Change for Children’s International Projects Manager, Adrienne, recently ventured into the Bosawas Bosawas Reserve for the first time and was welcomed by community members, many of whom have quite likely never ventured out. She and Nicaraguan gender consultant, Martha Sánchez, delivered gender equality workshops in five communities in the Miskito and Mayagna Indigenous territory – a territory accessed only by the Rio Coco and a peoples with whom Change for Children has been connected for over 15 years. Traditional gender roles and cultural norms disadvantage girls’ education. From a young age, girls carry a heavy burden of domestic and family responsibilities. But with the construction of two new secondary schools in the region comes opportunity and a generation of young women motivated to take advantage of it.
Lack of Teacher Training and Development
In each of the five communities, teachers filled the benches and tiny seats normally reserved for students. For many teachers, it was the first time participating in a workshop; the first time boldly marking their ideas on a flipchart; the first time being given a voice to share thoughts and ideas with a group.
And as the teachers loosened up and opened up through group activities, the shy became more confident, participants examined existing gender roles and expectations, and a thirst for more dialogue was revealed. Workshop exercises enabled teachers to identify the ways that gender inequality impacts student learning and ways to create a more inclusive classroom. “Physical things like buildings, desks, and educational materials, are important,” says Adrienne, “but we found that teachers were also eager to engage in more intellectual discussions and explore new ideas. They want to improve their teaching practice and support girls and boys to reach their full potential.”
The Role of Gender Roles
Workshops were multi-faceted and interactive – in much the same way as one attempts to hold the attention of students. Primary and secondary school teachers identified common classroom issues related to gender inequality and brainstormed solutions to better anticipate and address these challenges.
The gender equality workshops, funded by 60 million girls, are the final step in the Bosawas School Construction Project, putting a roof over the head of 300 students. With 160 teachers empowered to promote gender equality in their classrooms, the entire population of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve will be touched by the impact!