Dar Si Hmad for Development, Education and Culture is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 2010 promoting local culture and sustainable initiatives through education and the integration of scientific ingenuity in Southwest Morocco. We operate North Africa's largest fog harvesting project, providing villages with access to potable water. Our Water School and Girls' E-Learning Programs build capacity in the Anti-Atlas Mountains. Through our Ethnographic Field School, researchers and students engage with local communities in Agadir, Sidi Ifni, and the rural Aït Baamrane region for meaningful cross-cultural exchange.

Friday, March 16, 2018

RISE Session 2: Gender & Society

This Blog post is by UNC Global Gap Year Fellow and DSH Intern Georgia Morgan

This week in RISE we discussed the complex social issue of gender. To introduce
the topic, we asked the students to respond to the following writing prompt: “What
are some experiences you have had that led you to realize there were different
expectations for different genders?” After about 15 minutes of thinking and writing,
we shared some of our thoughts. A lot of us had similar stories that shared the
common theme of restricting people of a certain gender in their behavior and what
they were “supposed” to like and dislike. Through our shared experiences, we found
that the expectations for men and women in society were very limiting and even
possible to visualize in boxes -- which led us directly into our next activity.

For the Gender Box activity, we drew two large boxes on the whiteboard, one for men
and the other for women. We then asked the students to come up with the “expected”
or “stereotypical” feelings, behaviors and traits of men and women in society as well as
names for people that don’t fit within those boxes. Overall, the students decided that,
in the views of society, men were supposed to be prideful, strong, smart, emotionless,
dominant and aggressive while women were supposed to be submissive, kind, quiet,
loving, naive, emotional and irrational. Following a short break, we came back together
to reflect on the activity. “What do you notice about the influence of male and female
stereotypes on how men and women are expected to “show up” in the world?” “How
might those stereotypes influence how people think about leaders who behave in ways
that are ‘outside of the box’?” “Does women’s power change if they learn to ‘behave like
a man?’” How do we change these societal expectations? Where do you think these
expectations about gender come from?

We found that, in general, when people behave outside of their corresponding “gender box”,
they are faced with a lot of negativity and judgement, that these stereotypes are a worldwide
issue and are reinforced by things like media and culture, and that the best way to start
changing these societal expectations is to start small and address our expectations of our
family, children, friends and peers based on their gender.
Our final discussion topic was, “is sexual harassment an individual or societal issue?”
which we chose because sexual harassment is a prominent manifestation of these
gender-based societal expectations. There was some back and forth debate, but in the
end, we came to the conclusion that while individuals choose whether or not to harass,
there is an overarching societal pressure that normalizes this behavior without consequence.

The students also voted on their student choice topic session during week 9
which will be the Moroccan educational system! It’s been great to see the students
get more comfortable and open to sharing their personal experiences and voicing
their opinions. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the RISErs more and build that
closer group dynamic. I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions on immigration
and migration!