Students and participants at Project Stand Up.

By By Jessica Chapman, Chief Operating Officer, Payong

Project Stand Up is an initiative that started with one question: “Why are there only two girls in your class?” This question led to a series of reflections and the unpacking of gender norms and stereotypes among a group of students, all from refugee backgrounds, at the Fugee School in Malaysia.

The class was made up of eight boys and two girls and they realised there were only two girls not because girls aren’t as smart or because they don’t try as hard (which the male students had believed initially), but because girls are not given equal opportunities to participate.

It was this ‘Ah Ha!’ moment that prompted the class to participate in the 2017 Girls Impact the World film festival. They wanted to share what they had learned with their school and wider community. It was decided a video was the perfect medium to do so, so they entered a short-film in the ‘Stand Up Men’ category. Their film won first place.

In their film, titled Project Stand UP, students engaged with classmates and community members about issues of gender equality by discussing football and if girls could play football.

After their learning process, making the film, and success in a global film competition, the students advocated for the creation of a girls’ football team at the Fugee School. And so, the Fugee School girls, Project Stand Up-inspired football team was created.

Since the Project Stand Up film and the PSU Fugee School girls football team, the student-led Project Stand Up initiative has been used as a platform for supporting youth leadership, particularly around issues of gender equality and equal access to learning opportunities for youth at the Fugee School.

At the end of 2017, the PSU team and HOST International, decided to create a solution for the global OpenIDEO challenge on how to improve education outcomes in emergencies, particularly for girls. The team was selected as one of seven winners of the global challenge and is now supported by innovationXchange of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

The solution: a mobile application and training program that allows youth to take positive actions in their communities that challenge gender norms and promote equal participation in learning activities among male and female students.

Their positive actions – as PSU champions who help families when there is a competing responsibility keeping a girl from school – raise awareness and provide an alternative, supporting behaviour and mindset change.

The app and training program are currently being designed and tested in partnership with Somali and Arabic speaking refugee communities in Malaysia. The solution will be piloted with these communities and in partnership with the Fugee School later this year.

Project Stand Up was funded by the innovationXchange of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.