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Combatting harmful gender norms through innovative education

By dismantling archaic stereotypes, we can foster equality and prevent violence and coercion within relationships.

Rigid gender norms or stereotypes limit people’s ability to pursue their professional careers and make choices about their lives. Gender norms not only limit people’s freedom and choices, but they end up condoning gender-based violence and perpetuating inequalities rooted in unbalanced power dynamics. As a result, people are coerced by collective expectations into taking up gender roles that stop them from pursuing the careers and relationships they want, or even being themselves.

For example, young men are often expected to suppress their emotions so that they can conform to damaging understandings of strength and masculinity. This leaves men illequipped to express or navigate through their emotions, which can later on cause issues for their mental health. Equally, young women are often expected to be polite and accommodating to others - even in situations where they are made to feel uncomfortable. Conforming to this expectation can make it more difficult for women to assert themselves and can lead to their enduring discrimination or abuse without possessing the skills or confidence to address it.

But relationship and sexuality education can play a crucial role in dismantling and challenging harmful gender norms, thus preventing gender-based violence and giving young people the skills needed to lead more equal and safe lives. Furthermore, training of adults and educators is key to raising their awareness around existing gender stereotypes that they may inadvertently perpetuate. Civil society organisations in Serbia, Estonia, Romania and Latvia came together under the Youth SpectActors project to do just that.

The main purpose of the project was to educate and empower young people between 12-25 years of age to question gender norms, attitudes and stereotypes that contribute or could lead to gender-based-violence (GBV) through organising theatrical plays that deal with typical situations where gender identity and expression occur. Read about the results of our project on people's lives in the below factsheet.



Serbia, Latvia, Estonia, Romania


Young People, Comprehensive Sex Education, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

I am a young person and I believe that through theatre-based interventions we can destroy learned gender stereotypes and prejudices in our community and show that there is no particular role for girls and boys, all people regardless of gender have the same human rights. This is what I learned through participation in the theatre play.

Results from the YS project

Read our factsheet (1.24 MB)

Artwork by Juliana Vido.