International Women’s Day - A Class About Girl Power & Consent

Girls and boys, women and men, are all wonderfully unique and at the same time have equal potential in all areas of life and deserve equal rights, opportunities and respect.

This is obvious to all of us today, but it has not always been like that. Women have not enjoyed equality throughout most of known human history and in fact, just over a century ago most women in the world did not receive the right to be educated or vote with many countries only following in more recent decades.

The ripple effects of this inequality are still felt today in the stereotypes we have about boys and girls haircuts/colours/responsibilities/behaviours/expectations, absurd sentences we use such as “don’t run/scream/play like a girl”, job opportunities, salary inequality, unequal representation in government and science and academia in most countries, and in many places still in the general attitude of man towards women.

The key to change here lies not only in the laws of governments but also in the education of our next generation.

Why do we need to educate ourselves and the next generation about equality, respect and consent - In numbers:

  • Globally, 35 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. This figure does not include sexual harassment. Some national studies show that the number can be as high as 70 per cent of women and that rates of depression, having an abortion, and acquiring HIV are higher in women who have experienced this type of violence compared to women who have not.
  • 137 women are killed by a member of their family every day. It is estimated that of the 87,000 women who were intentionally killed in 2017 globally, more than half (50,000) were killed by intimate partners or family members. 
  • Less than 40 per cent of the women who experience violence seek help of any sort. In the majority of countries with available data on this issue, among women who do seek help, most look to family and friends and very few look to formal institutions, such as police and health services. Less than 10 per cent of those seeking help appealed to the police.
  • Adult women account for nearly half (49 per cent) of all human trafficking victims detected globally. Women and girls together account for 72 per cent, with girls representing more than three out of every four child trafficking victims. Most women and girls are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
  • In 2019, one in five women, aged 20–24 years, were married before the age of 18 and commonly without their consent. During the past decade, the global rate of child marriage has declined, with South Asia having the largest decline during this time. Today, the risk of child marriage is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than one in three women, aged 20–24 years, were married before the age of 18. Child marriage often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, and increases a girl’s risk of experiencing domestic violence.
  • At least 200 million women and girls, aged 15–49 years, have undergone female genital mutilation in 31 countries where the practice is concentrated. Half of these countries are in West Africa. There are still countries where female genital mutilation is almost universal, where at least 9 in 10 girls and women, aged 15–49 years, have been cut.
  • 15 million adolescent girls worldwide, aged 15–19 years, have experienced forced sex. In the vast majority of countries, adolescent girls are most at risk of forced sex by a current or former husband, partner, or boyfriend. Based on data from 30 countries, only one per cent have ever sought professional help.
  • School-related gender-based violence is a major obstacle to universal schooling and the right to education for girls. Globally, one in three students, aged 11–15, have been bullied by their peers at school at least once in the past month, with girls and boys equally likely to experience bullying. While boys are more likely to experience physical bullying than girls, girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, and they report being made fun of because of how their face or body looks more frequently than boys.
  • One in 10 women in the European Union report having experienced cyber-harassment since the age of 15. This included having received unwanted and/or offensive sexually explicit emails or SMS messages, or offensive and/or inappropriate advances on social networking sites. The risk is highest among young women aged 18–29 years.
  • In the Middle East and North Africa, 40–60 per cent of women have experienced street-based sexual harassment. In the multi-country study, women said the harassment was mainly sexual comments, stalking or following, or staring or ogling. Between 31 and 64 per cent of men said they had carried out such acts. Younger men, men with more education, and men who experienced violence as children were more likely to engage in street sexual harassment.
  • Across five regions, 82 per cent of women parliamentarians reported having experienced some form of psychological violence while serving their terms. This included remarks, gestures and images of a sexist or humiliating sexual nature, threats, and mobbing. Women cited social media as the main channel of this type of violence, and nearly half (44 per cent) reported receiving death, rape, assault, or abduction threats towards them or their families. Sixty-five per cent had been subjected to sexist remarks, primarily by male colleagues in parliament.
  • Men are more likely to perpetrate violence if they have low education, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence, and a sense of entitlement over women.
  • Women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence if they have low education, exposure to mothers being abused by a partner, abuse during childhood, and attitudes accepting violence, male privilege, and women’s subordinate status.

Yes, women can, and do, offend violently. They harm others. And yes, these statistics have been called into question by thoughtful researchers who argue that a far more nuanced (and gender-balanced) view may be more accurate.

