Marek Kakaščík

In this special episode of innovation stories, we will look into two projects that use innovative online methods such as pedagogical tools and an app as well as an online campaign targeting students directly.

Dream Fighters: Combating gender stereotypes through play

Boys and girls should be free to choose the academic and career paths that best suit their talents and skills. But often, they do not. Gender stereotypes can hold them back from finding personal and professional success, as well as a chance to fulfill their potential.

Society encourages boys to pursue professional success, advancement, and economic strength. Girls are instead expected to balance work and family life, a struggle which often means that a girl’s academic success does not translate to a high level of professional achievement. The trends above result in what we call gender segregation.

What is ‘gender segregation’?

Gender segregation is a phenomenon by which certain sectors or fields in education or work witness a high concentration of one gender over another.

Horizontal segregation refers to the higher concentration of women or men in certain professions or sectors of economic activity.

Vertical segregation, or the ‘glass ceiling’, refers to the imbalance in the representation of one gender over another in the hierarchy of occupations or sectors. Men in the EU enjoy higher rates of employment and are over-represented in leadership positions.

Considering that women university graduates outnumber men across EU countries by a rate of 43.9% compared to 23.4%, why does this segregation persist? Our project aims to combat this imbalance that creates workplace inequalities such as the gender pay gap (16.2% in the EU).

Dream Fighters
Dream Fighters

What has Dream Fighters set out to do?

The project Dream Fighters: Combating gender stereotypes through play aims to challenge gendered attitudes and behaviour patterns among youth with the aim to reduce gender segregation in career and life paths. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Cyprus Youth Council.

The project activities include awareness raising workshops with youth workers and education professionals using innovative pedagogical tools including the GenderEd educational programme and the Dream Fighters app. These innovative resources equip youth workers and educators with the tools to combat gender stereotypes and encourage young girls and boys to explore the influence they have on their educational choices and life chances.

Due to the pandemic and related restrictions in movement, the workshop format was adapted in order to be offered online. So far, six online workshops have taken place reaching 142 participants.

The Dream Fighters app is available on Google Play and Apple Store.

Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies

MIGS was established in 2000 by a group of gender researchers, activists and academics at the University of Nicosia. They brought together a research-focused team who shared a common aim: promoting women's rights and gender equality across Cyprus, the Mediterranean, and, following Cyprus’s accession in 2004, the European Union.

My Footprint. My Voice. My Choice.

In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “Christmas Sermon on Peace” speech. Over 50 years later we find ourselves in a world where technological progress and population growth have brought the complexity of our “mutuality” to levels unimaginable in 1967 and to a point where virtually all aspects of our lives are dependent on “half the world” as he mentioned in the speech. While Dr. King wanted to highlight that “We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality”, today we see some of the downsides to such a high level of dependency, as well as the impact that the complex processes associated with it can have on fragile systems such as the climate or the natural world. Nevertheless, just as in 1967, is it important today to give information about these issues and stimulate critical thinking and there is no sustainable way to do this other than through dialogue and education.

The educational system in Bulgaria has been making steps towards addressing pressing global issues in the mandatory curriculum. Changes in the law have introduced global citizenship into textbooks and teachers have been trained on the topic. However, change is slow and the methods of delivering information to students are archaic and lack practicality. This is in stark contrast with the experiences of children outside of school and their activities, although often completely unconscious, participation in global processes as part of an increasingly digital generation.

my footprint. my voice. my choice.

As the Covid-19 pandemic hit Bulgaria, it restructured the educational system and the experience of children and teachers overnight. While it must be admitted that in the past couple of years many Bulgarian children had become aware of global phenomena such as climate change and there was a small surge in children and youth led activism, those issues were still associated more with multinational corporations, governmental decisions or the UN rather than with actions that can be shaped by the behavior of each person as a global citizen.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, children were suddenly faced with the fact that (sometimes completely random) occurrences on the other side of the planet can have a substantial impact on their way of life. In this new reality, it is important to help them make sense of the situation, understand how their experiences fit into a larger paradigm and how that they are participants in global processes in which they too can and must have a voice. For this reason, ELA, a Bulgarian NGO working in the field of education, initiated the “My Footprint. My Voice. My Choice” project aimed at provoking students to assess their role as global citizens. The project focuses more narrowly on consumption and the ways in which every person is dependent on people and processes from far-away places as well as the impact that our actions might have on the environment.

The project launched an online campaign targeting students in grades 1 to 7, which provides adapted information about the background of everyday objects or activities. The information is illustrated by infographics showing for instance the path of a pair of jeans and invites students to participate in a contest in which they will pick a favorite item and try to follow its path. The goal is to invite children to analyze their everyday life from a global perspective and be active in the search of information rather than just be passive recipients.

The goal that we are following here is to focus the attention of students on generating their own ideas with regards to their personal experience and behavior and come up with solutions that make sense to them and don’t necessarily aim at bringing systemic change at once. It is about making them realize that each and every person, no matter how big or small, how young or old has their voice and can make an impact by making a choice.

Association for Shared Learning

Association for Shared Learning ELA is an organization that has been supporting child development for over 20 years now. Their efforts are focused on supporting children and young people in the process of learning and going their own way. They also work together with schools, parents and teachers who consciously support children to build their social and emotional skills.

About the Author

Marek Kakaščík

Position: Innovation and Communications Trainee
Marek assists Bridge 47 with the national work in Slovakia and with communications of our sub-granting mechanism.