International Women's Day: IIEP supports gender equality in and through education

Today, the world celebrates International Women's Day. IIEP-UNESCO Dakar is working to promote gender equality in and through education in Africa with its flagship Gender at the Centre Initiative (GCI).

Journée internationale des droits de femmes IIPE 2022

Many countries around the world are not meeting the Education 2030 targets for gender equality in education. Capacity building in gender-responsive education planning and management is therefore a key element in achieving equitable and inclusive quality education for all.

Targeting eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Gender at the Centre Initiative was launched in 2019 as part of the G7 summit.  IIEP Africa Office provides technical leadership to this international consortium, which aims to build the capacity of actors in education systems and develop resources for gender equality in and through education.

The new UNESCO report Reimagining our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education calls for a transformation aimed at both "redressing the injustices of the past" and building "capacities for improvement". Among its recommendations, the authors suggest that education should focus less on individual achievement and more on cooperation, collaboration and solidarity.  This is what is at stake in the Gender at the Centre Initiative,  a multi-stakeholder initiative that puts gender equality at the centre of education systems in Africa.

IIEP-UNESCO's Gender at Centre Initiative has worked consistently since 2019 to support gender equality in education systems and on this International Women's Day, we believe that our work is even more critical and important to redressing gender-based injustices.

Fabricia Devignes
Head of Gender at the Centre Initiative (GCI), IIPE-UNESCO Dakar

Technical support in gender and education

The Gender at the Centre Initiative aims to bring about change at different levels among all actors in the field of education, within ministries, but also among non-governmental organisations, communities or families. In 2021, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar supported the Government of Sierra Leone in mainstreaming gender in its new Education Sector Plan (ESP), the Government of Nigeria in integrating gender in its Education Sector Analysis (ESA), and the Ministries of Education in Mozambique and Nigeria in developing specialised training on Gender Responsive Education Planning (GRESP).  The Gender at the Centre initiative is currently being implemented in eight pilot countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

In response to the findings of the Sierra Leone Education Sector Analysis (2020), which not only integrated gender issues into the various thematic areas of analysis, but also included a specific chapter on gender, GCI is now providing technical support to the Government of Sierra Leone in the development of its Education Sector Plan 2022-2026. As part of this,  IIEP helped cost the ESP with a strong gender dimension and supported the government in mainstreaming gender into the sector plan.

Training and capacity building

As part of the GCI initiative, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar offers an annual high-level online course on gender-responsive educational planning. 

After Francophone Africa in 2020 and Anglophone Africa in 2021, a third edition in 2022 will target Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries in Africa and Latin America, in collaboration with IIEP-UNESCO Buenos Aires. 

Among the participants from English-speaking Africa who attended the first English edition in 2021, several said that they had not realised the extent of gender issues in their home countries before participating.


Amon Zondera, a district school inspector in Uganda, had a similar impression after the 11-week course.

This course was an eye-opener... Whenever we talked about gender, gender disparities, gender inequalities, women's and men's empowerment, I assumed we were on common ground. It was only after taking this course that I realised that that's not the case.  

Amon Zondera
District school inspector, Uganda

Through an online learning platform and regular live remote sessions, participants can exchange and learn from each other's experiences and consolidate skills they can use for gender mainstreaming in their jobs. 

Sharing knowledge

Participants who have completed the short course are invited to join the Community of Practice on Gender and Education (CPGE). This community is a space for African practitioners of gender-responsive education to reflect, exchange and share experiences. The activities of the CPGE also include residential workshops.  

These communities are used to accompany the operationalisation of the learning outcomes with the support of specialists but also between community members. We hope to facilitate the transition from learning new tools and methodologies to implementing a real change in practice.

Elisabeth Hofmann
Gender and Education Expert, CPGE Senior Consultant

So far, the GCI team has developed a community of practice on methods such as gender mainstreaming and roadmaps for strategic change, to advance gender mainstreaming in their respective ministries of education.

Research and development

GCI also works on knowledge generation through numerous research projects. These studies focus on gender and education issues but go beyond the question of educational planning; for example, GCI is looking into the factors that lead to girls dropping out of school, the accounting of gender-based violence in schools, and the question of gender in the education of displaced populations.

A new research project by IIEP-UNESCO Dakar in partnership with UNICEF Innocenti is looking at the correlation between educational outcomes and the gender of school heads.

This research project aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities of women in positions of responsibility in education, through the case of women school principals. It is part of GCI's broader goal of strengthening the leadership of ministries of education and national actors such as civil society organisations to advance gender equality in and through education.