Thinking Outside the Gender Box: Part 1

When it comes to their education, girls worldwide are often overlooked in favour of boys. This outdated mindset comes from the gender box women are traditionally put in; in many societies, women are only seen as child-bearers, caregivers, and homemakers—roles that need no education. This is still a part of some Rwandan mindsets. There is a deeply ingrained idea that a girl doesn’t need an education; she only needs to be a wife.

It’s against this cultural backdrop that Wellspring launched its first Gender Responsive Formative Assessment (GRFA) training to help teachers combat gender bias, identify the specific learning needs of girls, and develop strategies to make sure girls are empowered in the classroom and succeed in their learning. In the training, leaders and teachers think outside of the gender box with an activity that challenges gender stereotypes and redefines the roles placed on girls that limit their capabilities and opportunities. It helps teachers and school leaders step outside these boxes and think of ways for classrooms to be more inclusive and allow girls to discover their skills and potential.

We saw one teacher dig into the training and think about how he has seen these barriers affect girls in his community and classroom. Meet Fidele, a teacher from Rwankuba School who is working through these hard discussions and is making changes to better empower and engage every child in his class.

What Does it Mean to Live in a Gender Box?

“There is a lot that has stood out for me during this workshop. When it comes to gender boxes, I have understood that it is a mindset that we all have about the roles that boys have and what girls have in our communities. Looking at different roles that were designed for girls and those that were designed for boys, I have realized that there is a lot I need to do to improve my mindset around these things. 

I remember in my training discussion group, we talked about how boys were not allowed to wash clothes and how girls were not allowed to milk the cows, and so forth. What I have learned is that a lot of these roles can reverse. I think that girls can milk the cows as much as boys can and vice versa. I also know that some of these roles can not change because of biological factors, but other behavioral and cultural factors can.

Breaking Through Deeply Rooted Beliefs

After the workshop, I now see that this mindset will change for the better for me and the children in our schools. What will happen if an individual bears only boys or only girls in their family? Will boys be in a position to wash their clothes, cook their own meals, milk the cows and fetch the water? Will girls be in a position to milk the cows, fetch water, and all the other roles that boys do? Will they come to school? I ask myself these questions because I think it is important for us to think differently about gender roles. 

As a teacher, I believe that boys and girls can switch roles. Boys can do what girls can do, and vice versa—not just at home, but in the classroom too.”

Fidele’s words exemplify our hope for this training—that educators will adapt ways to better include, empower, inspire every student and that mindsets that have hindered girls from receiving a quality education will fade into the shadows. Through Wellspring’s new Gender Responsive Formative Assessment training, we’re excited to see mindsets transformed and girls across Rwanda step into the spotlight and access the quality education they deserve.

Will you help us?

Read part two to learn how Fidele is looking forward to applying this training to make sure each child—girl and boy—is supported in their learning, and stay tuned for part 3!