Liberia: Parents play important role in helping girls overcome gender stereotypes

| March 1, 2021

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It’s 8 o’clock in the morning, and the kindergarten pupils are already seated on their small chairs in the classroom waiting patiently. In her colourful African wrapper, Kemah Kollie stands in front of them and writes on the blackboard. She turns with a smile and loudly tells the pupils what they will learn today.

Ms. Kollie says that, if it were not for the support she received from her father, she would not be standing in front of the class teaching pupils today. She explains: “It was not easy for me as a girl to overcome gender stereotypes I faced in my society and at school. My father encouraged me by telling me that I could do better in class than boys. This inspired me a lot.”  

Ms. Kollie is a teacher at Victory Outreach Institute in Gbarnga, the capital city of Bong county in northern Liberia. She says her father inspired and supported her to become a teacher.

In Liberia, like many African countries, girls face gender stereotypes that make it difficult for them to perform as well as boys in school.

Nyanpu Yakpawolo lives in Gbarnga city and has two children, a boy and a girl. She says gender roles created by societies determine how male and female individuals look and behave.

She adds that learning these roles starts at birth. Mrs. Yakpawolo says: “As we grow, we learn how to behave from those around us. Children are introduced to certain roles that they eventually associate with their biological sex. For example, masculine roles are usually associated with strength, aggression, and dominance, while feminine roles are usually associated with obedience, nurturing, and subordination.”

Amos Togbah is a father of four children and also lives in Gbarnga city. He says that, to overcome gender stereotypes and break traditional barriers related to girls’ careers and career expectations, parents should be careful when giving items to their children because boys and girls also learn gender roles through play.

He explains: “Parents supply boys with different items compared to those given to girls and this affects girls’ upbringing. For instance, parents give boys toy trucks, toy guns, and superhero belongings while girls are often given dolls and dress-up attire that help in differentiating their societal roles from boys.”

Ms. Anita Rennie is a gender advocate in Liberia. She says it’s sad that the roles girls take in their families when they get married are often a result of gender stereotypes.

Ms. Rennie says, “The woman sacrifices her personal pleasure and ambitions in the family compared to men. She is expected to be the source of inspiration to her man for him to achieve wealth in his life.”

Zenabia Tiangeh Taylor is the chief executive officer of Impact Girls Liberia Incorporated, an organization that has been raising awareness on several gender issues in the country. She says that it’s very important to overcome gender stereotypes that affect girls by ensuring that the division of domestic and community tasks between boys and girls is more equitable.

She explains: “Women and girls should strive to act as leaders in the society. They should raise their voices against violence, exploitation in the households and at work places, and other social atrocities against them. They are supposed to create awareness about girl child rights.”

Josiah Kollie is the principal of John Flomo Bakalu semi high school in Gbarnga city. He is the father of Kemah, who followed in his footsteps to become a kindergarten teacher. He says that it’s very important to encourage and promote girls in all aspects of life in order to fight gender stereotypes.

Mr. Kollie explains: “Promoting young girls will not only give them self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, but it will also bring economic benefits to their community. On many occasions, when a girl earns her education, she is most likely to return to her community to make a difference.”

He adds that parents, especially men, should always teach and encourage girls in the same way they do boys. He says: “I encouraged my daughter to work hard at school and she is now a teacher. At first, she was very hesitant to go to school because of gender stereotypes. But through encouragement, I am proud of her because she is now teaching while she is acquiring her tertiary education at Bong County Technical College.”

Ms. Kollie is always thankful to her father for the role he played in her life. She says, “I encourage young girls to prioritize education. It is also very important for parents to support their girls’ education. The support my father gave me as a girl cannot be overemphasized.”This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Distance Learning in Crisis is implemented in partnership with CODE, TALLE, and WE-CARE.