Harmful Gender Norms and Stereotypes

Gender norms and stereotypes have far-reaching societal influence and are detrimental to the lives of children and youth. Gender matters in most everyday realities – in education, work, family and relationships, health, leisure, determination of identity, and social life. Despite some positive changes in discourse and society, gender stereotypes remain deeply ingrained, vivid and consistent. Moreover, despite concerning everyone, gender norms affect people differently depending on their identity. Because of these insidious effects, gender stereotypes must be addressed at all levels and by all relevant actors. Leah illustrates the consequences of harmful gender norms with the perpetuation of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In her experience, FGM is linked to gender norms, to the idea of what it is to be a woman, in this situation girls are also perpetrators. It shows that the line between victims and perpetrators of harmful gender norms is often blurred. The young advocates wanted to highlight the necessity for decision-makers to have a complete and full understanding of harmful gender norms and stereotypes to effectively tackle this issue. For Jennifer (DSW), decision-makers’ actions should be more grassroots-focused. She also believes that the education of children is key “because breaking down stereotypes encourages them to take up different paths in life according to what they really want”. Gender norms and stereotypes need to be addressed everywhere, at the political level, in school, at home and even in Church, Temples and in Mosques. Approaching them from every angle is key to creating a world where every child feels free to be what they want to be.

Read the 2023 EU assessment paper here.