Women’s rights: Citizenship lesson activities (Theme 3: Representation)

Campaigning. Rights. Representation. Protest. Our Citizenship lesson activities focus on how women and their allies have fought for women’s rights and the role that we can all play in creating a fairer and more equal world.

Theme 3: Representation

For linked sessions, please see Theme 1: Active Citizenship and Theme 2: Rights or download a PDF pack containing all three themes.

Created by Emily Owen, ACT (Association for Citizenship Teaching)

Suitable for Key Stages 3 and 4

We have designed a series of Citizenship lesson activities to support the British Library resource, A map of women’s resistance in the UK. This resource is a fantastic way to explore case study examples of women past and present who have championed equality and women’s rights.

Our aim is to help students explore primary and secondary sources using this digital tool. We hope students will gather powerful real-life examples of women who have campaigned to make their own lives and the lives of generations ahead of them more fair and equal. Many of the women featured in the map are from diverse backgrounds and often fall outside of the usual case studies people might be familiar with when exploring women’s rights and campaigns.

We have split the sessions into three themes, with three activity ideas per theme. Each activity comes with an objective and an overview exploring how the activity can link to wider Citizenship curriculum themes. Each activity consists of a ‘main learning task’ with guidelines and a ‘taking it further’ task to help stretch students and for further exploration on the topic.

A glossary of Citizenship keywords is included below the activities.


Theme 3: Representation

This resource links to the following aspects of the Citizenship National Curriculum.

GCSE Citizenship

• Edexcel – Theme A: Living together in the UK & Theme B: Democracy at work in the UK & Theme D: Power & Influence.
• AQA – Politics & Participation & Life in modern Britain
• OCR – Democracy & Government & UK & the Wider World

Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Citizenship link

• Development of the political system of democratic government in the UK, including the role of citizens & parliament.
• Precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the UK.
• The nature of rules and laws.

Key Stage 4 National Curriculum Citizenship link

• Parliamentary democracy & the role of citizens and parliament in holding the government to account.
• Human rights
• Diverse national, regional and religious and ethnic identities in the UK and the need for mutual respect and understanding.
• The different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of his or her community, to include the opportunity to participate actively in community volunteering as well as other forms of responsible activity.

Citizenship National Curriculum skills

• Developing the ability to explore issues critically
• Developing students' ability to weigh up evidence
• Developing students' debating skills
• Developing students' ability to make reasoned judgements
• Developing students’ skills to become a prepared citizen.

Session 1: The power of protest

Lesson objective: To consider and explore how protests are used as a campaign method to challenge and change policy or the law. Create a classroom display piece which informs people about the power of protest for women’s rights.

Citizenship Keywords: Protest – Policy – Pressure groups – Legislation – Campaigning

Page from Spare Rib advertising Reclaim the Night protests and newspaper clipping about match girls' strike
Listings in Spare Rib, Issue 64, November 1977. Match Girls' Strike newspaper article © Sourced from the British Newspaper Archive

Lesson overview

This session will explore the specific changes that have occurred because of protests and which link specifically to women’s issues e.g. acts of sexual violence, equal pay etc. Students will then use creative materials to illustrate their findings in a classroom display.

In the ‘taking it further’ section students will be encouraged to consider protest from different angles and explore modern campaigns which continue to promote women’s issues and advocate for legislative changes. For example, the work of the pressure group the Fawcett Society.

Citizenship teaching and learning links

The key focus of this session is to consider the legislative and policy changes or challenges that have occurred because of women choosing to protest. Having key examples of how women’s movements have impacted upon legislation, policy and the everyday lives of citizens is critical when making the link to the Citizenship curriculum. Students will be able to take time to explore some key case study examples that help to demonstrate Citizenship in action.


• Access to the map
• Display materials.

Lesson activities

Getting students interested

• Show students the trailer for the film Made in Dagenham
• Brief overview of Made in Dagenham:
This film demonstrates the power of a group going on strike to demand better and equal wages with men. It shows how a small group of people can change a law and impact on the lives of so many others. Watch an interview with the real ladies of Dagenham.
• When students have watched the clips, ask the following questions: Why do you think a protest of this nature was a successful campaign method? How may a strike help a cause? How may it hinder a cause?
• These women demonstrate the beginnings of collective action to raise awareness of the gender pay gap. This is a campaign which continues today and one that men and women are working to close.

Main learning activity

• Students will use the map and other secondary sources to find their own example of a law or policy that has been challenged or changed as a result of pressure from a women’s campaign.
• Students will then use their research to create a display piece for the classroom which informs people about the power of protest to further women’s rights. The display piece should address the following questions:

  • What law or policy was the protest trying to change? Why was this change necessary?
  • How effective was the protest in challenging or changing the law or policy?
  • How do you think this law or policy impacted on the lives of women?
  • Are there any other changes that you think need to happen in this area?

