Women's rights


This module traces the historically established women's rights ья ь иеяквш до the movement for women's rights in the 19th century. It examines women's rights in relation to local traditions and culture. Students discuss women's rights in relation to autonomy, reproductive rights, family relations, etc.

Women's rights

'Women hold up half the sky',- Chinese saying

This module traces the historically won rights of women in relation to the movement of women's rights in the 19th century. Women's rights in relation to local customs and culture are also considered. Women's rights are also discussed in terms of autonomy, reproductive rights, family relations and others.

The module includes various exercises that aim to help students gain knowledge of key concepts related to women's rights, to understand the basic documents protecting women's rights and to be able to critically examine information about women's rights in everyday life.

Learning goals

  • Participants will learn about the history of women's rights and key figures related to the women's rights movement
  • Explore and discuss current human rights issues facing women
  • Debate and discuss issues related to equal rights for women
  • Create proposals to address some of the barriers to the realization of women's equal rights


  • Time: 1–5 hours depending on the exercise and how much time is spent on additional questions and discussion on the topic
  • Requirements: Large room with enough space for group work; large sheets of paper, markers, color pencils and paper
  • Preparation: A lesson on the history of women's rights

 Exercise 1: Stereotypes: Agree - disagree

This exercise aims to energize the participants, to help them get into the topic of gender equality and to provoke a discussion about certain stereotypes.

  1. Print out the list of statements given materials.
  2. Ask participants to stand up and move to a different corner of the room according to whether or not they agree with each of the statements.
  3. After standing in a certain position in the room, they can discuss the differences in their opinions and move if they are convinced by another person in a different point of view

Example statements:

- Boys are stronger than girls

- Hormones cause boys and girls to behave differently

- Women are better at caring for children

- A bad insult to a boy is to call him a ‘girl’

- Boys are not expected to be sensitive

- Girls are just as competitive as boys


Exercise 2: What is it like to be a "man" and what is it like to be a "woman"?

Students work in groups to create word webs about what society says it means to be a “man” or a “woman,” and to discuss where these ideas come from. They are introduced to the concept of gender. To enable students to define “gender” and to distinguish between which characteristics attributed to males and females are biological and which are socially determined.

  1. Divide students into groups of five or six.
  2. Explain that with the exercise you will discuss the topic of gender (what society says it means to be a man or a woman).

Each group will create webs of words that are often associated with being a man and being a woman.


3. Give each group of students twenty minutes to make a word web for “man” and a word web for “woman“. Encourage them to think about any characteristics they associate with these words.

4. Write “Woman” and “Man” on the board and make two columns under each word, one labeled “biological” and the other labeled “social.”

5. Then ask students to name these characteristics and write them in the columns under "Biological" and "Social", respectively. Discuss each of the characteristics with the students. If students assign a “social” characteristic to the “biological” category, correct them by asking: „If a boy or man does not possess that characteristic, is he still a male? Or „If a girl or woman does not possess that characteristic, is she still a female?

Common examples of what people associate with “being a man” and “being a woman” include:


  • Responsible for family
    • Father
    • Proud
    • Strong
    • Bold
    • Can drive
    • With humor
    • Loyal to friends


  • Likes to talk
    • Good communicator
    • Emotional
    • Can organize
    • Practical
    • Physically weaker than the man
    • Caring
    • Mother
  1. Discuss the exercise in a large group discussion.

Explain which characteristics are biological and which are social. A few characteristics of males and females are biological. For example, only males can be a father; only females can give birth or breastfeed. But most characteristics associated with being male or female are socially determined — not based on biology. Male and female roles that are socially determined are called gender roles.

Additional questions for discussion:

- Who has heard of these roles before?

- Do you agree with all aspects of how females are supposed to act and live? How males are supposed to act and live?

- What do you think gender equality means?

- What are the attitudes towards gender equality in the times and the place where they live (As society changes through time or from region to region, so do attitudes about gender roles.)


Exercise 3: Gender equality - before and now

The aim is to enable students to name at least three ways that gender roles or norms have changed over time. The exercise can serve as an introduction to the historical processes that led to the women's rights movement.

  1. If possible, as a preliminary preparation, students should interview separately two people

from their grandparents’ generation (their grandparents or someone else). If possible, they should be of their own sex.

  1. „Ask each older person what male and female roles were like during their adolescence and youth. Find out what they think has changed since then. Ask about education, having fun, friendships, romance, customs related to marriage, and work. Allow the person you interview to speak about anything he or she wishes to describe. In the left column, record the person’s answers to your questions.
  2. „After the interview, write in the right-hand column what these roles are like nowadays.“
  3. After students complete their interviews, discuss:
  • Whom did you interview?
  • How did it feel to interview older people about gender roles? What, if anything, did you or they find uncomfortable or difficult to talk about?
  • What did they tell you that surprised you? Based on this exercise, do you think that gender roles are unchanging or that they can change?
  • In which areas of life have gender roles and norms changed the most? Which changes do you think are for the better? For the worse? Why?
  • Many factors bring about change. How can globalized media affect gender roles? What about technology and the Internet? The actions of individual leaders? The actions of grassroots movements for social justice?
  • Do you think gender roles will continue to change in the next generation? In what ways?


Exercise 4:  Gender equality today - barriers. (The exercise is suitable for older students - 10–12 grade)

  1. Divide the students into small groups. The groups must be 2, 3 or 6, so that each group can work with 1, 2 or 3 areas. Distribute to each group materials from the "Gender Equality Index for 2019". The index assesses the differences between women and men and levels of success in 6 main areas. Each group should receive one, two or three of the following areas - work, money, knowledge, time, authority and health.

