What does youth work have to do with feminism?

Scotswummin researcher Lisa Gallacher explores what the women’s movement of the 1970s has done for youth work today.

What does youth work have to do with feminism? At first glance, they don’t seem much related but when you really stop to think about what youth work is and what feminism is, it becomes clear that the two are interlinked and have been historically.

Broadly speaking, a big part of youth work is about developing young people and encouraging them to question the values, attitudes and behaviours they have grown up with. It’s also about increasing confidence and self-worth, which are too often lacking in girls and young women. Feminism is, and always has been, about raising awareness, advocating for equality and improving the lives of girls and women. Most importantly, women meeting in women-only groups to share their experiences and raise their consciousness were a hallmark of the women’s movement in the 1970s.

this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like

These practices were adopted by feminist youth workers as a template for youth work with girls. In many ways, feminist youth work in the 1970s and 1980s was directly influenced by what was happening in the women’s movement.

Whichever point in history you look at, providing youth services which meet the needs of girls and young women in an ever-changing society is really important.

 

I joined YouthLink Scotland in 2016 to work on #scotswummin. As part of our campaign, I’m writing a report on the contribution of youth work to the women’s movement since 1850. I’ll be uncovering the story of girls and women within youth work, bringing a Scottish perspective to the topic. To make this happen, I’ll be examining historical archives and exploring some of the larger youth organisations like Girlguiding and the YWCA. I’ll also be speaking to people at the forefront of youth work today and considering where we are now in terms of the impact youth work has on the lives of girls and young women in Scotland.

I have a background in research and I can honestly say this is the most interesting project I have ever worked on. I hope that #scotswummin will showcase the talents, achievements and impact of Scottish women, and as a feminist I want to make sure that youth work’s historical input into the wider women’s movement is brought to light.

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