How feminist clubs are changing gender norms across Africa

Feminist clubs are having a positive impact in schools and beyond, empowering young learners to demand the learning spaces they desire to feel safe and learn better.

April 21, 2023 by Maryjacob Okwuosa, Whisper to Humanity
5 minutes read
Whisper to Humanity
Students posing after a session at a feminist club.
Credit: Whisper to Humanity

This is the final blog in GPE’s gender equality series and focuses on an inspirational example of promoting gender equality through education. An approach driven by young women as a model to share with national decision makers who are committed to a step change on promoting gender equality in and through education – addressing gender stereotypes and providing safe and empowering spaces for young women and girls and demonstrating impact.

Negative gender norms and stereotypes threaten the ability of all girls and boys to achieve their full potential. To address these negative stereotypes in Nigerian schools, I created the first Whisper Feminist School Club in Owerri through the NGO I founded Whisper to Humanity.

Over the last three years, this transformative campaign has built a continent-wide movement of feminist education advocates and inspired the creation of innovative tools to bridge gender equality gaps.

One of the most inspiring innovations so far has been the creation of board and card games. These are exciting, colorful games that enable young learners to better understand the dynamics of identity and gender. And a version for adult players that examines gender stereotypes in higher education and beyond has also gained popularity.

Over 700 copies of the Whisper feminist board game have been distributed since its launch in March 2022. The game collection aimed at students contains five engaging games, including body parts identification, gender roles dismantling, all encouraging reporting of abuse in learning spaces and beyond.

Whisper adult game board
Whisper adult game board
Credit: Whisper Humanity
Whisper adult game board
Whisper adult game board
Credit: Whisper Humanity
Whisper adult game cards
Whisper adult game cards
Credit: Whisper Humanity
Whisper adult game board
Whisper adult game cards
Credit: Whisper Humanity

Ensuring ownership and building partnerships

The Whisper Feminist School Clubs are independent but with a shared structure and core values. The clubs were created using a human rights approach, empowering young learners to demand the learning spaces they desire to feel safe and learn better.

Members in individual schools are free to create their ideal safe hub in the school space, with specific advocacy ideas and plans relevant to their learning structure and space. Students are encouraged to take ownership and volunteer in roles that strengthen their personal abilities.

Trusting girls to create their ideal Whisper room has been one of the first steps to giving them full ownership of the clubs. With the permission of the school, girls create their desired safe playroom from unused classrooms in their schools. Whisper provides them games to play during school breaks and topics to deliberate. The girls discuss advocacy plans weekly on their club days.

The Whisper to Humanity team has created partnerships with teachers and parents in the school clubs to further strengthen the power and influence of the girl-led advocacy in learning spaces.

As the clubs have grown, more teachers have been introduced to playful tools for teaching and resources such as the Gender Transformative Education Brief, enabling them to confront gender stereotypes in their classrooms and support their students better.

Impact of the clubs

The feminist clubs are having a positive impact in the schools and beyond. In one school, club members gained the confidence to advocate for equal time on the football field:

“We just knew football was for boys and we couldn't use the field, but when we learnt better, we asked the teachers and principal to allow us to play on the field too. Today more girls are able to play there even after we left school.”

Chidiadi, 21, Nguru Umuaro High School

And the effect continues beyond the school grounds.

“I used to think engineering was for boys, even though I liked fixing things and liked sciences in secondary school; joining the club is the only reason I’m studying engineering in federal polytechnic now.”

Chidinma, 20, Ngor High School

Chidiadi and Chidinma are two out of many girls whose mindsets changed. Their schools also changed since the creation of Whisper feminist school clubs.

To ensure testimonies like these multiply, we have been providing mentorship as practical support tool for the school clubs, enabling alumni to support the clubs and increasing the gender responsiveness level in their schools after they leave high school.

Maryjacob talking to students in a school club. Credit: Whisper to Humanity
Maryjacob talking to students in a school club.
Whisper to Humanity

Men and boys as allies

After a full year of initiating and supporting girls-only school clubs, girls reported feeling more empowered and independent, but boys still behaved in ways that upheld gender roles and supported oppressive systems. This ignorance from the boys encouraged sexism and conflict between students and frustrated the efforts for safer and more equal learning spaces.

In response, the Whisper men club was initiated to bridge these gaps, by ensuring all children and learners are on the same page, open to dismantle all forms of gender-based oppression and build safer and more engaging learning spaces.

The Whisper men club initially consisted of 4 young men, trained and empowered with feminist texts and documents on being better allies. These young men then began to mentor boys in high school.

Whisper then launched the Positive Masculinity campaign, connecting boys to healthy relationships and positive mentors. Creating this systematic change in ideology empowered more young boys to be advocates for gender equality and has resulted in more gender-equal mindsets among boys and girls.

Young boys in a classroom during a session organized by the club. Credit: Whisper to Humanity
Young boys in a classroom during a session organized by the club.
Whisper to Humanity

Going global to build the gender-equal future we want to see

After just two years, there are now 25 Whisper feminist school clubs in 8 countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda) building the capacity of girls while dismantling the systems in school that oppress them, and have influenced their lives at home too.

GPE youth leaders have played a significant role in this expansion as some of the new clubs are being established through collaborations with current youth leaders and alumni. Through the youth leaders group, GPE supports young education activists around the world to amplify their advocacy and build political will for education financing.

Across Africa, more and more young activists are excited to join the movement, which now includes over 2,000 youth. This expansion is connecting children across countries, sharing dreams and communicating their realities. Together we are building a movement for gender equality and a gender-equal future.


Read other blogs in this series.

Gender equality

Latest blogs


I am interested in assissting girlsand boys in PNG.Can you send information and donor agents which I could seek financial assistance?

Wow, I love what am seeing here. Let's continue to put relentless effort towards gender equality across the globe. This vision of equal right will be a reality soon

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • Global and entity tokens are replaced with their values. Browse available tokens.
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.