Gender Equality Index 2020 for each European country:  https://eige.europa.eu/gender-equality-index/publications

  1. Each group must read the index and given areas and summarize. After that they have to make a diagram, drawing or poster and present them to other participants.
  2. Then each group should think about what they think are the barriers and how they think any inequality can be removed?                         
  3. Additional questions for discussion:

- Ask students to think about and identify which factors they think are the cause of gender inequality, which are a consequence of gender inequality and which are both cause and effect.

- What facts surprised the group the most?

- How does this inequality affect women's lives?

- What do they think is similar or different in countries around the world about gender inequality?

- What are the facts and figures for women in their local area? What proportion of women are in management positions? Senior managers and professionals? Unemployed? Part-time or low-paid workers?

- How can any inequality be eliminated?


Women's rights and human rights: general information

Human rights are universal. They apply equally to men and women, girls and boys. Women, for example, are entitled to the same rights to life, education and political participation as men. However, in practice, these rights are violated every day in multiple ways – in virtually every country in the world. Gender equality and women’s rights are key elements in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights of men and women are equally protected in international human rights instruments.

  • The principle of non-discrimination, a fundamental rule in the basis of human rights law and embodied in the Convention, ascribes rights and freedoms to all without discrimination, including gender.
  • The rule of non-discrimination is usually contained in domestic law and national constitutions.

Yet it was later recognized that certain rights are specific to women, or need to be emphasized in the case of women. These rights are outlined in subsequent international and regional instruments, the most important of which is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

CEDAW was adopted in 1979 and entered into force two years later. It defines the right of women to be free from all forms of discrimination and sets out core principles to protect this right.

CEDAW is the only human rights treaty that affirms the reproductive rights of women.

CEDAW Develops the most comprehensive rule of non-discrimination and the principle of equality. Includes both groups of rights (civil, political and socio-economic cultural rights). Ensures equal responsibility for men and women in family life. There are Special Measures on gender equality:

  • Take measures to eliminate exploitation of prostitution and trafficking in women
  • To ensure that women do not face discrimination in certain areas of their private lives
  • Calls for the introduction of temporary special compensation measures inequalities between men and women
  • Includes women's rights in areas such as: political participation, access to opportunities in public life, nationality standards, equal access to education, training, health and employment.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors the implementation of CEDAW by States Parties.

Women’s rights - History

What are women's rights?

Today women enjoy equal legal access to health care, education, civic participation, and economic justice as a result of generations of advocacy on behalf of women. However, despite gains in gender equality over the past century, women are still victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination in the workplace and at home.

The term “women’s rights” encompasses many different areas, making it among the most difficult areas of law to define. Women’s rights are most often associated with reproductive rights, sexual and domestic violence, and employment discrimination. But women’s rights also includes immigration and refugee matters, child custody, criminal justice, health care, housing, social security and public benefits, civil rights, human rights, sports law, LGBT rights, and international law.

The table bellow shows when women around the world have been given voting rights.

Interesting facts:

  • The Finns were the first in the world who in 1907 enter parliament (Finland was then part of the Russian Empire).
  • In 1971, at the federal level, Switzerland granted these rights to women, but only with a decision of the Supreme Court in 1990 was the last resisting canton forced to comply!
  • In many places, rights are granted at different stages – first with restrictions and only later completely. In Bulgaria this happened in 1938 and 1944, respectively. Halfway between Finland and Switzerland, where most European countries are.

Personalities and dates related to women's rights:

  • - 1792 - "Protection of Women's Rights" (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft is often cited as the beginning of feminism. The manifesto is in part a response to Rousseau's assertion (in "Emil") that a woman should be brought up and educated for the pleasure of a man, and Mary Wollstonecraft argues that the only thing that makes a woman look inferior to a man is lack of education
  • - Among the significant defenders of women's rights in the 19th century, often considered the first feminist man, was the economist and philosopher-utilitarian John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). He wrote his book The Submission of Women in 1961 and published it 7–8 years later

- Stage I of the development of the women's movement for women's rights (1840-1870): the struggle for equal rights

- Stage II of the development of feminism and women's movement for women's rights (1878-1920) is devoted mainly to winning suffrage

- Stage III of the development of feminism women's movement for women's rights (since 1960): the tradition of equal rights in every sphere of life is revived

- Since the beginning of the 70s, the demands of the women's movement have been expanding. It is becoming more and more new, and it focuses on birth control, contraceptive use and the legalization of abortion.

- In 1975, International Women's Day was adopted by the United Nations as an official world holiday for women's rights. International Women's Day is a world day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call for action to move towards gender equality.

-After 1990-1995: the Beijing Conference under the auspices of the United Nations

For the first time in history, representatives of governments and women from non-governmental organizations around the world are present at this conference. They are looking for ways to work together to address the "women's issue." The conference adopts a comprehensive program of action in various spheres of public life, valid for all women around the world. The aim is to include in the Millennium Goals the idea of gender equality in at least three levels - education, labor market, and politics.

In addition, in the following 1996 The Gender Mainstreaming concept is also being developed. It provides a new approach to the interpretation of gender equality. It implies the inclusion of the principle of equality at all levels in all policies.



This video presents in a fun and easy way the idea of gender inequality these days

 Useful links:

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


How to use the museums

  • Students have the opportunity to visit various museums - both historical and contemporary art museums and galleries. They can view exhibitions or documents related to women's rights in the past.