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Gender Issues and the Education Strategy
August 22, 2011 - 1:45 p.m.

Presenter:  Julie Hanson Swanson, USAID Bureau for Africa

This interactive session focused on integrating gender into efforts carried out under the new USAID Education Strategy. The Strategy states that USAID education programming should promote gender equality. The interactive session began with a discussion of how gender relates to The Strategy and what terms such as “gender integration” mean in this context. In order to ensure that everyone was on the same page, Julie Hanson Swanson of USAID’s Bureau for Africa elicited participants’ definitions of key terms such as “gender,” “equity,” “parity,” and “equality.” Gender was defined as “the roles and relationships of boys and girls as determined by society, what is masculine and feminine.” Participants felt that understanding different gender issues facing girls and boys and then integrating that knowledge into program planning, implementation and evaluation are essential to achieving educational goals and facilitating gender equity in society.

Participants felt that gender should undergird all work done in relation to the strategy. They repeatedly mentioned gender analysis as a key source of information for both developing strategies that promote gender equity and properly addressing gender issues in programming. Reaching gender equality in educational outcomes is seen as a process during which barriers that affect boys and girls are identified. This ensures the equality of initial and persistent access to formal and informal education, equality in the learning process, and working towards equality of educational outcomes. For example, analyzing the reasons both sexes do not go to school or patterns of classroom participation would aid in the design of programming which levels the playing field for girls and boys. The group noted that a strategy to achieve gender equality would probably involve different programmatic interventions for boys and girls.

Participants brainstormed about what gender integration could look like in relation to the strategy’s three goals. Goal One’s focus on reading outcomes encouraged participants to want sex-disaggregated data about learners and use that to analyze the ability of boys and girls in school to read. Participants linked Goal Two’s focus on tertiary and workforce development programming to equitable access to post-secondary education for boys and girls and to workforce development programs. The discussion of Goal Three focused upon properly defining soldiers so that all affected by being in fighting forces could have equitable access to education.

The presenter described gender-aware and gender-blind approaches to programming (integrating knowledge of gender issues vs. ignoring gender issues) and the continuum of approaches to gender integration in programming (i.e., programs fall along a scale of exploiting, accommodating, or transforming gender norms). The group described programming that fell into those categories. For example, an exploitative program sanctioned male stereotypes of promiscuity and increased condom use, as well as domestic violence. Secret girls’ schools in Afghanistan were seen as accommodating gender norms. A transformative intervention would be the development of reading materials that feature an equal number of males and females or men and women in non-traditional roles. The parents and community need to be involved to achieve a transformative effect.

Key take away points include the definition of gender as the roles and relationships of boys, girls, men and women, as determined by society – of what is masculine and what is feminine. Gender analysis is key to improving the outcomes of education programs. When possible, sex-disaggregated data should be collected. Equitable approaches that level the playing field for boys and girls will lead to equality. Gender norms should not be exploited by programming. While accommodating gender norms may be necessary, it is important to think about ways to transform gender norms—for example, to consider the depiction of men and women in learning materials.


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For questions related to the 2011 Education Workshop,
please contact Rachel Kozolup at rkozolup@jbsinternational.com