Young refugees step up to challenge gender norms
New app and education program connects families with volunteers to complete household chores to increase girls’ access to education.
Eight students from refugee backgrounds from the Fugee School have teamed up to create an app and education programme that they hope will not only help young girls access education, but also educate their communities on gender equality.
“Young people have the power to challenge the way things have always been done in their culture and community. We need to support them to be the change in their communities and this project is a great example,” says David Keegan, CEO at HOST International.
“We heard that girls were missing out on school because they were staying home to do household chores. When we found a group of students that wanted to address this in an innovative way, we had to get involved to make it possible by helping to secure funding and providing project support.”
Currently in its pilot phase, the program will officially launch on 13th December 2018 at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur.
With no prior design experience, the students or ‘champions’ from the Fugee School undertook human-centred design workshops and continued expanding their knowledge of gender equality.
Boys and girls often face obligations such as caring for younger siblings and tending to household chores, which prevents them from accessing basic education. The app will allow families from refugee communities to post jobs they require, such as childcare, translation services or cooking. The champions have been coached for their roles and can volunteer to fulfil those jobs that would otherwise prevent young girls from attending school.
The champions make up Project Stand Up (PSU), a youth-driven platform made up of students from Libya, Somalia and Yemen focused on improving access to education for refugees, particularly girls.
“Girls in the Somali community have fewer opportunities to access education because of what the community tells them,” explain Fatimah and Sabri, two members of PSU.
“They tell them girls are meant to stay at home; girls are good at cooking, cleaning and taking care of their kids or younger siblings. These ideas have become norms and these norms have created barriers, which make girls in our community participate less in learning.”
Jessica Chapman is Chief Operating Officer of Payong, an umbrella organisation that runs the Fugee School and Teach for Refugees, the initiative that oversees the implementation of PSU. Jessica said she saw low attendance of girls, or many arriving late, and began asking questions.
“Students would come late to school or miss school because they had other responsibilities,” says Jessica. “When we looked further into those responsibilities, we found that this was the case not only for students coming but also for those who wanted to participate in extra-curricular activities. It was particularly the case for female students.”
Project Stand Up is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in partnership with MIKTA – Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, Australia and the innovationXchange (iXc). It has been created by the PSU team in partnership with Teach for Refugees, the Fugee School and HOST International.