Breaking Free

Breaking Free is a peer education topic that gives girls the tools to challenge any stereotype that limits them

Breaking Free is our peer education topic which helps girls challenge stereotypes.

Girls tell us that they’re surrounded by stereotypes. And that seeing simplified versions of what it means to be a girl makes it harder for them to be themselves. They want things to change. 

Breaking Free is all about helping young people make that change, by giving them the tools to identify and challenge gender stereotypes. 

This fun and important session challenging stereotypes counts towards your take action unit meeting activity hours. 

Peer educators can bring Breaking Free to your unit

We’re training peer educators to deliver Breaking Free workshops in Girlguiding units. Fill in our online form to ask about a workshop with a local peer educator. 

Don’t worry if there aren’t any peer educators trained in Breaking Free in your area yet - trainings are happening all across the UK. 

Ask about a workshop with a local peer educator

Train as a peer educator to deliver Breaking Free

Follow our 3 easy steps to learn how to run a Breaking Free session. We’ll make sure you’re fully confident on the topic so you can deliver brilliant workshops to young people.

  1. Watch the videos below.
  2. Complete the online quiz below.
  3. Go to a face-to-face training day to practise the activities. Ask your country or region office when the next training event is happening.

Emma: Hi and welcome to Breaking Free, which we've created to help young people challenge gender stereotypes.

What exactly do we mean when we say gender stereotypes? Well, it's all about when people make assumptions based on someone's gender. All boys like football – gender stereotype. All girls like shopping and lipstick – gender stereotype.

But we know it's not always easy to break free of the boxes that people put on you and that's why this resource is so important. This video will show you how to help people deal with gender stereotypes and how to use our resource Breaking Free.

We want everyone that you share our workshop with to have a brilliant experience and this video will help you deliver just that.

In our society gender stereotyping happens every single day: in the clothes we're told to buy, the jobs were told to aspire to, the shows we watch on TV, even the food we eat. Stereotypes take something that's true for some people and pretend it's true for all people.

The problem is if you're not one of those some people you can end up feeling isolated and under pressure to pretend you're someone different. No one should feel pushed down a certain path in life and you can help us make sure that doesn't happen by running this session. You'll empower young people to talk about gender stereotypes and how they affect their lives.

We know from our research that children start making decisions about their lives influenced by stereotypes very early on. Young girls hear that they don't do as well in math and sciences, which affects their enjoyment of these subjects. This often means that they don't want to carry on studying them and we end up with fewer girls going into science and engineering careers. One survey from 2017 said that 50% of girls aged 7 to 11 describe maths and computer science as fun and enjoyable, but if you ask the same question to girls aged 11 to 14 this drops for 31% for maths and 36% for computer science. You can see the problem we have here and it's not any easier for boys. They might hear that they should be physical and sporty, which can leave boys who are more artistic and sensitive feeling like there's something wrong with them.

Together we can change this and ultimately we can change the world. We never tell people they can't enjoy stereotypical things. Everyone enjoys some things that are thought of as stereotypical, like the girl in love with princesses or the boy obsessed with superheroes. It's about letting people be whatever they want to be without gender stereotypes getting in the way.

The truth is stereotypes are usually deeply rooted and sometimes we don't even realise it until we're asked to question something. It's also possible that if we tell people something is a stereotype we can end up doing more harm than good, so for example if men are stereotyped in Britain as unemotional and tough and then we start saying things like men can be emotional or women can be tough this might create a new stereotype where men are seen as emotionally aware and women are seen as ice queens. We haven't broken free of a stereotype instead we've just flipped it. It all comes back to how we understand the ideas of men and women in relation to each other. That's why to make sure we're not creating new stereotypes we're delivering this workshop to all people of all genders.

People are stereotyped not just by their gender but things like their ethnicity, their income, background or their sexual orientation. This is called intersectionality and what it means is that we can't expect all young people to have the same experience of stereotyping.You'll have to keep that in mind when running Breaking Free.

So to make this easier we've included some questions about intersectionality, provided some case studies and examples. We also involved young people from all sorts of backgrounds when we were developing this resource to make sure that the session is inclusive throughout. If we're honest, we all hold on to some stereotypes whether we mean to or not. Sometimes we don't even realise until someone brings this to our attention. Part of your role is going to be making sure everyone in the workshop is able to admit this and is up for helping us change things. We want people to leave feeling ready to embrace their likes and dislikes, to use their skills and talents and to be confident enough to challenge stereotypes when they come across one.

