Gender equality: Working in partnership to make it a reality

Advancing gender equality in and through education requires stakeholders at the global, regional and country levels to prioritize gender in education system planning and delivery. GPE has launched a new paper titled “Going Further Together: A Partnership Approach to Gender Equality” to contextualize gender transformative change in education. The paper highlights GPE’s unique partnership approach to gender equality and mutual accountability.

September 11, 2023 by Sally Gear, GPE Secretariat, Rachel Olivia Booth, GPE Secretariat, and Michelle Djong Hui Ing, GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
The GPE Board of Directors met in Brussels, Belgium, on June 7 and 8, 2023. Credit: GPE/Lode Saidane
The GPE Board of Directors met in Brussels, Belgium, on June 7 and 8, 2023.
Credit: GPE/Lode Saidane

Despite significant progress in gender parity in access to education at the primary level in many countries, progress is beginning to stall. In sub-Saharan Africa, data reveals high levels of school dropout for girls as they reach adolescence and transition to secondary school.

In conflict-affected areas boys face threats to their education due to forced recruitment into armed forces or pressure to help with household finances. These gendered patterns of dropout are amplified when combined with oppressive social norms and characteristics such as poverty, disability or marginalized ethnicity.

Tackling challenges for girls' and boys’ education require gender-transformative analysis and system change solutions, which is where a partnership approach becomes essential.

A gender-transformative system change approach in education

The GPE 2025 strategic plan reflects the growing urgency of including a gender-transformative system change approach in education.

Our new paper responds to demand from partner countries, alongside our regional and global partners, who asked us to clarify how ‘gender hardwiring’ (understood as an intentional, accountable approach to embedding gender equality across all systems and processes) is delivered through the partnership approach.

A gender-transformative system change involves both 1) recognizing the power dynamics that exist at all levels of education system decision-making and delivery; and 2) mobilizing multiple actors to address the root causes of gender inequality.

GPE approach to gender equality in access to, within and through education

As illustrated in the graphic above, embedding gender equality principles in access to, within and through education at a system change level has the potential to create long-term, sustainable change that delivers on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of gender equality and quality education for all.

What does a gender-transformative approach to education look like in practice?

To illustrate with an example, the Nepal Partnership Compact hardwired gender equality through its priority reform, aiming to create gender-sensitive schools free from gender-based violence and harassment.

To improve marginalized girls’ access to education, Nepal granted secondary school scholarships to girls and households affected by poverty.

To enhance gender equality within education, reforms aimed to increase the number of female teachers, and a review of curriculum materials and topics challenged gender and disability stereotypes, to create a more equitable experience for boys and girls in Nepal’s educational spaces.

Reforms addressed gender equality through education with a life-skills curriculum and materials that include gender equality and human rights. This curriculum helps young Nepalese learn essential critical-thinking skills, understand their rights and become agents for change.

The influence of social norms cuts across all 3 of these areas of engagement for gender equality (access to, within and through education).

Engaging the multiple actors who are involved in system change decisions is key to identifying sustainable solutions to gender transformative change. Different actors in the partnership are accountable to advancing gender equality and their roles and responsibilities are outlined in the paper.

How do we operationalize gender equality within the partnership?

With this new operational paper, we outline how actors across GPE are taking tangible actions to deliver on the high-level goal of achieving gender equality (as illustrated in the entry points table below) and define core gender-related terms to reinforce a common language around gender equality concepts in education across the partnership.

GPE gender equality entry points

As part of the paper’s development, we held consultations in July 2023 to incorporate the views of GPE partners, including partner countries, donors, private foundations, country level and international civil society organizations as well as GPE youth leaders.

These consultations helped ensure the paper is relevant across the partnership and can be tailored to each partner country’s context.

“Everything is very detailed so that each country can actually contextualize this issue based on their own reality on the ground.”

Solange Akpo, Regional Coordinator, African Network Campaign for Education for All (ANCEFA)
Members of the joint sector review field visit team pose with teachers involved in the “Community of Learning”. Tanzania. August 2019. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Members of the joint sector review field visit team pose with teachers involved in the “Community of Learning”—a regular meeting of head teachers and Ward Education Officers to share and discuss issues and experience in their respective schools. Tanzania. August 2019.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

How do we ensure mutual accountability for gender equality across the partnership?

Mutual accountability for gender equality in GPE partnership model

GPE 2025 operates on a decentralized accountability model where all partners hold each other accountable to achieve shared goals and objectives linked to gender equality.

The paper outlines the specific responsibilities of all actors within the partnership for integrating gender within policy dialogue, planning and delivery. Country-level partners are supported by global-level partners who ensure that gender equality remains high on the agenda of key stakeholders.

The way forward

Partner countries constituents and GPE staff members at the Asia and Pacific Constituency Meeting. Bangkok, March 2023. Credit: GPE
Partner countries constituents and GPE staff members at the Asia and Pacific Constituency Meeting. Bangkok, March 2023.

The partner consultation generated valuable ideas on ensuring this new operational paper guides GPE’s processes as we keep learning and adapting our approach to gender equality. Thus, the GPE Secretariat Gender Hub will keep the momentum going, as we go further together to make significant gains on the global goal of gender equality in education for all boys and girls in all partner countries.


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