The Gender Dimension

One of the things that has fascinated me the most while working on my Fulbright project is the role that breakdancing can play as a tool for girls’ empowerment.

In northern Uganda, like in many parts of the world, traditional gender norms dictate that women and girls be quiet, respectful and subservient to men. Girls participating in the Hip Hop Therapy Project adhere to these social norms. They are very quiet and shy.When they come to greet me (and anyone older than them), they kneel or curtsey. They speak very softly and rarely online casino look you in the eye.

When it’s time to hit the dance floor however, they become transformed. When it comes to breakdancing, these same girls dance with as muchconfidence and attitude as the boys. I’m still amazed every time I
see one of the b-girls enter a “cypha” (freestyle dance session). Although the cyphas are largely dominated by boys, the girls jump into the middle of the circle and dance fearlessly! It’s as though the dance floor serves as a sort of equalizer. On the dance floor, girls and boys are equally respected based on their skill and talent as dancers and not on their gender.

It’s a beautiful thing to witness and I hope that some of the confidence and self-esteem the B-girls gain from their breakdance experience will translate in other aspects of their lives.

8 thoughts on “The Gender Dimension

  1. right on, melissa. this is one of my favorite observations from your project, maybe because it’s one of those on-the-ground surprises that you didn’t anticipate, or simply because it shows that the HHTP is working its transformative magic in more ways than one.


  2. Hey Melissa,

    I am a senior at Amherst College applying for the Watson fellowship. My cousin actually live in the same building as Arlene, your grandmother. She had mentioned your project to my cousin this summer, at the same time when I was working on my proposal… such a small world!

    I am planning on working on the use of hip hop in healing social ills. For now, I am proposing to go to Uganda, Brazil, and South Africa (I might replace this with Zimbabwe). Since I need to submit the proposal by the end of September, I can add or replace the countries before then. I want to visit and study different groups that are using hip hop in health for anything from health education to getting kids out of gangs and even healing trauma in post conflict regions (similar to your project). I am picking the countries based on the programs and artists I can find in those countries. I will divide the project into three parts:
    1. Hip-Hop in preventative health: HIV awareness, health education…
    2. Hip-Hop in onset of social ill: Getting kids out of gangs, raising awareness about victims of social ills, activism…
    3. Hip-Hop in healing after the onset of social ill: Healing trauma in post conflict societies, helping former child soldiers…

    I was hoping that you would help connect me with groups that you know who are working on this issue (artists, NGO’s…). Also, if you had any ideas on the direction of the project, I would love to hear them. I would appreciate any help. Thank you.

    Peace and Love,



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