Just a quick recap then. Here's what Breaking Free is not about: telling people they can't enjoy stereotypical things, creating new stereotypes, saying people are only stereotyped by their gender, or blaming anyone for stereotypes.

So what do we want everyone to get from Breaking Free? the aim is for everyone in the room to come away feeling that they can enjoy the things they like, regardless of stereotypes, and that they feel confident being themselves.

There are just four simple steps for you to follow:

Step 1: what is gender? This question will set the scene, explain the terms we'll be using and get across the stereotyping based on gender is never a good idea. You'll show the difference between gender and sex by explaining that your sex is about your body and your physical traits. Gender has two meanings that are linked: firstly, how closely you see yourself as a 'man', 'woman' or 'non-binary' and, secondly, what society tells us about the way someone who sees themselves as man or woman should act, enjoy themselves or even think because of the way society is. We can strongly understand that we are women and at the same time not live up to any of these stereotypes that society says a woman should be. For instance, stereotypes may say that girls should be delicate, not sporty, but you can be a girl who loves rugby and still identify strongly with your femaleness. Many of us know that we're a woman but because of gender stereotyping we feel like we don't fit in the mould the society says a woman should be. But our message is that you don't need to be stereotypically feminine to be a woman. This isn't the only message that Breaking Free delivers but it does set up why challenging stereotypes really matters. You can like dressing up and wearing makeup but also like weightlifting. What society says it means to be a girl or a boy shouldn't stop you doing things that you enjoy or fulfilling your potential. Whatever that may be there's a bigger conversation going on right now about what sex and gender mean so we should be aware some people will use different definitions. Having said that the reason we define these things in this way is to get everyone on the same page for the purposes of the workshop and to explain more clearly what we're trying to achieve.

Step 2: what is a stereotype and why is there problem? This part of the workshop is about explaining what stereotypes are and their impact on society. Stereotypes are exaggerated versions of something based off common but not universal characteristics and they're not true. When it comes to gender stereotypes of masculinity or femininity to make people feel trapped and unable to experience or enjoy the things that they love and sadly sometimes people have horrible experiences just for acting a way that doesn't fit with the stereotype of their gender. Children can get bullied or even told off by adults and even babies can be treated differently because of the sex. Then as we grow up this can mean it's harder to get into certain careers you might be judged for your life choices or feel cut off from things you like however we identify. We are all stereotyped by gender but don't worry it's not all bad news. The good news is we can all break out of our stereotypes and we can all learn to be whoever we want to be.

Step 3: recognising and challenging stereotypes. At this stage you'll show the group how to spot stereotypes and challenge them when they experience them. We think there are two main ways stereotypes are created and allowed to thrive: in the media and how we talk to each other every day. You'll pick two activities from this section. We suggest one that's about the media and one about stereotypes in everyday life. This part of the workshop will help the group practice assertive and safe ways to challenge the stereotypes they see around them.

Step 4: breaking free from stereotypes. This section is where you get to really inspire your group and reassure them that a world free from stereotyping is possible. You'll run activities that show them role models who are already breaking free of stereotypes. This will show them that, sure, gender is important but no way near as important as using your talents to achieve what you want and enjoy the things you love. Finally you'll also set them the challenge to stop applying gender stereotypes to things that don't need a gender.

By doing this all young people will lead the changes we all want to see.

Just a quick recap then. Step 1: what is gender? Step 2: what is a stereotype and why is there a problem?Step 3: recognising and challenging stereotypes. Step 4: breaking free from stereotypes.

Every activity has been developed with each age group and they've been tested on over 600 girls for people aged 7 to 10. We explained that we're told that sometimes things are only for boys or girls. We talked about how gender is different from our sexes and that sometimes stereotypes limit the opportunities we have and how we feel about being ourselves. For people aged 11 to 14 we also explore the idea that if our ideas of gender were all the same everyone would like and dislike the same things. People are spread across a spectrum of liking more very typically masculine or feminine things. For people aged 14 to 25 we also give them more detail about what gender means and the different ways in which people explain their gender including cisgender and transgender.

Thanks for watching! We hope you're excited to get going and feel confident about delivering Breaking Free to young people across the UK.

