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How to work with different groups

How to work with different groups of children and young people:

There are opportunities to deliver learning activities within single-sex or mixed, one on one, small groups or big classes of children and young people.

It is important that work is done with boys and girls, women and men. Violence Against Women and Girls is an issue that impacts on everyone and therefore everyone must be involved in stopping it.

When delivering any work it is important to understand the group and think about the best way to safely engage the children and young people in the topic. Ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate and consider the group dynamic making sure that all people are comfortable and given the opportunity to contribute. It is essential that all discriminatory comments or conduct is directly challenged within the session.

Working with mixed groups:

Working with mixed groups of boys and girls, young women and young men can be very rewarding, as interesting conversations and activities can come alive within the session, but it is important to think about the potential risks and mitigate against them. Be careful to ensure that female and male participants have equal opportunities to contribute and that any sexism within the group is challenged. Be aware that gender roles, norms and expectations will not only be played out within the session, but that people that actively challenge these roles may be at risk of ridicule or abuse. Be sure to reinforce the potential positive role of boys and young men and ensure that they do not feel attacked or labelled as perpetrators. Interestingly, young men and boys can often be more comfortable discussing feminism or gender norms than young women and girls. Their interest and confidence can be an opportunity to encourage more young women and girls to join the conversations. It might be appropriate to have two facilitators of the session, one male and one female.

Working with single sex groups:

When working in single sex groups there can be opportunities to create a trusting and open space to really explore gender, violence and relationships, but remember that there will still be dynamics within the group that will play out in activities. Single-sex groups may be an opportunity to have conversations that some may feel uncomfortable or unsafe to have within mixed groups. It may be appropriate for the group to consider the other gender and to think about their experiences; role play might be a good facilitator for this. It is important to think about the sex of the person who leads the session as this may impact on the dynamic of the group, single sex groups may respond best to a facilitator that is the same sex as the group.

Working with girls-only groups:

Working with girls-only groups can give an opportunity to create a really safe space to talk about violence and gender inequality. It can give girls a chance to have conversations that they may not have been comfortable having if boys and young men were in the room. Girls-only groups can also work on building self-esteem and active participation. Group dynamics with only girls and young women will also need to be thought about and responded to. Girls and young women can often find it challenging to discuss gender roles, norms and expectations, it is still useful to talk about how men and boys are also limited by these gender assumptions.

There may be groups of girls that are identified within the education organisation that are at high risk of forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, therefore they may benefit from a tailored programme of support.

Girl Guiding UK delivered an AVA education programme on ‘Girls Taking Action to change the story’. This was an excellent opportunity for girls to work together to develop their understanding of Violence Against Women and Girls and to work together to take action to stop it.


Working with boys-only groups:

Boys-only groups can also be a great opportunity for boys and young men to have conversations that they would never have if there were girls and young women in the room. Boys and young men appreciate groups where they are not judged, not shouted at, but where someone takes them seriously, listens to them, negotiates with them and respects that they have their own views — even if these views were challenged.

Group work with boys and young men must move away from viewing men as perpetrators to seeing them as active participants to stop Violence Against Women and Girls. This can be best done through engaging with them in a way that strengthens communication and mutual understanding.

Being aware of diversity:

Women and girls across the world are at risk of violence and abuse, regardless of background, identity or position. However, some women and girls may face additional risks, or barriers to accessing support, because of other intersecting layers of discrimination and oppression. Therefore it is crucial to consider young people’s experiences of abuse and how they may intersect with experiences of disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, religion etc.

Acknowledging intersectionality in the context of violence against women and girls education is crucial and may also generate some rich and empowering conversations. It can help to break down stereotypes and create a more inclusive and safe environment.

This article from the National Association of School Psychologists provides a useful overview of intersectionality in the classroom.

Top Tips:

  1. Make sure the materials/films/images that you use are reflective of everyone in the class;
  2. Get to know your students and any challenges they may face which may make it harder to discuss or disclose abuse;
  3. Take practical steps to address inequality whenever you encounter it;
  4. Work with local specialist services to ensure young people have access to relevant support;
  5. Ensure children and young people with physical or learning disabilities are equally able to take part and have a voice;
  6. Use a variety of teaching methods to engage everyone.