Walking the talk: Strengthening states’ capacity to mainstream gender into education systems

Many countries are falling short of 2030 targets related to gender equality in education, capacity in gender responsive sector planning is a key component to achieving 2030 objectives.

January 25, 2022 by Fabricia Devignes, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP)
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4 minutes read
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A young girl listens during class. Chad. Credit: Educate a Child
A young girl listens during class. Chad.

The important role of education to end gender inequalities and discrimination is largely recognized in the Sustainable Development Goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic and other environmental, social, and political crises whose gendered impact have been largely documented have heightened the challenge of making gender equality a reality in all life spheres — including education — by 2030.

At the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), and in the framework of the Gender at the Center Initiative (GCI) , we are addressing this urgent need in Africa through diverse and complementary multi-country and country-specific activities.

Developing individual skills

The first English edition of the Short Course on Gender Responsive Educational Planning was completed last December with 51 participants (two thirds of them women) from 21 English-speaking African countries. Before them twenty-eight public education officers from 14 Francophone countries completed the French edition in January 2021.

These trainings are the first step on an effort to build capacity and create a continued space of collaboration and discussion. A bilingual edition targeting participants in Africa’s Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries will be offered in May–July 2022, and new editions in the three languages will take place from mid-2022 through 2023.

“This training allowed me to understand the gender issue in depth. To understand that gender inequalities are not only related to sex, but can also be related to age, to the standard of living, so all these issues. Understanding the issues of gender-responsive budgeting was an important issue for me too.”

Betty Matondo Mbanunu, Head of School Programs, Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education, Democratic Republic of Congo, participant of the 2020/2021 SCGREP in French

Entirely online, this 11-week training program comprises three sequential modules. Through an online learning platform and regular remote live sessions, participants may exchange and learn from each other’s experiences and consolidate skills that they can use to mainstream gender.

Building a community of practice

Participants who complete the short course are invited to join the Community of Practice in Gender and Education (CPGE), which serves as a space for continuous reflection and exchange for gender-responsive educational practitioners from Africa. CPGE activities also include residential workshops.

“We invested in a strategy that, at the one hand, creates new regular training opportunities for ministry of education professionals, and, at the same time, accompanies those who, after the training, are willing to innovate their practices and seek some support or space for thinking collectively. The community of practice plays this role.”

Marcelo Souto, program specialist at IIEP and member of the GCI Team

Working together in the field

GCI also offers tailor-made support to eight countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Since 2020, IIEP has supported the mainstreaming of gender in education sector analysis in Sierra Leone and in three Nigerian states. In Sierra Leone, GCI is supporting the preparation of the next education sector plan by bringing in a strong gender dimension.

Participatory gender diagnosis was launched in Burkina Faso and Niger in 2021. While adapted to each context, the intention of the analysis in all cases is to identify levers for improving the way gender is considered in the planning and implemented policies of education ministries.

Tailor-made training is delivered locally to ministry officials and staff (at both central and decentralized levels) on topics considered as a priority for national counterparts. The work of GCI also includes assessments. These are intended to inform the design of relevant policy responses in each case.

In Mozambique and Sierra Leone, for instance, we are working with national counterparts to better understand the barriers faced by teenage girls to access and complete secondary education.

Walking together

IIEP is one among many partners and stakeholders who actively support change at the individual, organizational and institutional levels within ministries of education, as well as among non-governmental organizations, community leaders, families and other sectors of the government.

The Gender at the Center Initiative was launched during the 2019 French presidency of the G7. With the goal of reinforcing the inclusion of gender in educational policies of eight sub-Saharan countries, GCI brings together ministries of education, G7 donors, UNGEI, UNESCO, UNICEF, GPE, African Union International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa, Plan International, the African Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA) and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).

IIEP co-coordinates the initiative with UNGEI and leads the capacity-building of education system institutions and stakeholders, and on the development of resources for gender equality with and through education.

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