Leslee Udwin portrait

Written by Leslee Udwin

Activist, filmmaker, UN Women for Peace awardee, and Founder and Executive Chair of Think Equal, a global non-profit.

‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite’. Nelson Mandela 


There is a profound chasm in our global education system – a missing dimension. How can we teach our children numeracy and literacy, yet not how to become loving, inclusive and empathetic human beings? In fact, even the most superficial glimpse of the values which bombard our children’s senses evidences a reality that needs to be effortfully countered if we are to disrupt the pretty archaic views of stereotypes which abound. Discrimination is the rule and at Think Equal we are determined to make it the exception.


So how do we educate inclusion, self-esteem (for all) and celebration of diversity? In fact, it’s so simple that if we continue to ignore it and neglect to implement the programmatic tools that exist, we should hang our heads in shame. 


It’s not rocket science, it’s neuroscience. We work with our children as partners to co-create pro- social neuropathways in their developing brains. This is why our programmes work exclusively with children aged 3-6. Quite simply put, this is when the brain is ripe with neuroplasticity. By focusing on this specific age group, we can co-create pro-social behaviours with the child, and empower long-term change. 


Embedding Social and Emotional Learning competencies and skills at an early enough age to be of material foundational value, is the key to unlocking the power of human kindness, inclusion, and connection, which is all too relentlessly overshadowed by divisiveness, sexism, racism, and deeply embedded bigotries. 


We are all aware of the issues that are plaguing society, and now is the time to act on this awareness by implementing social and emotional learning programmes, such as that which Think Equal has designed for both classrooms and homes, at a global scale.


Think Equal has developed an innovative early years SEL programme which tackles the root cause of discrimination and violence from the outset. With input from world education and though leaders, such as Sir Ken Robinson, the Dalai Lama and the Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence, we have designed an evidence-based, scalable, and replicable SEL programme. Think Equal’s mission is to actively transform the fabric of society through this curriculum: from a world that is apathetic, to one that is empathetic, from a society of passive living, to one of active empowerment.


We have created a comprehensive set of children’s books, one for every week of the Think Equal curriculum, accompanied by step-by-step teaching plans. We set clear outcomes for each week of the Think Equal programme. These include showing responsibility towards our planet and acknowledging the interconnectedness of all living creatures. We actively draw from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to expand the breadth of existing social and emotional learning programmes.


To celebrate International Women’s Day, I had the privilege of speaking with Hannah and Isa about how my work and Think Equal’s disrupts and challenges the patriarchy. One week later, the UN’s statistic, citing that 97% of women aged 18-24 in the UK had been sexually harassed, went viral. This study, drawn from the UN Women UK’s Safe Spaces Now project, resurfaced in light of the tragic disappearance of Sarah Everard. Claire Barnett, executive director of women UK, writes that ‘This is a human rights crisis. It’s not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ – it needs addressing now”.


This is precisely what Think Equal’s social and emotional learning programme does: starting at an early age, we anchor values of gender equality and respect in children’s mindsets.  Think Equal urges you to recognize the genuine power that bringing teachers together can have in catalysing change. Teachers are the backbone of our society. It is by providing them with the training and distribution of Think Equal materials that we can really start to make a difference on our own doorstep, and as global citizens. 


If you missed our chat on International Women’s Day, you can learn more about how Think Equal is leading the change in our global education system by registering for our webinar.


Now, this change can also happen with the help of parents across the globe. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Think Equal worked hard to reach families in their homes. You can now order our free SEL home kits online


Finally, you can help us catalyse this change by donating to Think Equal today. A donation of just 2 pounds will provide a child with the positive life outcomes to make a real difference in society.