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Debunking Gender Myths Through Stories

South Africa is sadly, a very patriarchal society with outdated ideals and habits which lead to issues of gender-based violence, unequal opportunities for women, the sexual exploitation of women and more.

Every month, Nal’ibali – the reading-for-enjoyment campaign – focuses on a different aspect of literacy and literature and unpacks it to make it relevant for children and parents. This month the campaign is looking at books and literature as a tool to address gender inequalities in South Africa.

People and communities use stories to understand the world and their place in it. Stories are also embedded with power – the power to explain and justify the way things are, as well as the power to make change imaginable and urgent.

When examining power in society it is important to consider which stories define the current beliefs and behaviors; where these stories came from; whose stories were ignored or removed to make way for the current ways of being and, most importantly, what new stories can be told to create the world we desire.

Nal’ibali believes that prevention efforts must be aimed at both girls and boys and that it should start early in life through the sharing of stories that promote gender equality.

Barbara Meyer, Public relations and events coordinator at Nal’ibali, expressed her frustration at libraries and bookstores which still differentiate between books for boys and books for girls. “We need to get rid of labels that offer glitter and fairy books for girls, and trucks and muddy books for boys. We need books that erase boundaries, not enforce them,” says Meyer.

Lending her support to the campaign, children’s author and literary activist, Bontle Senne, will be unpacking gender equality in stories in a short video on Nal’ibali’s Facebook page on Tuesday, 11 August at 3 p.m. Members of the public are encouraged to tune in, and, for caregivers wanting to begin sharing stories that feature strong female leads with their children, the following South African titles are recommended:

  • Mizz president by Mapule Mohulatsi
  • Shadow Chasers by Bontle Senne
  • Astro girl by Ken Wilson-Max (Also available in Afrikaans, isiXhosa and isiZulu)
  • Together we’re strong by Liesl Jobson (Also available in Afrikaans, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi and Sesotho)
  • Moenie met ‘n prinses mors nie, deur Rachel Valentine

A full list of titles recommended by the City of Cape Town Library and Information Services can be accessed on the recommended books page of the Nal’ibali website.

For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages, visit, or send the word ‘stories’ to 060 044 2254 . You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA

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