We've covered: – the aims of the resource – the session structure and steps – what we're not trying to achieve – how we've adapted this for Brownies, Guides and The Senior Section. Just make sure you pop back before your sessions so you're bang up to date on all the background theory.

Finally, before we go, thank you so much to all the experts who helped create Breaking Free. We also want to say a huge thank you to the task and finish group of peer educators, coordinators and members of The Senior Section who helped with this project.

Now don't forget to go and watch our second video on how to put your Breaking Free workshop together. That's all from us. Good luck!

Looking for a particular section?

You can find the following information at the listed timings in part 2:

02:30: For our transgender and non-binary policy
04:21: For the post-leader conversation

Megan: Hi there, thanks for watching this video.

It's all about how to practically put together your Breaking Free workshop and make sure it's really engaging and helpful for everyone who takes part.

If you've seen the video for Think Resilient then you're one step ahead because we're going to be covering some of the same stuff. But new to this video we will be covering post session leader conversation and communicating sensitively with someone taking part if they decide to tell you they are trans or non-binary. Links to these timings are here [points below the screen] if you'd like to skip ahead.

Ahead of the session you will need to have a chat with the leader and this should cover: How long does the unit meet for and what space is available? Can they help you to cover resources for the activities? Are they happy to complete and hand out the parent letters and valuation questionnaires? And a discussion about the unit following th group guidelines.

To be able to tailor the session you need to know if there are any additional needs, group dynamics or cultural considerations you should be aware of.

The Breaking Free learning journey: explain this to the leader and ask which activities are suitable. For safeguarding ask where you're going to set up the safe space. Talk through how to manage the safe space if needed during the session. Discuss how you'll deal with it if a young person raises an issue during the session.

Leader agreement form: at this point you'll need to ask the leader to sign the leader agreement form, which means they signed up to give you the help and support you'll need to run your session.

Leader guidance – if questions crop up after your Breaking Free session guidance for the leader can be found here.

If you see or hear anything that worries you, listen, be as compassionate as you can and talk to the leader about it after the session. You might be asked to write a report about it and then the unit leader you're visiting will take these concerns forward. Your 4 coordinator or unit leader should be happy to support you with this process. For more information and to read our full safeguarding policy visit our website.

It can feel like a big responsibility but part of your role is also to make sure people don't hurt themselves so keep an eye out for anything that could cause an injury and keep risk assessing the room as you go along. Don't worry if this sounds like a lot you'll practice it all in your face-to-face training. If you ever have any doubts about what to do and need support, contact our safeguarding team.

What if someone shares that they are trans or non-binary? A trans person could be someone whose sex is male but their gender is female or someone who sex is female but their gender is male. Alternatively they might identify with aspects of both genders or neither gender and call themselves non-binary. It is completely normal for young people to think about their gender as they try to work out their place in society and how to be themselves.

If young person's decides to tell you that they are trans or non-binary the first thing to do is reassure them that you won't tell anyone if they don't want you to. The only timeyou should share this information is if you're concerned about their well-being. If they're willing to talk openly you may ask them if they'd like to use the group setting as an opportunity for discussion and if so what pronouns they'd like to be used. The most important thing is to be friendly and supportive. You could be the first person they've ever told and they've chosen to trust you which shows what a great job you're doing.

Putting together a session: once you've had the conversation you need with the leader you can use the activity decider tool on pages 30–31 to plan your session. In one handy table you will find the session step of the activities, the name, the page number in the activity book, the section the activities are for and how long they will take. Make sure you pick a mix of activities. You'll want some that are really active and others that are more creative and use a bit more brainpower.

Then, go to activities find out what sources you'll need. Read the activity instructions and get organising. Speech bubbles are written as a script to help you get the main points across. You don't have to use it but it can be useful to follow the script the first few times until you get comfortable explaining it in your own words. Finally write your chosen activities into a blank session plan, which you can photocopy from the book and then you're all set to help young people break free of gender stereotypes.

After your session: this is your chance to debrief with the leader. In this conversation you can report any safeguarding concerns, talk through what went well and give the leader any advice on what to do next. Make sure you record the session on the Survey Monkey.

Thanks for watching!

Now all that's left for you to do is complete the quiz and go along to your face-to-face training. You'll be changing the world one young person at a time before you know it.