But whether the statistics are missing the mark a little or not, there would be few who would argue that there is significant room for improvement with respect to respect to women worldwide. And even today in our so-called advanced society, far too many girls and women are being disrespected with adults saying that it is ‘innocently’ and ‘harmlessly’ done.

We are all a product of society, and still have a lot of work to do together and individually to break through our ingrained expectations, stereotypes and perspectives.

It starts from home, but continues at school, with pears, work, government… Continuous education and movement towards equality and mutual respect are needed.

We can focus on so many things on this International Women’s Day… Inspiring women, gender equality… But I chose to focus on consent because it is a topic that our generation did not explicitly learn from the simple fact that 50-100 years ago it was barely expected to be even required when facing a woman and therefore we may have not yet clearly communicated it to the next generation either as of yet.

Movies, video games and pornography (by the way, the statistics show that 100% of young people over the age of 14 have watched pornography), music and general popular culture are still rarely a good example of this value. So it falls on us, yoga teachers, to be a part of the change we want to see in the world.

Here are a couple of articles I enjoyed reading recently (because they have lots of practical suggestions) about teaching boys more about equality, respect and consent:

From a Mum:

From a Dad:

And in this class, I have tried a few ways to create a practical experience giving or not giving consent and hearing no and being ok with it in the hope of helping this message sink in and be an integral part of our evolving global society.

If you have any other ideas, please help me out and write more suggestions in the comments below or by replying to our newsletter.

Thanks my Rainbow sisters and brothers!

To Bring: 

Would You Like A Cup Of Tea?

Sit in a circle (or in Zoom) and maybe after a short age-appropriate introduction about the International Women’s Day ask each participant “what does Consent means to you?”

Consent is a bit more than “yes means yes, and no means no” and we are going to watch this short video by that gives uses the simple example of having a cup of tea to illustrate what consent means in increasingly more complex situations. You can watch together here this famous Tea and Consent” video.

This is also their video for young ones.

5-10 Minutes

Girl Power Sun Dance

Because it is International Women’s Day week, we are going to let the AWESOME girls in the class lead our Sun Dance today.

To the sound of the Girl Power songs I put in this playlist, have all the girls that are willing to step up lead the Sun Dance for everyone to follow (everyone will mirror the person leading).

Tell them that they are doing it not just for themselves, but as a gesture for all girls and women in the world to stand up and shine as the awesome people they are!

After each turn applies the ladies enthusiastically maybe even chanting together “girl power, girl power, girl power… !”

In an in-person class, it will be in a circle, and if using Zoom you can use the Spotlight feature that will make the leading girl visible to all participants as the main screen.

5-10 Minutes

The Yogi Says That You Are You

Students play a variation of Simon Says that highlights their similarities and differences.

We are defined by a lot more than being a boy or a girl and here students will explore their similarities and differences and learn about tolerance and acceptance.

In this version of Simon Says or the Yogi Says only some students will respond to each command.

Tell students that they must watch carefully as they play the game because at the end, each student must tell one new thing they learned about a classmate.

Here are some directions for The Yogi to say in this unique game:

  • The Yogi says "Everyone that identifies as a girl, stand in Warrior 2 Pose”
  • The Yogi says "Everyone that identifies as a boy, stand in Tree Pose”
  • The Yogi says "Everyone that identifies as something else, come into Warrior 3 (Airplane) Pose”
  • The Yogi says "Everyone with brown eyes, do a Standing Forward Fold"
  • The Yogi says "Everyone who has a dog as a family member, come into the Downward Facing Dog Pose"
  • The Yogi says "Everyone whose favourite sport is soccer, do a Frog Pose"
  • The Yogi says "Everyone who speaks more than one language, come into the Dancer Pose"


...And so on, choosing categories appropriate for your students.

If you do not fall into the category instructed simply stay in Mountain Pose.

After a couple of minutes, let students lead as well. Encourage them to use a wide variety of cues and poses.

At the end of the game, have students ask each student to name one way in which he or she and another student are alike. The trait they share must be something they didn't know before playing the game. Students might say, for example, "I didn't know that Gopala spoke Spanish" or "I didn't know that Angel was left-handed."

Easy to play on Zoom.

5-10 Minutes

Yes No Questions

As part of our diving into learning more about consent, we are going to learn and be more and more comfortable with Yes and with No.

One of the students, the teacher will demonstrate first, comes into a new pose that was never seen or heard of before, a pose they invent on the spot.

All the other players need to question him/her until they discover which pose it is or what the poses symbolizes.

If it is an older group you can even have a theme of making up poses that represent powerful women (Wonder Woman, Frida Kalo, Hillary Clinton, Golda Meir…), or concepts relating to the class topic.

