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Breaking the Bias in Big and Small Ways

Posted 07 March 2022 in EMpower News, Grantee Partner News   |   Share

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The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “breaking the bias.” This is a principle that underpins the work that so many of our grantee partners—around the world—are doing every day.

Stereotypes and prejudice about what girls can—and should—be doing have a huge impact on their lives and prospects. Sometimes these limited beliefs are blatant, and other times they manifest as unconscious biases. But the result is the same: girls’ and women’s opportunities for learning, working, and leading safe and healthy lives are significantly diminished.

From an early age, girls witness a clear division of labour, often with the burden of care work falling on women and the income generation left to the men in the house. These gender norms only become more ingrained as girls grow older.

If they are able to go to school, girls may not be called on to answer math questions, for example, because boys are assumed to have more aptitude in this area. This kind of discrimination severely limits girls’ education and future prospects. And this bias is pervasive throughout the world—evident in the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Girls’ voices and perspectives are often the least heard. When they grow up, employment opportunities are constrained by traditional gender norms that dictate which jobs and trades they are more “suited for.”

But our grantee partners are working to change this, in both big and small ways, in underserved communities in emerging market countries. They are helping to ensure girls and young women can express themselves, learn, realise their dreams, and go beyond the limited expectations that society has for them.

In Ghana, a long-time EMpower partner, Network of Women in Growth (NEWIG), has been upturning social norms and expanding options for young women for many years. In the northern part of the country, where unemployment is high and work opportunities for women are limited, they have trained thousands of girls and young women in typically male-dominated fields. Women who participate in the programme become electricians, drivers, plumbers—and inspiring role models for others.

One participant, Laticia, who is now an electrical engineer, said: “You see kids shouting ‘Wow, look at that lady, she is an electrical engineer.’ It kind of makes me happy.”

The impact of seeing women in these nontraditional roles can be profound. Once girls and young women see others breaking out and moving beyond social expectations, they know that they can aspire to a better future too.

Young women like Laticia are positive about what this could mean for their communities. “I see a better change in the way of our daily lives, in the generation yet to come: more innovations, more improvements, more love,” she said. “I want a change now.”

 

Learn more about EMpower’s work in shattering gender barriers in this video.

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