Monday 15 October 2018

Fifth-class girls make voices heard by getting publisher to change sexist Irish workbook

Shona Gogarty (11) and Rachel Arnold Martin (11), both fifth-class pupils at Mary Help of Christians Girls’ National School in Dublin, who helped point out inequality in their Folens Irish workbook. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Shona Gogarty (11) and Rachel Arnold Martin (11), both fifth-class pupils at Mary Help of Christians Girls’ National School in Dublin, who helped point out inequality in their Folens Irish workbook. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Louise Walsh

A group of fifth-class pupils have struck a blow for girl power as they succeeded in getting a sexist Irish workbook changed.

The girls were annoyed to see the page on careers in 'Fuaimeanna agus Focail' showed men in jobs such as pilots and doctors.

"There was only one woman shown in a professional job and this was stereotypical as she was a nurse," explained Shona Gogarty (11), of Mary Help of Christians Girls' National School in Dublin.

"There was no people represented with disabilities. We thought that in this day and age, it is unacceptable that our books do not reflect the diversity in our school."

After writing to book publisher Folens high-lighting their concerns, the class was delighted to learn the workbook will now be changed at its next update.

In a letter to the school, the company said: "We reviewed the book ourselves internally and would agree with the conclusions that you reached in relation to gender and equality representation.

"As a result, when we next update this series, we will make every effort to ensure that the books better reflect gender equality and include more females playing sports and working in a professional capacity.

"Similarly, we will also make sure the illustrations include a wider range of ethnicities as well as disabled people." In a statement, Folens said: "The lifecycle of school books can be very long, so sometimes the content can be a little out of step with the times."

Shona's mum Teresa thanked their teacher Kathy Kelly for encouraging the pupils to voice their opinions.

"They were going through the workbook and one page on careers showed men in all the jobs of pilots and doctors. This started a conversation among them and all 21 of the girls decided they'd put pen to paper and write to Folens about it. It's fantastic to see girls of that age encouraged to have their say and speak out if they see something as wrong. In writing back and acknowledging the gender inequality, Folens showed the students that it's worth putting your views across and airing your opinions."

Ms Kelly said: "I'm very proud of the girls for being such practical agents of change at such a young age."

Irish Independent

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