Using Personal Dolls to Learn Empathy, Unlearn Prejudice

By Carol L.F. Smith.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Persona Doll Approach (PDA) is an enjoyable and non-threatening way for adults to work with children and families to promote psychosocial development and anti-bias. The research examines the use of the PDA with young children and caregivers in the South African context of poverty, and past and present discrimination. The PDA addresses different manifestations and issues related to prejudice, such as: racism; xenophobia; culture, faith and language; gender; social class; poverty; abuse; disability; HIV and AIDS stigma; diversity and inclusion; and human rights. Several Early Childhood Development (ECD) resource and training organisations are receiving training and support to integrate PDA into their work and strengthen understanding and skills to address social issues and holistic child development. The dolls are being used in ECD centres and in family and community-based programmes to help a range of different adult role-players engage with their own prejudice, support their emotional development and strengthen their appreciation of diversity. This provides the foundation, skills and understanding to in turn support the development of young children in a practical day-to-day way through the PDA. A participatory learning process is being developed and implemented in order to learn about the use of the dolls and approach and try to track progress and impact. The challenges implicit in the design of strategies to monitor and evaluate a complex intervention of this kind are also addressed.

Keywords: Learning, Empathy, Prejudice and Anti-Bias, Inclusion and Diversity in Practice, Young Children and Their Caregivers, Human Rights, Persona Doll Training, South Africa

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp.23-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 320.529KB).

Carol L.F. Smith

Co - Ordinator Persona Doll Training (PDT), Personal Doll Training, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Carol co-ordinates Persona Doll Training (PDT), a non-profit training organisation in South Africa. PDT uses the Persona Doll approach in early childhood development (ECD) contexts. It is a non-threatening approach to provide psychosocial support, to address equality and diversity issues including: racism; HIV stigma; sexism and gender issues; disability issues; and issues related to poverty. Carol has an ECD background, and has worked with ECD organisations for 33 years: as a preschool teacher, trainer, researcher and developing anti-bias programmes in South Africa. While based in the UK for 5 years, Carol used Persona Dolls with children, and trained adults in the approach in the UK, in Germany and New Zealand. Seeing the potential and value for South Africa PDT was established in 2003, based in Cape Town and working with trainers, ECD practitioners and communities across South Africa.