Suggested Case Study women to explore from the map

• Josephine Butler and the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts
• 1971 National Women’s Liberation Movement conference passes the first four demands
• Reclaim the Night movement
• Match girls' strike at the Bryant & May factory
• Sex workers protest against brothel closures following the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act

Take it further

• Visit the Fawcett Society website to research current campaigns which promote women’s issues and advocate for legislative changes. As a class, discuss your findings.
• What are students' own opinions about protest? Ask students to consider the effectiveness of protests by using their own experiences or examples of recent protests led by young people. They could reflect on some of the Black Lives Matter protests and protests around the A level results in the summer of 2020. How effective have these protests been in your opinion?
• The map features the Grunwick Strike, led by Jayaben Desai. Although the strikers did not win the concessions they were fighting for, it remains a particularly significant moment that involved thousands of workers. Ask students to use the links via the map to explore the impact and significance of the Grunwick Strike in more detail.

Session 2: Representation through legislation

Lesson objective: To use your persuasive writing skills to promote campaigns that have fought for equal rights and against discrimination, and/or highlight the importance of women’s representation within legislation and politics.

Citizenship Keywords: Representation – Equalities Act – Legislation – Select Committees – Local Councillor

Photographs of Rowena Arshad and Jane Campbell
Photograph of Rowena Arshad, courtesy Sisterhood & After. Photograph of Baroness Jane Campbell. © PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Lesson overview

This lesson continues from the previous session to explore the role of legislation, with a focus on how laws can support and help to promote the representation of women and people with intersecting identities, such as women who experience racism and xenophobia, women who are disabled, and/or people who identify as LGBTQ+. Students will use their letter writing skills to highlight campaigners who have fought to make changes to the law and/or the importance of women’s representation within legislation and politics in general.

Note: Certain legislation uses the terms ‘BAME’, ‘BME’ and ‘ethnic minority’. It’s important to discuss this language with students, with examples from recent public discussions. The #BAMEover campaign, for instance, states that ‘We reject “Minority”: we are the global majority. And we reject “ethnic”. This terminology is centred on you seeing us as different.’

Citizenship teaching and learning links

Representation in the political and legislative sphere is a central aspect of the Citizenship curriculum. Exploring it from this angle is an excellent practical example. Students should understand that protection via legislation is an effective way to protect and ensure the representation of all people across society. The Equalities Act of 2010, for example, is an important piece of legislation which enshrines in law key characteristics that are protected against discrimination (age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation).

This session helps students to explore different people who have worked to change the law in order to make society more equal and protect others from discrimination. The ‘taking it further’ section focuses on the representation of women in Parliament and explores how well we are doing in getting women into positions of power.


• Access to the map 
• Letter writing materials.

Lesson activities

Getting students interested

• Write up the following questions on the board: What is the purpose of a law? How can laws help people within society? Ask students to discuss this for one minute with their partner, then turn to the person on the other side of them.
• Bring the group back together to discuss: Are there any laws that you would change to help improve representation for different groups within society, or to make society more equal? E.g. laws that affect disabled people or people who experience racism. Are there any ideas for new laws you would introduce?
• Explain that certain laws support and protect people and legislative changes have helped to improve people’s daily lives, such as creating access to the right to vote, equal pay and protection from discrimination. Introduce the Equalities Act 2010 which enshrines the nine protected characteristics into law: find out more. Laws such as the Equalities Act also help to ensure that the voices of people from different groups are heard and represented within society.

Main learning activity

• Students will use the map to research and find out about campaigners who have fought to make changes to the law. In particular, changes that improve the representation of women who have identities that intersect and who may also experience marginalisation and discrimination on the grounds of race, disability or sexuality.
• As students are researching, they should consider the following questions: What is inspiring about these campaigners? Do they have their own experiences which impact on the need for a law change? Why did the law need to change? How were peoples’ lives improved? There are some suggested case study examples below to help get your students started.
• Students will then use this information to help them write a letter to either an MP involved in the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee, a local councillor or a campaign group leader. The letter will share their research and give their opinion on what the recipient could do to continue the work of these campaigners (past and present).

If you want to focus on the representation of women in Parliament:
• Use the map to explore the stories of a woman’s right to stand for election. Examples include Nancy Astor, Ellen Wilkinson and Jane Campbell. Students can also find out more in this article, Women in Parliament from 1918–2020 by Caitríona Beaumont.
• Students can then write a letter to your local MP to explain the importance of representation and share the research from their case studies. Students can also share information about the 50:50 Parliament campaign explored in the ‘taking it further’ task.

Suggested Case Study women to explore from the map:

• Mary McIntosh
• Baroness Jane Campbell
• Southall Black Sisters
• Rowena Arshad
• Reclaim the Night movement
• Nancy Astor

Take it further

Find out more about the Equalities Act and resources which explore the protected characteristics.
• Consider current campaigns which are working to develop better representation for women within politics, such as the 50:50 Parliament campaign.
Discussion questions: What does it look like to represent others? Can you be male and represent women effectively? Can you be a woman and represent men effectively?

Session 3: Collective representation

Lesson objective: To use your creative skills to advocate for women’s rights and illustrate the impact the campaigns and achievements have had upon you.

Citizenship Keywords: Representation – Unions – Protest banners

Southall Black Sisters protest banner
Designed by Shakila Taranum Maan. Image © Southall Black Sisters

Lesson overview

In this session students will consider the concept of collective representation via the idea of unionisation and explore it within the specific context of women’s rights and equality.