The questions can only have yes or no answers. For example: “Is it green?” “Does it fly?” “Does it live underground?”

The leader can ONLY answer YES or NO. No other answers are allowed.

The player that guesses correctly gets the next turn!

Easy to do the same on Zoom.

5-10 Minutes

2 Yeses and 3 Nos

Divide into pairs by asking the children to find someone with a different hairstyle than them.

If on Zoom you can use the Breakout Rooms feature for that and let the program divide the children randomly, after your instructions.

In this exercise, in a very simple way, we will practice saying “YES” and even more importantly saying “NO”. 

AND, we will also practice hearing those 2 words and accepting no graciously.

So here one person will ask the other to do 5 yoga poses to do and for each their partner will need to say a simple verbal “yes” or “no”.

The responder will need to say “yes” to 2 and “no” to 3.

The person asking will also practice acceptance.

Brainstorm together a few “staying cool” ways to respond to a “no”:

  • “Sure thing, not a problem”
  • “Thank you for considering”
  • “Of course, I understand”
  • “No worries, I respect your decision”
  • “Oh, I didn’t realize it. Well, I feel disappointed, but I understand”

Sitch roles, and then play a few times switching partners. Keep giving different cues to partner “partner with someone who has ________ similar/different than you”.

5-10 Minutes

The Yoga Consent Game

We need to go much further than just teaching “No means no” and “Yes means yes”. Young people know the definition of consent, but too often they have very little idea about what consent looks, feels and sounds like.

So here we will learn that "(an enthusiastic) Yes (but also a body language full-body yes) Means Yes. _______ (many things) Means NO."

This is from a Law Book: "Affirmative consent means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in an activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the activity.”

  • Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent
  • Silence does not mean consent
  • Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout the activity and can be revoked at any time
  • The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent
  • Consent under pressure - psychological, physical or social - is not consent
  • Consent when not in a coherent state of mind (such as when drunk) is not consent

But… Asking verbally for consent at every turn can kill romance and maybe risk the future of humankind almost as much as not asking for consent at all. 

Did you see the letter from Catherine Deneuve questioning if #MeToo had gone too far? 

We shouldn’t equate every terrible clumsy attempt at seduction with rape and sexual assault. After all, how are people supposed to flirt in this environment? Is it possible to teach our kids consent without throwing a wet blanket on their romance?

First Round: With everyone sitting in the circle, or on Zoom, explain that each person will need at their turn to say the name of another person and ask them to do a yoga pose. If the other person agrees, they say ‘yes’ and does the pose, then it becomes their turn to ask someone else. If the person being asked does not agree to do the yoga pose, they say ‘no’ and the person who asked is free to ask someone else. 

It feels really stupid and makes kids laugh, but demonstrates that verbal communication is the clearest and easiest to understand, especially if people don’t know each other very well.

Second Round: No one is allowed to talk. Now, you have to “seduce” (or you can use the word “convince” if it feels better) another to do a certain agreed pose, let’s say Warrior Pose, with facial expressions, eye contact, and body language, including gestures. 

This will also make kids laugh because everyone will look ridiculous. It also illustrates that we use our bodies to send consensual signals to one another, but they’re sometimes harder to understand than verbal words. Essentially, you are teaching your students how to read the non-verbal information that someone may read before they went in for that kiss.  

Third Round: No one is allowed to talk, gesture, or otherwise communicate with their bodies, except for eye contact. Request a person to do an agreed yoga pose only with eye contact. 

This will be very hard, illustrating the difference between eye contact with no context, and the non-verbal communication in the second round. Once everyone is laughing or frustrated and you’ve gotten the point across, the game ends. 

Easy to do the same on Zoom.

10-15 Minutes

Consent Massage

In pairs, and again give cues to pair randomly, lying down or sitting, one partner will be the giver and the other the receiver.

The giver asks the receiver “would you like me to massage your feet/hands/head, calves, arms, back, shoulders, neck, tummy?” and the receiver says a simple “yes” or “no”. The Giver needs to comply.

You can also add to it for the giver to ask “would you like me to massage that area harder or softer” and again comply with the directives from the receiver.

Sitch roles of giver and receiver after a few minutes.

On Zoom, you can do the same with pairs while the giver is saying the parts to be massaged, and if the receiver says “yes” the receiver proceeds to do a self-massage on that area.

If it becomes necessary, ask the pairs to (obviously) avoid asking to massage sensitive or private areas in this exercise.

5-10 Minutes



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