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Roman Gojayev: Actively Challenging Gender Stereotypes

Roman Gojayev: Actively Challenging Gender Stereotypes

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Roman Gojayev, the co-founder and development director of Gender Hub Azerbaijan. Let’s learn what’s happening at Gender Hub Azerbaijan and how Roman is making a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Roman! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through Gender Hub Azerbaijan?

Roman: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! We inhabit a world where individuals often limit their potential in response to societal expectations assigned to them through various roles. Gender norms stand out as particularly risky; as young people, we find ourselves shaped by these norms, influencing our life-long decisions and aspirations. With vibrant young minds, we are actively challenging gender stereotypes that are leading to hate crimes and gender-based violence, impacting young people, particularly women and girls.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Roman: Growing up, experiencing self-limitation was one of the challenges I had to fight with because I am a man. Certain behaviors, professions, dress, and topics that were dictated to me during my high school years, pressured me into conforming to patriarchal norms. It was only after stepping beyond my immediate surroundings that I began to explore my interests and the concept of belonging. This exploration gave me confidence, motivating me to inspire young individuals, in particular women and girls, to embrace their authentic selves and challenge social expectations regardless of sexual orientation and gender roles, enabling them to attain their highest potential.

Spiffy: What is the impact of your work?

Roman: As someone shaped by human rights education, I believe gender equality thrives in environments of inclusion, diversity, and mutual respect—this is our approach. We united youth, grassroots advocates, feminists, government, and international organizations—employing a multistakeholder approach to combat gender inequality. We implemented thousands of educational activities and capacity-building training in various regions, reaching more than ten-thousand underrepresented youth and girls/women. We assisted more than 240 women in developing their businesses, organized the Women's Bazaar fair three times, developed alternative reports and policy recommendations, provided free legal and psychological support for more than 200 women, and built the capacity of 500 teachers.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience/community?

Roman: Recognition! It is our most significant achievement to be acknowledged. To me, recognition entails being trusted, seen, and heard. Although this journey began just three years ago, we have received support and collaboration from the United Nations office in Azerbaijan, UNFPA, UNDP, and various political institutions including the European Union and the Council of Europe, along with the embassies of France, Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. Above all, this recognition provides our entire team with motivation and inspiration to navigate the challenging environment. It enhances the quality of our work through the experiences we integrate from different organizations.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Roman: I am proud to say that by the work we have done, I was selected one of 35 Obama Leaders and met former president Barack Obama in-person in Athens. In addition, we have been awarded with the Gender Equality Award by the Asian Development Bank.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Roman—it’s been an honor!

Roman is a gender activist, international facilitator, and trainer. He is one of the appointed 35 Obama Europe Leaders. He is a proud member of the Generation Connect Visionaries Board at ITU/UN. He has six years of experience working with national and European organizations in coordinating and providing youth-focused educational projects. (First published on the Ladderworks website on February 13, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Daniela Vega. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.