Opinion: One Dear World’s Winnie Mak on fighting prejudice from the toy box

It’s true that Britain is a brilliant and beautiful melt- ing pot of diversity. But walk into any regular high street toy shop, and you’d be hard pushed to find that diversity represented on the shelves.

This was the challenge my husband Rafael and I faced, when we searched for a doll for our then two year old son. Not only did we find that the majority of those dolls were girls dressed in pink, but that the majority were white, blonde, and non-reflective of culture today.

Frustrated by the lack of diversity being represented on the toy shelf, as well as the assumption of gender typical roles, we took matters into our own hands and launched a range of four dolls with different ethnicities and genders under the One Dear World banner. The response was instant and resounding; positive representation matters.

As popular as the first range was, it has always been my vision to include more diversity within the range, and start building representation out to all walks of life. That’s why, this past month, we have launched a new crowdfunding initiative to produce six more dolls for the One Dear World range, representing visible and non-visible disabilities.

With global toy sales reaching £72.5 billion last year, we recognise, however, that we are just a small fish in a very large pond.

Big toy brands have started to make efforts to be more representative, which is thrilling to see, but there is still so much more that can be done.

With an estimated 770,000 children in the UK with disabilities, and more than 150 million worldwide, we think it’s time the industry woke to the role it can play.

Play is crucial in helping children develop and learn about the world, and dolls with disabilities are not just for children with disabilities. In fact, they can help both parents and teachers start conversations about diversity and inclusivity and help them explain what makes every child unique and special.

It’s been noted in the research paper titled Nature and Nurture in Own-Race Face Processing that preju-dice starts early, with babies as young as three months noticing differences in appearance. Between three and five, children start to apply stereotypes, and from five upwards, children understand that stereotyping can lead to discrimination.

Sadly, some of the discrimination and inequalities we see in adult life are still being perpetuated in our children’s toy boxes today.

Now is the time for the industry to effect change and fight prejudice from the toy box.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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