Gendershops: training students to challenge traditional gender roles in Ethiopia

Elise Anley | Feb 12, 2019

In Ethiopia, young women and girls experience gender-based discrimination in and out of school, from their classmates, teachers, parents, families and community members. Often it is so entrenched that young women do not recognise that they are being discriminated against or know their rights.

Recognising that working directly with young people to tackle the underlying causes of gender inequality is a key step to reducing incidences of violence and challenging social norms and gender roles, Womankind partner Setaweet have developed the ‘Gendershops’. 

Gendershops is bespoke training that the organisation is running in secondary schools in Addis Ababa with the aim of shifting the consciousness of young Ethiopian women and men and change how femininities and masculinities are practiced. They have created an extensive curriculum covering the differences between sex and gender, healthy relationships, masculinity and the power of sisterhood. Setaweet have recruited a dynamic team of young gender equality champions to deliver the course, many of whom are long-time campaigners on women’s rights in Ethiopia. 

We interviewed one of the Gendershops trainers, Hamrawi Kelemu, to find out about her experience leading the workshops. Hamrawi Kelemu

What does feminism in Ethiopia mean to you?

“I think feminism as a whole is the equality of genders. Because Ethiopia is a vast country, rural feminism differs from urban feminism. It could mean more females in parliament but it could also mean access to sanitation and having the right to education. Overall, Ethiopian women lack security and are denied opportunities and face public backlash when they do get them – just because of their gender.”

Why do you teach gender equality to young people in school?

“Gender norms are intertwined with Ethiopian culture, and it will take a long time to change, but teaching the younger generation might help. Young people are more willing to question what older people might consider facts. When we work in schools, we are able to include young men, which is a priority to us. To include young men in the feminist movement can encourage them to work with us and realise how they could benefit from feminism too. “

What are you hoping to achieve with the programme?

“Personally, I was hoping to get the students to question gender norms, although it’s not always easy. In the “Healthy Love” course, we discussed jealousy and showed a graphic of a man slapping his girlfriend. Initially, the students didn’t see what was wrong and some girls even wondered: “If he doesn’t hit me how do I know he cares?” We spent a long time discussing why hitting someone as a response to jealousy is wrong. I hope that they will have these conversations with others so the training has a cascading impact: changing Ethiopia faster!”

The Gendershops training runs for the rest of the Ethiopia school year and we look forward to keeping you updated on its progress.

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