Expert Voice: promoting gender equality, moving forward together

Discover the latest edition of IIEP-UNESCO Dakar's news magazine, Polemag #31, which focuses this time on Achieving inclusive education.   In our Expert Voice column, Fabricia Devignes, Head of the Gender at the Centre Initiative, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar, answers our questions. 


IIEP-UNESCO Dakar is co-piloting the Gender at the Centre Initiative (GCI). One of the objectives of the programme is to strengthen the capacity of eight African countries to transform their education systems in favour of gender equality.

What is original about GCI?

GCI brings together an unprecedented number of actors around the table to advance the issue of gender equality in and through education. The complementarity of actors and expertise is truly what makes the initiative original. All the members of the consortium are beginning to align their agendas, and the machine is now well underway in the partner countries. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is co-piloting the initiative with IIEP-UNESCO Dakar, providing expertise in advocacy and global coordination. IIEP-UNESCO Dakar provides its knowledge of education systems and its expertise in gender-sensitive education planning, training, and knowledge production. The involvement of civil society and donors is crucial to strengthen the demand for gender-responsive education and to advance sectoral and policy dialogue on gender issues. This systemic and coordinated approach allows us to strengthen our power to reduce gender inequalities in education and have a more significant impact on the ground. “We can see that the seeds we have sown together over the past two years are beginning to bear fruit. For example, the training, networking, and Community of Practice in Gender and Education (CPGE) that IIEP-UNESCO Dakar has developed are helping to strengthen the leadership of ministries of education on these issues - even if the initiatives are still tentative. Testimonies from several African countries report the return of girls to school after the Covid-19 crisis thanks to the GCI’s awareness-raising interventions. The first results are promising!

What is the technical support provided to countries?

IIEP-UNESCO Dakar’s technical assistance focuses on both support for the preparation of gender-sensitive
education sector plans and analyses, and longer-term capacity building. For example, like Nigeria and Sierra
Leone, the Mauritanian government has mandated our Dakar office to accompany it in its next education
sector planning cycle. We will bring our expertise in gender mainstreaming throughout the process, from
data collection and analysis to recommendations. We began work by setting up the national analysis
team to ensure that the process was as inclusive and participatory as possible, involving all stakeholders
(relevant ministry departments, other ministries, and members of civil society). We also provided gender training specific to the Mauritanian context, tailored to the needs of the national team. In sum, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar’s technical support is distinguished by its willingness to go deeper into capacity building of institutional actors, to act in an inclusive and participatory manner, and to drive sustainable change.

What are the priority areas for addressing the challenge of gender equality in education?

To make a difference by 2030, the first step is to make progress on data collection with the aim of
strengthening gender analysis and diagnosis of the sector. It is also about generating new knowledge and analytical tools to clarify gender equality practices in education, facilitate understanding of the issues and challenges, and support decision-making on gender equality in and through education. A final priority is to mobilise funding for gender, in particular for institutional gender mainstreaming at all levels. This is a
prerequisite for more equitable and egalitarian policies. These transformations require time, investments in capacity building, and gender-sensitive budgetary trade-offs.