The main activity invites students to reflect on the range of women’s movements that have existed and create a protest banner that encapsulates their learning. It is important that young people have had opportunities to explore the vast number of organisations that have used their collective voice to campaign for women’s rights, including men’s groups, and the different causes that continue to be campaigned for.

Citizenship teaching and learning links

The concept of unions is explored within the GCSE Citizenship and can be considered when exploring representation and protest at Key Stage 3. This session makes links to the wider union movement and the power of collective representation and collective voices to ensure that people’s rights are protected.


• Access to the map 
• Banner making materials i.e. paper, card, pens, scissors

Lesson activities

Getting students interested

• Show the following news clip that links to teachers striking in 2011 and listen to the views shared by the union rep.

  • What do students think a union does?
  • A union represents all its members and helps to protect their rights within the workplace. The members have shared values and are represented by their union if there is a dispute between the employer and the employee.

Research task

• Students will use the map and other secondary sources to find out about some of the women’s union movements that have existed. You can guide students to the case study examples below to get them started.

  • Students should research the purpose of women’s unions and the changes they have campaigned for and introduced.
  • Students may wish to research some of the banners or materials that women’s unions used to raise awareness of their cause or for protests.

• Next, students can use the map to explore examples of other women’s groups that have focussed on collective representation and action.

Main learning activity

• When the research has been completed, students should design their own banner or protest poster to promote women’s rights and equality, pulling on all the aspects they have learnt about during this series of lessons.

  • Banners are a campaign tool and often seen as an effective way of communicating a message or support for a cause during a protest.
  • Students should consider all of the different people and stories they have encountered and use visuals to help illustrate this – elements such as slogans, font, colour palette, logos and other images all help to create an impact.
  • Their own personal reflections can be included, too. What impact have these campaigns and achievements have had upon you?
  • Come up with some ideas as a class for how you can use your collection of banners: you may decide to create a display, or show them to another class.

• To complete the module, teachers may wish to link this final session with other sessions, such as the protest and campaigning sessions. Teachers can facilitate a round-up of key learning points and key case studies of women that have particularly struck the students from across the sessions.

Suggested Case Study women to explore from the map

• Cradley Heath Chainmakers’ strike
• The Grunwick Strike, led by Jayaben Desai
• Josephine Butler, founder of the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (LNA) [note the LNA was not a women’s union, but is an example of collective organising and representation]
• Newbridge Women's Support Group [same as above]
• Students may also like to look at the protest banners created by Southall Black Sisters

Take it further

• During the research task above, students can also consider the wider history of the union movement dependent upon the level of detail the teacher would like to go into.
• Explore the notion of the union and collective representation versus individualism. What are the pros and cons of collective action?
• Consider the power of banners within the women’s suffrage movement – explore the resources from the People’s History Museum.

Helpful resources to explore alongside this collection

Women's Suffrage - History and citizenship resources for schools
Citizenship - Suggested units by key stage / setting (Oak Teacher Hub)
The Deliberative Classroom: Topical Debating Resources and Teacher Guidance (ACT)

Glossary of key Citizenship terms

Active citizen: A person who participates and connects with others in society.

Campaigning: The process of raising awareness of an issue via different methods.

Campaign methods: Methods used to raise awareness of an issue e.g. protests, letter writing, posters, speeches etc.

Equality: When people are treated fairly and no different to others within society in relation to status, rights and opportunities.

Equalities Act 2010: A piece of legislation passed to protect nine specific characteristics from discrimination and prejudice.

Freedom of speech: A right guaranteed by law to protect and allow a person to say what they believe is true.

Legislation: The collective phrase given to laws.

Local Councillor: An elected official who represents a ward within a local council area.

Militancy: The use of confrontational or violent methods in support of a political or social cause.

Policy: A course of action about a particular issue suggested by an organisation or individual.

Political rights: A type of right which allows an individual to engage in political activities. E.g. the right to vote.

Pressure groups: A group that tries to influence decision makers and change policy on a particular issue or cause.

Primary source: A source of information such as an artefact, document, manuscript or diary. It serves as the original source of information about the topic.

Protest: A campaign method used to collectively bring people together to raise awareness of an issue.

Protest banners: A visual way of raising awareness of an issue or a pressure group.

Representation: When a view or perspective is heard, and someone takes action or speaks on behalf of someone else.

Rights: A moral or legal entitlement to have or do something.

Secondary source: A document or recording that discusses information that has been originally presented somewhere else. E.g. a website.

Select Committees: Check and report on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. They are a method of scrutiny for Parliament.

Speeches: A campaign method used to share an idea with others.

Strike: A campaign method when workers refuse to work due to conditions or other grievances.

Suffrage: The right to vote in political elections.

Suffragettes: A group which used non-violent and more violent methods to help women get the right to vote.

Suffragists: A group which used peaceful means to try and get women the right to vote.

Unions: A collective organisation which represents workers' rights.

Voting: The act of casting a ballot in an election.

Available under the Creative Commons License.

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