Transformational Leadership Program - Scholarships and Partnerships

Scholar Challenges Gender Limits With Campus Project

TLP-SP scholar Besnik Leka recently produced a gender-awareness project on the campus of Dartmouth College in the United States. Leka, one of two professional certificate students taking the fight for gender equality in Kosovo to Dartmouth, is also the project coordinator for CARE International Balkans. He took some time with TLP-SP to explain more about his project, “Gender Box-Ed”, which can be viewed here:

TLP-SP: Besnik, tell us about your project.

Leka: My project, “Gender Box-ED”, hopes to raise awareness of the gender trap, or “box,” into which society often puts us. I am curious to explore the ways that gender identities are shaped by social norms, culture, and tradition, as well as taboos surrounding this process.

My project asks what it means to be men or to be women and why it is important for society to place us in one of these “boxes.” I hope to help people take a moment and think of those times when they were put into gender boxes, mentally or emotionally, and struggled to express gender identity in a way that felt authentic instead of choosing a gender identity because it would be acceptable according to the “norms” set by society.

TLP-SP: What have been your results so far?

Leka: Since November 4, when I posted a call for responses on Facebook, I have received many responses. All of the stories are touching. For example, one person said, at first, that she could not think of a specific time that she had been “gender-boxed,” but once she stopped to think about it she realized she had many stories to tell — it was hard to pick only one!

TLP-SP: Why is it important to engage with people in this way?

Leka: Creating the physical boxes for people to inhabit is important to me, because it makes the idea of challenging gender stereotyping concrete. People step inside a literal box and relive the experience of being box-“ed” by gender labels. But, now, they are not trapped, they can open a window, peak outside.

Watch Leka conduct his project on the Dartmouth campus here.

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