A beacon of hope: EU4Youth alumna challenges gender stereotypes among Azerbaijani youth
September 20, 2023

A beacon of hope: EU4Youth alumna challenges gender stereotypes among Azerbaijani youth

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In the city of Lankaran, Azerbaijan, a new wave of changes is sweeping through the community, challenging deeply ingrained gender stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive society. At the forefront of this movement is the ‘Lankaran Community for Equality’ initiative, led by a dedicated EU4Youth alumna Saadat Aghayeva, aged 23. The initiative, primarily bringing together young men from the area, has embarked on a mission to advocate for gender equality and to confront the prevailing stereotypes that have affected young people in the city.

Saadat explains: “I aimed to spotlight the challenges that young people encounter, which often go unnoticed in our society’s mainstream discourse. I firmly believe that addressing the issues faced by young men in navigating gender-related questions and their aspiration to be allies is both significant and imperative.”

According to Saadat, gender stereotypes and predefined roles have, for generations, constrained the aspirations and identities of young people in the city. She sees the ‘Lankaran Community for Equality’ initiative as a beacon of hope, providing a safe and open platform for young men to voice their concerns, discuss gender issues and simply ask questions.

The journey invites participants to delve into various critical gender topics, sparking conversations about what defines masculinity, the harmful nature of toxic masculinity, the pervasive issue of street harassment, the importance of being allies, and collaborative efforts to build a more inclusive and equal society. One of the initiative’s primary objectives was to create a nurturing environment for young men to express themselves freely, sharing their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgement. Saadat reflects that in doing so, they have not only empowered themselves but have also become role models for their peers.

Yunis, a 17-year-old participant, expressed his newfound sense of empowerment: “I can counter the stereotypes which dictate what a man should or should not wear and how he should style himself by being myself.” Yunis has long hair and likes wearing shorts, which is not accepted by the community in Lankaran. Despite this disapproval, he remains steadfast in maintaining his chosen appearance.

The idea behind the ‘Lankaran Community for Equality’ initiative was not only catalyse personal growth and support self-expression, but also to ignite a spark of active citizenship among its members. As the initiative continues to gain momentum, it serves as a powerful testament to the transformative impact of youth-led movements and to the valuable support provided by programmes like EU4Youth in fostering change and breaking the barriers to an inclusive and resilient society.

Saadat concludes: “I learned trough the project that there is so much more demand. I would like to continue this community work and strive to involve more people in the process to achieve greater sustainability and larger impacts.”


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