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Gender Stereotypes and Social Media

Gender stereotypes and norms perpetuate inequality from a young age. Roseline Adewuyi highlights how we can use social media as a powerful tool to combat gender issues in education.

It is horrific how many girls in Africa experience gender-based discrimination at a young age. Chimamanda Adichie, the best-selling novelist was in primary school when her teacher said that whoever got the highest scores on a test would be made the class monitor. She worked incredibly hard and came out top of her class. However, her teacher made the student who got the second-highest scores the class monitor. He was a boy. 

The harmful impact of gender stereotypes.

Gender norms are social principles that govern the behaviour of girls, boys, women, and men in society and restrict their gender identity into what is considered to be appropriate. Gender norms are neither static nor universal and change over time. In many cases, gender norms are interlinked with cultural norms, and non-adherence can have severe consequences. 

In Chimamanda’s example, we see that leadership is viewed as being male. Chimamanda despite her aspirations, and accomplishments was not granted the opportunity to be a class monitor. There is significant research that highlights the ways in which women are not represented in leadership positions – across corporate roles, non-profits, and legislation. 

Gender Norms perpetuate inequality from a young age. This discrimination begins in schools and carries on in higher institutes for education as well. Class monitors and prefects are usually male – except for roles that seem feminine like assistant prefects, home economics prefects and so on. The most senior prefect and school representatives are usually boys.

In the university, young men are usually class reps and departmental presidents. An even rarer occurrence is to see a female student union president, female senate president or female speaker of the student body’s house of representatives. Institutions which should be hallmarks of enlightenment end up fuelling gender issues in education. There should be a complete overhaul of the system, to promote gender inclusion instead of gender stereotypes.

Social Media as a tool to combat gender stereotypes.

Social media is a powerful tool that we can leverage to implement change. Popular movements including #BlackLivesMatter have used social media to create an effective and ongoing dialogue. The #EndSARS movement started on twitter and went on to create real legislative change in Nigeria – but also in Africa at large.  Social media is an opportunity that we can use to change our educational institutions. There is no better time to start than now. 

Over the past few years, numerous personalities have spoken up against gender norms on social media. However, this social media activism is not limited to celebrities. Ordinary people and young people particularly have used social media as a tool to speak up against this topic. Young people – including teenagers and girls of different age demographic – are getting involved in this conversation.

They are sharing real stories, thoughts and experiences in order to discourage gender norms in our various institutions. Young female activists use their voices to bring about change. There is a real opportunity here to make a difference. 

Roseline’s Initiatives.

Last year, in collaboration with the Gertrude Olowo Empowerment Initiative, we put forward a TikTok competition for secondary schools. The idea was for young students to respond to a common statement, behaviour, or activity that discriminates against girls in school. And share an alternative or solution as a response. The TikToks that we received were incredibly powerful and highlighted the ways in which young people are standing up against and saying no to casual discrimination. We want change!

This year, I launched ENGENDERS (Ending Gender Stereotypes in Schools). The project is a targeted approach to unlearning harmful gender stereotypes in schools. I strongly believe that social media can be used to combat gender issues in education. If we intensify our efforts, make our voices louder, and get more people to join us, we will see real change. 

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Gender Stereotypes and Social Media

by Roseline Adewuyi Reading time: 3 min