their own countries.

Young voices for gender equality in the Nordic countries

The project aims to promote young people’s ownership of the gender equality issue as a driving force for a sustainable Nordic region. Nordic youth and student organisations will be recruited to the project, where key actors for gender equality and innovation take part.

Through the Design Thinking method and norm critical perspective the young people will be challenged to produce specific solutions related to the global sustainable development goals (Agenda 2030) – based on their perspective of equality, gender norms, democracy, segregated education and professional choices, digitalisation, climate change and diversity as value creators. The activities are connected through two networking sessions and a workshop in order to prepare the networking sessions.

Research-based knowledge to combat sexual harassment and bullying among children and young people

The project aimed to increasing research-based sexual harassment knowledge within organisations working to combat bullying in the Nordic region and Lithuania, and within their target groups.

The main activities was networking meetings and sharing and disseminating research-based methods through a one-day conference for the partners’ target groups and a report highlighting the knowledge gained within the project, as well as methods and tools such as:

  • Tools for mapping sexual harassment at school,
  • Initiatives to change the school climate and unsafe places,
  • Initiatives to combat sexual harassment and exploitation online,
  • Knowledge about body image and pornography, and
  • An action plan course to combat sexual harassment.

The project was designed to share knowledge between the main anti-bullying organisations in the Nordic region and neighbouring Lithuania, and to disseminate effective methods to prevent sexual harassment. All the parties involved contributed via their specific competences and perspectives, and involved experts.

The results are summarised in the report Sexual harassment and Bullying in the Nordic Region.

YouthEQ 2017 – Nordic gender equality conference with a focus on youth

By means of a Nordic conference, this project wanted to stimulate sharing of knowledge and experiences in the Nordic region and ultimately the adoption of joint strategies for gender equality in youth activities. The Conference disseminated methods and experiences from the Nordic countries that are possible to integrate into local and regional youth policy and youth activities.

The goal for the conference was to become a forum for meetings and dialogue around gender equality and gender mainstreaming and that it facilitated continued inter-Nordic collaboration and sharing of experiences. The ambition was to create a Nordic alliance with recurring meetings for public, private and non-profit actors involved in the work to promote gender equality among young people.

The conference was held in Kalmar, Sweden, in autumn 2017.

Full rights for girls in the Nordic countries

The organisations behind this project are troubled by the increasingly harsh climate in society where alarming reports about the vulnerability of girls in the school environment and elsewhere in the public space are becoming progressively commonplace. Regardless of in which country sexual harassment occurs, it implies consequences for young women’s health, participation in the democratic process and overall room to manoeuvre in life.

This project has created a knowledge base and to strengthen the public opinion in the Nordic countries with respect to girls’ rights, gender equality, equal treatment and sustainable health. The aim is to strengthen the public opinion and to shed light on injustices from a Nordic perspective, make room for the situation of girls in the political agenda and demand responsible policy work. The project has also provided training for key persons involved in the implementation of these policies, as well as persons working within organisations that deal with young women’s issues.

Nordic practices for schools and preschools

The issue of gender equality in schools and preschools has received a lot of attention in recent years, especially in the Nordic countries. One reason for this is that the national gender equality and discrimination laws have been expanded to cover also the school systems.

The legislative changes make it necessary to develop the equality and diversity work performed in the school environment, which in turn requires carefully planned staff training for educational professionals and other school personnel.

This project aimed to provide such training by developing a tool for e-learning. The training was provided via an online platform utilising a participatory approach, and was based on the results of a previous project titled Nordic Gender Equality Certification in Education, which identified and explored successful gender equality practices in the education sector.

Nordic gender equality certification in education

In April 2014, the Nordic Council issued a recommendation to introduce gender equality certification of Nordic schools and preschools. In connection with this, a project titled Mapping Promising Nordic Practices in Gender Equality Promotion at Basic Education and Kindergartens set out to stimulate discussion and cooperation regarding the implications of the recommendation for schools and preschools. The aim of the project was to create a forum for sharing of best practice.

The project resulted in a report proposing concrete certification criteria and presenting examples of successful work, which also facilitated further development of existing efforts.

The Nordic sharing of experiences yielded great value and the project continued after the publishing of the report in 2015 with the development of a tool for e-learning.

Gender equality work with youth

The project was launched to address the need for a gender equality focus in work with children and adolescents. At a seminar at the Nordic Forum in Malmö 2014, organisations from the Nordic and Baltic regions talked about how girls’ and boys’ group meetings can prevent violence and promote democracy and gender equality.

The organisations behind the project are having great success with the so-called girl and boy group method in the Nordic countries, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. The seminar gathered the different actors to exchange experiences and discuss how to jointly spread, develop and ensure a high quality of the method.

The method is based on a democratic and non-hierarchical dialogue between a small group of adolescents and their leader. The underlying idea is always the same: to strengthen the adolescents’ integrity, self-esteem and ability to cooperate and at the same time give them tools to question norms and handle conflicts. The network has continued to collaborate around the methods since the project ended.

Updated 21 November 2019