I was lucky enough to be one of the four S6 pupils chosen from Invergordon Academy to represent the Highlands in the Equality Conference held by Education Scotland in Glasgow. The idea of this conference was to learn about the different inequalities in our society through workshops lead by other young people. We would then take the information that we learned and report back to our school and see if there are any changes that we believed need to be made.
When we arrived at this conference we were given a slip with a description of a character. For example: I was John, a 26 year old white male, who was married to Claire and worked as an accountant. We were then asked questions such as ‘Are you comfortable holding hands with your partner?’ or ‘Do you feel comfortable going out in public places?’ If it was yes we would step forward. By the end we could clearly see the unfairness and inequalities in society as I was very far forward whilst others who had homosexual or ethnic minority characters were left behind. This was a very effective way of showing us the changes that need to be made.
We then listened to a speech by a boy from Kyle Academy who was leading a workshop on the holocaust. This was very powerful and inspiring as he pointed out how important it is for the youth to help shape our society and tackle inequalities as it is us who have the power to make a change.
I took part in two workshops one on the Holocaust and another on LGBT. The holocaust workshop was particularly interesting as the aim of it was to put a name to the Jewish individuals that make up the horrifying death statistics in the concentration camps. We were all given a Holocaust victim that was our gender and around our age. We would then see the journey that they had taken and where and when they died. The victim I was paired with was called Paulette Bouchon, she was born in Paris but moved to Auschwitz in Poland during the war. She was only 19 when she died in 1944. This was a very effective way of connecting us to these victims and showing us how they suffered. The message that they wanted to give across was that soon it will be our generation that need to remember these holocaust victims. This is vital for as they deserve to be remembered but also because it is our responsibility to remember how horrific and tragic this was and to ensure that it could never happen again. In this workshop we watched a film with interviews of the survivors of the holocaust one thing that stood out to me was how these people had been treated so awfully yet were not bitter and did not hate. This showed me that if these people who had reason to live their life with hate were so against it then why do we hate others? It showed me how unnecessary it is to hate and encouraged me to help work towards a better society where hate is not seen as much and people are accepting of everyone no matter where they come from or what they believe in. It was also very impressive to see that it was school pupils who had done all the work for this workshop and made us want to do something similar about issues that are important to us.
In the LGBT workshop we listened to the stories of young members of the LGBT community who have suffered from homophobic bullying. I also learned that homophobic bullying is the second most occurring bullying in schools after weight. We then discussed in groups ways in which we can stop homophobia and support the LGBT in schools. This was effective in giving us an insight into the struggles that members of the LGBT community face in school every day and urged us to help end this.
Once we had taken part in our workshops we were put into groups to come up with the three main things that this conference has taught us. In my group they were:
- That the youth have a strong voice and should use it
- That it is more effective to learn from your peers than adults
- That there are many inequalities in our society that need to eliminated
This conference has showed me the change needed in society and that it will not happen if people, including the youth, do not challenge the inequalities. I have learned some of the ways to go about making these changes and have been motivated to start participating and taking a stand for what I believe.
By Kathleen Whiteford (S6)