Plan International Finland’s Sheboard Initiative challenges gender stereotypes

Sheboard app, the keyboard for boosting girls’ confidence, challenges how we talk to girls.

Child rights organisation Plan International Finland has created an app called Sheboard to challenge the way we talk to, and about, girls.

Developed with support from Samsung Electronics Nordic, Sheboard was launched with ‘Raised by Words’ videos and a website designed by hasan & partners.

Gender-typical speech

Aimed at young and adolescent girls who spend a lot of time texting friends, as well as parents and older siblings that text their children on a regular basis, Sheboard uses predictive text technology to raise awareness of the impact of gender-typical speech.

Katariina Harteela, a creative from hasan & partners, said: “Girls are raised by words. What we say to and about them affects their thoughts, self-esteem and confidence. The words we use are important. This initiative shows how Sheboard can be used to choose the right ones.”

The language used to talk to and about girls is different to boys, which impacts on how girls perceive themselves and their abilities. Sheboard suggests words that empower girls and swaps stereotypical expressions with ones that pack a punch. Its initial launch for android phones will be in English. Sheboard is available for free download from the Google Play Store.

Global coordinator for digital development at Plan International, Nora Lindström, said: “Sheboard’s purpose is to bring attention to this issue both in Finland and internationally. We want to help people see the impact that words have, and make them consider ways they can change how they talk in order to empower girls.”

Raised by Words

Strict gender roles affect both girls and boys from birth, all over the world. However, gender roles have a particularly negative effect on girls. According to a recent study, by the time girls are six years old they are likely to have internalised dated stereotypes that suggest boys are better suited for areas that require a certain type of intellectual capability such as maths and physics.

Sheboard aims to reach young people through their own channels. To make the app as meaningful as possible for all age groups, Plan asked a number of girls and women of different ages to contribute a personal empowerment phrase including girls from its Children’s Board who were also closely involved in the development of the app.

Aino Vehkavaara (16), a member of Plan International Finland Children’s Board, said: “My empowerment phrase is ‘I’m capable’. Girls are smart and awesome, but we stress a lot about needing to be perfect and fear failure. Lack of self-esteem keeps us from chasing our dreams and that’s not OK. We should dream, and dream big!”

The initiative will use videos and social channels to demonstrate how Sheboard works and lead people to the Sheboard website.

Plan International Finland worked closely with Samsung Electronics Nordic to develop the app. Elin Wallberg, head of Samsung Nordic corporate citizenship & partnerships, said: “Technology has great potential to break down barriers. We know that young people use their smartphones a lot and it shapes the way they perceive themselves and others. Social innovation for digital inclusion is an important field that we have been involved in for quite some time.

“When Plan contacted us and presented the idea of Sheboard, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to contribute our expertise in innovation and mobile technology to an important initiative.”

Lindström added: “Technological innovations won’t in themselves change harmful, gender-stereotypical behavior, but they can help raise awareness of these issues and support the equal treatment of girls and women.”

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