Redefining gender stereotypes to empower women and girls
March 8, 2017 By Giulia Pelosi
Empowering Women and Girls
Around the world, nearly two thirds of illiterate people are women—a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades. Despite progress made towards gender equality, women and girls continue to be held back because of their gender.
In 2015, world leaders placed gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, because empowering women and girls is a priceless investment that can change the world. At Worldreader, the Sustainable Development Goals are a guiding light of our work. But as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re reminded that bold solutions are needed if we are to accomplish real change.
Shifting Gender Stereotypes
So how do we unleash women and girls’ full potential? Incredible progress has been made across the globe by increasing support for girls to go to school, addressing violence and discrimination against women and girls and increasing women’s economic empowerment. But in order to accomplish gender equality, we need to look at the root causes of why women and girls are discriminated against in the first place. Underlying all discrimination are gender norms—behaviors and attitudes that prescribe female behavior and limit the potential of women and girls. When a society disregards a woman’s individual and inherent abilities based on predefined stereotypical beliefs, it hinders her ability to fulfill her potential.
Here’s the good news: Although these stereotypical beliefs can be rigid, they are not static. That’s the challenge and the opportunity we face. What if the power of stories can be used to chip away at the old norms and build new ones?
To test this hypothesis, in 2016 Worldreader launched Anasoma (She/He reads in Kiswahili), a pilot project in Kenya aimed at increasing women and girls’ access to an online library that will ultimately boost their empowerment and assertiveness.
As part of the project, we’re acquiring and commissioning new content aimed at challenging social norms and redefining the traditional stereotypes around what it means to be a woman. The Women Empowerment Collection will cover a range of themes including rights, health, safety and entrepreneurship. What’s more, the books will picture women and men in nontraditional roles in society. The project aims to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, while increasing female participation in mobile reading.
Achieving gender equality is going to require asking hard questions and trying innovative approaches. This International Women’s Day, we celebrate women around the world and the progress that advocates for equality are fighting for every day by picking up a book. A few from our library that we recommend you read on your mobile phone are Chasing Butterflies, A Tiny Seed: The Story of Wangari Maathai and Graca’s Dream.