In mid-November 2021, two schools in Croatia started piloting workshops on the topic of changing social and gender norms in schools as a part of the REVIS project: Gymnasium Vukovar and Gymnasium Karlovac. Facilitators are school teachers and expert associates that completed a training course in September about these topics and new interactive working methods which include energizers, connecting activities, various online tools (such as padlet, jamboard), etc.
The new working approach and methods are something that the students recognized in the evaluations of these first workshops as something that they really liked since it enables their active engagement and contribution to the discussions. The facilitators managed to create a safe and supporting atmosphere which is best described in one of the student’s comments when asked what they liked the most: "I finally opened up in front of the entire class."
Apart from group cohesion activities and rules set, so far the students have had a chance to learn what exactly social norms are, how they are created and how they are connected with people's attitudes and behavior. They also stated some examples of norms in their community.
The students are highly interested and engaged in this topic and they recognize different norms around them, such as expectations about clothes that boys and girls should be wearing. They think that boys are judged more if they dress in a "feminine way" or use make-up and cosmetics, than girls when they wear wide hoodies and sweatpants. They are also unhappy with the norms of some teachers, according to which they cannot express their opinion if it is different from the teacher's, or if they do express it, it is dismissed without arguments.
They successfully differentiate types of violence and they believe that the most difficult to stop is social and psychological violence. They notice that there is a norm about verbal violence where the aggressor minimizes the gravity of the event by saying it was just a joke.
They agree that every violent event needs to be reported and that it is possible to change social and gender norms, but it takes a lot of time and effort.
The students offer interesting conclusions and thoughts about the norms. When asked: "What would happen if there weren't any social norms?" one student said: "There would be chaos." and to a question "What would happen if there weren't any gender norms?” another student answered: "The world would be a nicer place, there would be more diversity and everyone could live more freely."
How to change social and gender norms, the students will have a chance to experience during the next year when they will create their campaigns and have an opportunity to influence the community with their ideas and activities.
In January 2021, facilitators from the piloting schools will share their experiences and impressions with the facilitators from the other 8 schools that are yet to start with the workshops.
Apart from Croatia, the REVIS project is being implemented in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania with 1600 participating students altogether. The coordinating partner organization in Croatia is Brave Phone.