The term Gender Socialization may sound unfamiliar to most Belizeans but it is actually something that all Belizeans have been affected by. That is because the term refers to what constitutes appropriate behaviors and attitudes based on someone’s sex, meaning a boy or a girl. Studies show that it leads to inequalities in the lives of boys and girls as they grow. In an effort to address this, the Ministry of Education, through the Teacher Education Development Services is working with early childhood teachers. Approximately 30 educators and teacher educators are presently taking part in a “Sensitization on Gender Socialization” workshop. It is supported by the School of Education UWI Cave Hill and the Caribbean Development Bank which has funded a number of early childhood centers in Belize. The Director of the Teacher Education Development Services in Belize, Jeannie Garbutt Franklin along with the Operations Officer with responsibility for Gender and Development at the CDB told us more.
Jeannie Garbutt Franklin, Director of Teacher Education Development Services: “Gender stereotyping is something real in our classrooms, in our society and this is not something unique to Belize it’s something we are seeing across the region- our own beliefs influences our attitudes and behaviors as it relates to how we see the role of the male and the female in our society and this in turn we pass on and it creates inequalities in education, in employment, in income so it is something that we believe is very important for at the training phase that teacher educators are sensitized so that when they prepare our teachers that they sensitize them to these issues and also that they help them to develop techniques and to be able to select adequate resources that would ensure that gender equity is addressed in the classroom. Also when working with our families parents are key partners in this process to ensure that our children are given fair opportunities whether they are a girl, a boy from a very early age that our children develop attitudes that they will in turn pass on in our society. “
Yolande Yaw, Operations Officer with responsibility for Gender and Development, CDB: “Research has shown a number of things. One, that without gender equality in the society you will not get true development so one of the things that we are trying to do is encourage governments to look at gender equality as a main ingredient in the development process. And two, research has also shown that children from as young an age as three years old are very much aware of their gender identity. So what this course is trying to do is let people be aware that children are children and they should not be limited in scope by the traditional gender roles.”
Sharon Burns, a Specialist in Early Childhood Education, is facilitating the workshop and explains the importance of the work.
Sharon Burns, Early Childhood Education Specialist: “This workshop is to sensitize practitioners as early childhood trainers and education officers as to their gendered selves so that they can have an idea and reflect on what they think about gender roles, how they arrived at the gender roles that they arrived at in order to be effective socializers of the young children. Incidentally out of this whole workshop, this whole project we started in 2016, we have come up with a tagline “Creating Genderless Dreams” so we want the children to be what they want to be, we don’t want to stifle them. As early childhood practitioners and parents who work with young children if a child, a boy says that he wants to become a hairdresser when he grows up we will make him believe that something is wrong about that and so then he won’t want to be that or a girl wants to be a professional ball player and we make her believe that that is not something for girls, we want to take away that stigma.”
Garbutt-Franklin says that the Ministry is interested in continuing the training with teachers in other schools.