In line with Cardiff’s status as the UK’s first UNICEF accredited “Child Friendly City,” a great Debatemate tournament recently took place. The event engaged students from Cardiff Youth Council (CYC), Willows High School and Cardiff West Community High School in debates on societal issues, with a focus on gender equity. The pinnacle of this two-day affair was a spirited final debate on the motion: “This house would impose stricter measures against content that perpetuates gender stereotypes on social media platforms.” The occasion was further elevated by insights from special guests Nikki Giant and Sabiha Azad.
The Essence of Debatemate:
A forerunner in youth development, Debatemate aims to cultivate skills like effective communication, critical thinking, and teamwork. By fostering an environment for robust debate, students gain a more nuanced understanding of complex societal issues.
Who Stood on the Podium:
Proposition: Members Ffion, Aoife, and Malo represented CYC and Gwion represented Willows High School. Their articulate arguments underscored the youth council’s ongoing efforts to empower local youth.
Opposition: Students Fatima, Franklyn, Pamela and Jessica, from Willows High School exemplified the spirit of inquiry and debate nurtured within the educational system of Cardiff.
The Central Theme: Gender Equity:
All debates leading up to the final focused on various aspects of gender equity, culminating in the decisive final motion. The conversations around this theme were greatly enriched by our special guests, Nikki Giant and Sabiha Azad, who represented opposing views in the final debate.
Nikki Giant: A member of the Advisory Panel for the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and founder of The Girl Lab, Nikki supported the proposition. Her experience added a layer of gravitas to the conversation.
Sabiha Azad: A Cardiff-based Change Maker with a focus on gender inequality, Sabiha took the opposition’s side. Her perspectives added complexity to the arguments, particularly with her background in anti-racism work and representation for Women Against Violence Europe.
A Riveting Finale:
The final debate was a high-stakes exchange of ideas, backed by research and ethical considerations. Nikki Giant, in alignment with the proposition, advocated for imposing stricter measures against gender-stereotypical content on social media. On the other side, Sabiha Azad, along with the opposition panel, offered a compelling counterargument questioning the implications of such measures.
The audience was gripped as Ffion, Aoife, Gwion and Malo from proposition and Fatima, Franklyn, Pamela and Jessica from the opposition went head-to-head. Both sides presented compelling arguments, making it a memorable finale that left a lasting impression on all attendees.
The proposition proposed that stricter measures should be imposed because of the following reasons:
Promotion of Equality: Stricter measures could help to challenge and change harmful gender stereotypes, promoting greater equality.
Protection of Vulnerable Individuals: Stricter measures can help protect vulnerable individuals, particularly children and young people, from being exposed to harmful content that could influence their views and attitudes towards gender.
Responsibility of Platforms: Social media platforms have a responsibility to ensure that their content does not perpetuate harmful stereotypes or discrimination. Stricter measures could hold platforms accountable for the content they allow to be shared.
The opposition didn’t disagree that gender stereotyping is bad, but they said stricter measures could have the following negative effects:
Freedom of Speech: Imposing stricter measures could be seen as a limitation on freedom of speech, as individuals may be censored or restricted from expressing their views.
Subjectivity: Determining what content perpetuates gender stereotypes can be subjective and open to interpretation. Stricter measures could result in the censorship of content that may not necessarily be harmful.
Critical thinking: Diminish people’s choice and ability to be able to critically think about information they may see on social media platforms.
They suggested that there should be other ways to improve/eliminate gender stereotyping through education.
What stood out?
Participants were split up into 5 groups and asked what subjects they covered over the 2 days stood out to them and what they think the council should prioritise for consideration. Each group were asked to come up with 3 subjects each. These were gathered in and then the whole group was asked to rank the subjects put forward, the following graph was the result:
Implications and Future Directions:
The event served as a microcosm for how discourse around complex issues like gender equity can be incorporated into the educational landscape. It offered valuable insights for the local authority on ways to adopt a children’s rights approach to education and governance.
CYC have three priorities that they are working on to improve outcomes and services to all children and young people across the city.
- Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Cost of Living
- Gender Equity
As part of the Gender Equity work CYC will incorporate the findings from the Debatemate Final into their thinking when trying to make these improvements.
The Debatemate tournament was more than a competition; it was an enactment of Cardiff’s commitment to children’s rights and equitable society. It showcased how constructive dialogue, fostered by collaboration between educational institutions and experts, can pave the way for positive social change.
In a world often fraught with disagreement, Cardiff’s youth have shown us that nuanced debate is not a lost art but a vital tool in navigating our shared future.
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