"What if we switched roles?" new social experiment raises awareness of gender stereotypes in the Arab region

Date: 24 March 2016


In the Arab States, gender stereotypes are deeply entrenched and affect women’s rights to work, political participation, freedom of mobility and safety from physical harm and violence. Several studies and surveys show high levels of acceptance of violence against women and girls as well as negative attitudes regarding equal rights to economic participation.

For International Women’s Day this year, UN Women reached out to the region’s youth to virtually shift roles and see the world from each other’s eyes to challenge stereotypes. Through social media platforms, UN Women is inviting youth to share their thoughts using the hashtags #ifiwereaman and #ifiwereawoman. UN Women also released a social experiment video that engaged 20 young men and women from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria. They were asked to switch roles and answer questions as they think the other gender would. Participants were asked questions that covered personal relationships, work, violence, political representation and attitudes towards equality.

The results were revealing. Approximately 67 per cent of the male participants who were asked how it felt to put themselves in women’s shoes expressed feeling oppressed, scared or grateful for being men. Meanwhile, 60 per cent of the female participants said men had to the right to whatever they wanted and feared nothing.

“I felt exhausted by the distance between men’s perspectives and women’s perspectives in one society,” said Lena Shamiri, a 26-year-old participant in the social experiment from Saudi Arabia.

Read the full story on the Arab States regional website.