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By Kyra Gillespie

Many would have heard about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes before, but what about in someone else’s gender?
Cardinia Shire’s Together We Can program is running a short story competition encouraging young people to think about gender differently: ‘If you’re a boy, imagine being a girl for a day. If you’re a girl, imagine being a boy for a day. What would be great? What would be challenging? Would your day be different?’
“The competition theme really challenges the way that we think and the biases that we all have”, Together We Can’s Fiona Cost said.
“We as adults can only assume what kids are thinking, so having their perspective on living as the opposite sex can be really educational in stopping gender-based violence.
“It’s also an educational exercise for young people by getting them to step in the shoes of the other gender without living the experience.”
The 250 word stories aim to get young writers to think outside the box.
“We make a lot of assumptions about what boys and girls should do and be and this I hope can alleviate some of these assumptions and allow kids to be kids, regardless of whether they play with trucks or dolls.
“With children thinking about what it would be like to be the other they can really start to develop empathy for one another.”
The competition is supported through Casey Cardinia Libraries.
“It gives the kids the freedom to write what they want to write”, Pakenham Library staff member Vicki Thornton said.
“It lets their imagination go anywhere they want it to, which I think really needs to be encouraged more. Schoolwork is often very structured and I think giving the kids the freedom to write and express themselves in the way they want to is very important.
“Some of the imagination that comes out of these competitions is fantastic; sometimes their stories just go into places you never would have expected, especially when they are younger and they’re not taught where a story is ‘supposed’ to go.
“There are no limits and I think that’s fantastic.”
Stories up to 250 words in each group will go into the draw to win one of two $100 Westfield Gift Vouchers.
Winners will be announced at the Pakenham Show on Saturday 17 March 2018 and invited to read their entry, which will be published in the Pakenham Gazette.
Competition entries opened 8 January 2018 and close 5pm on Wednesday 28 February 2018.

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