Gender stereotypes, economic hardship and dreams: educational poverty weighs more heavily on women

Gender stereotypes, economic hardship and dreams: educational poverty weighs more heavily on women

“I just want some time to myself.” It is one of the possible answers you receive when you ask girls still in their teensoften with a migratory background and coming from a single-parent family, to think about what desire they cultivate for their future. The weather. An entity, in this case, anything but abstract, which slips away. They are used to taking care of younger siblings, supporting mothers who work long hours, doing multiple jobs a day. The future is out of focus. Personal expectations, dreams, frozen. “Dreaming out loud is a bit scary when you come from a suburban background, when you go through a condition of severe economic hardship. You are afraid of dreaming too hard compared to your starting conditions and it is not easy to challenge those cultural models that force you into roles and existential scripts that are very far from your desires”, he explains Silvia Mastrorillo of Dedalus social cooperative, representative of the Futura project for the city of Naples, while telling another story, that of Sofia (fictitious name). She was born in the suburbs of Naples, the difficult one. Sofia struggles to name her dreams. As if saying them meant “speaking nonsense”. However, her passion for theater grew inside her like a little light, and theatre, sometimes, can reach everywhere. In the suburbs where she grew up she met teachers and educators who knew how to encourage her talent, who helped her to be able to name it, to bring it out of her. It seems like little, but for the future of many young women in educational poverty, it can be everything. How much is a computer worth, for example? Alessandra is in fifth grade, she wants to enroll in computer science. “We supported her in purchasing a PC with functions suitable for her university studies. That PC represented the possibility of feeling supported and encouraged in her choices and of receiving concrete support for her training.”

Gender disparity

In the stories that Silvia tells there is also an aspect that makes educational poverty more ferocious: gender inequality. The ambivalence of women, mostly still teenagers, forced to find low-paid work and at the same time take on all the burden of domestic work. “Educational and economic inequalities today nip in the bud the growth aspirations of many girls and young women, who are the most penalised, despite the best scholastic results, also in accessing the world of work” he explains Raffaela Milano, director of Italy-Europe programs at Save the Children. Unequal access to education, early motherhood, cultural and social norms combined with various forms of gender violence are in fact further obstacles that still weigh on the future of many young women.

The Futura project

“You took a burden off me.” It is one of the phrases of the girls supported by Dedalus Social Cooperative that Silvia brings with her. The computer, theater lessons, even “time”, are in fact examples of “educational skills” that the Cooperative has made available to women who find themselves in a condition of educational poverty in Naples, where it hosts the project Future.

Futura is a national initiative implemented in the cities of Venice, Rome And Naplespromoted by Save the Children, Inequalities Forum and Diversity And Yolk in collaboration with Intesa Sanpaolo. The project aims to support three hundred girls and young women who live in situations of serious poverty and strong vulnerability. The paths already activated in the first year of the project in the three different territories were 155, by the end of February they will become 184. Very young people, between 13 and 24 years old, including 25 young mothers. Each of them has a story, an aspiration, a specific need, a dream that is only great for the courage to dream it. For this reason, a “personalized educational support plan” has been defined for each one. 45% was allocated to interventions relating to study and work, and courses aimed at reorientation, emotional well-being and the construction of support networks were also supported. 72% of the routes are created on the proposal and thanks to the synergy of local associations.

Andrea Morniroli, co-coordinator of the Inequality and Diversity Forumsummarized the three pillars of the project as follows: “Accompanying people and not replacing them, making interventions flexible in relation to needs and finally the social responsibility of private entities which is expressed not only in concrete help to people but also in provide public institutions with indications for good policies”.

About this Paolo Bonassi, executive director of strategic initiatives and social impact of Intesa Sanpaolo added: “The strength of the Futura Project is the work carried out together by subjects who are very different in nature and size. I believe that pooling our respective experiences and resources allows us to maximize the benefit for those in need, young women whose difficulties today risk having serious repercussions in the future. Intesa Sanpaolo stands out by intervening to support the social context with this approach: it actively participates in the planning and development of initiatives, contributes to promoting networks, generates a long-term positive impact”.

“Often for the first time, girls can become protagonists of their lives and escape from a complicated family situation. Futura highlights the protective factors that exist even in the most traumatized lives. Fighting educational poverty with individualized paths is the future for us,” he concludes Clementina Cordero di Montezemolo, founder and president of the Yolk Foundation.

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