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International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakingtheBias in education

Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day and people around the world are coming together on the theme of ‘breaking the bias’ to fight gender imbalances in our homes, workplaces and communities. Marked for over 100 years, we know that International Women’s Day is an important annual occasion to celebrate milestones reached, elevate visibility of persistent issues, and catalyse positive change towards gender equality. Today, we join the large-scale global call to action for a fairer and more inclusive world.

As an organisation, we strive to change education for good and we are proud that a number of our programmes seek to increase gender equity. Longstanding biases and norms mean girls are less likely to access education or career opportunities, or to become leaders in their countries or communities – and lack of access to education increases their risk of early marriage, teen pregnancy, and gender-based violence.  We work with education leaders, schools and parents to tackle the underlying biases and gendered behaviours.

In 2022, we launched our new transformational model for girls’ education, based on intensive research and evidence. A key pillar of the approach is ‘positive gender perspectives’ – we know we can amplify the impact of our work by creating, empowering and supporting positive gender attitudes in all stakeholders, including girls and boys themselves. This involves promoting positive role models across the system, including the proportion of women in leadership roles. Here are examples of how we are breaking the bias through our programmes in sub–Saharan Africa:

  • In Ethiopia, we have supported the central government to set up a Women’s National Network. A lack of women in leadership roles in schools is not only limiting for teachers’ careers, but limits female students’ opportunities of looking up to female leadership role models. The main aim of the network is to advocate for women in educational leadership – inspiring, empowering and helping such women to address the challenges preventing them from taking up leadership roles and succeeding when they get there. 
  • In Rwanda, we have actively increased the proportion of women in leadership roles in the Rwandan education system (now 72%, up from just 26% prior to our interventions, which started in 2019). We have created guidelines for schools, and support schools in appointing women as School Subject Leads. We are also supporting the Rwanda Education Board’s School Leadership unit to increase the number of women in leadership positions. 
  • Across our programmes, we run children’s and/or girls’ clubs which provide a safe space to raise awareness of gender issues and improve the self-confidence of learners – which we know has a great impact on learning. The clubs’ content focuses on life and learning skills, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and confidence building. They are often girl-led, but boys join in during strategic conversations, with the aim of developing a cohort of boys as gender equity allies. Where appropriate, we run girls-only clubs – such as a pilot recently launched in Rwanda – to offer greater confidentiality, to support them to understand their rights, and to develop socio-emotional skills, resilience and assertiveness.

In 2020/2021, we reached 3.55 million learners, including 1.7 million female learners. By 2024, we aim to have worked in seven countries and reached 500,000 marginalised girls, equipping girls and boys, teachers and leaders with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to build a more gender-equitable society.

Read more about our transformative approach to girls’ education here and join the conversation with us on Twitter and LinkedIn under #IWD2022 and #BreaktheBias.