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Beyond Access 

Transforming Policy and Practice 
for Gender Equality in Education 

Edited by 

Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 

Beyond Access: 

Transforming Policy and Practice 
for Gender Equality in Education 

Oxfam GB 

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Beyond Access: 

Transforming Policy and Practice 
for Gender Equality in Education 

Edited by 
Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 


First published by Oxfam GB in 2005 
Reprinted in 2006 

Oxfam GB 2005 

ISBN 085598 5291 

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Front cover: Mashimoni Squatters Primary School, Kibera, Kenya (Oxfam GB/Geoff Sayer) 
Published by Oxfam GB, Oxfam House, John Smith Drive, Cowley, Oxford, OX4 2JY, UK. 
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Acknowledgements vii 

Introduction 1 

Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 

Part One: The Challenges for Gender Equality in Education 

1 Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 1 5 
Elaine Unterhalter 

2 Ensuring a fair chance for girls 36 
Global Campaign for Education 

3 Measuring gender equality in education 60 

Elaine Unterhalter, Chloe Challender, and Rajee Rajagopalan 

Part Two: Transforming Action - Changing Policy through Practice 

4 Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 83 
Janet Ray nor 

5 The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 1 06 
Elimu Yetu Coalition 

6 Learning to improve policy for pastoralists in Kenya 1 28 
Ian Leggett 

7 When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 149 
Patricia Ames 

8 Crossing boundaries and stepping out of purdah in India 1 66 
Mora Oommen 

9 Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 181 
Salina Sanou and Sheila Aikman 

Part Three: The Challenge of Local Practices - Doing Policy Differently? 

10 Learning about HIV/ AIDS in schools: does a gender-equality approach make a difference? 199 
Mark Thorpe 

1 1 Gender, education, and Pentecostalism: the women's movement within the Assemblies of 
God in Burkina Faso 212 

Alicia Zents 

12 Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 227 
Ruth Doggett 

13 Conclusion: policy and practice change for gender equality 245 
Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 

Index 250 


Many people have helped to bring this book to completion. Our thanks to all the 
authors for their contributions and their willingness to work with us on revising 
material which in most cases was initially produced for different audiences. We are 
grateful to members of the Beyond Access: Gender, Education, and Development 
project team, in particular Chloe Challender and Rajee Rajagopalan, who have 
given unstinting help with the preparation of the final text, as well as making the 
project work at many different levels. We also want to acknowledge the support and 
enthusiasm that Amy North has brought to the project and the book. Our thanks 
to Nina Henderson, who contributed to some of the early editorial work, and to 
Julieanne Porter and Catherine Robinson in the Oxfam GB publishing team for 
their close and supportive guidance in the editing and production process. 

The advisory committee of the Beyond Access project has contributed both 
critiques and encouragement, each valuable in different ways. We also wish to 
thank Rachel Hinton, who represents the UK government's Department for 
International Development (DFID) in the Beyond Access partnership - DFID, 
Oxfam GB, and the Institute of Education, University of London. Rachel has 
constantly encouraged our work, and DFID has funded the Beyond Access 
project from its inception. We are also grateful for the support of colleagues in 
our respective organisations, and in particular we would like to thank Ines Smyth 
and Diana Leonard for their comments and encouragement. 

Last but not least, we want to thank our families for all their support, without 
which the book would have been neither started nor completed. 

Sheila Aikman (Oxfam GB) 

Elaine Unterhalter (Institute of Education, University of London) 


Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 

This is a book about transforming policy and practice to promote equitable 
processes in education, in response to the need for equality, quality, and justice for 
all. It considers the significance of gender equality in education, and the ways in 
which gender inequality relates to other sources of division and conflict in society. 

We live in a world in which education is characterised by extensive gender 
inequalities. Two thirds of all those who have no access to education are girls and 
women. Sixty-five million girls never even start school, and an estimated 100 
million do not complete primary education, often because its quality is poor and 
their opportunities are far from equal to those of boys (Herz and Spurling 2004: 
2). More than 542 million women are illiterate, many as a result of inadequate or 
incomplete schooling. Lack of literacy is generally associated with poverty and 
discrimination (UNESCO 2003: 87). In an age of enormously expanded access to 
all levels of education, of high aspirations for political participation, and huge 
growth of knowledge economies, nearly three quarters of a billion girls and 
women are being denied education. 

The manifest injustice of this state of affairs, and the marked gender inequalities 
associated with it, prompted the United Nations Millennium Summit in 
September 2000 to set two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to address 
the problem: 

MDG 2: achieve universal primary education, with the target of ensuring that all 
boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling by 2015. 

MDG 3: promote gender equality and empower women, with the target of 
eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and 
in all levels of education by 2015. 

The MDGs complement other international declarations on gender equality in 
education, formulated several years ago but not yet realised: the Beijing Platform 
for Action for gender equality (1995), and the Dakar Education For All (EFA) 
Framework of Action (2000). 

This book examines policies and practices which can contribute towards achieving 
these goals and declarations. For decades, governments, non-government 

Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

organisations (NGOs), and individuals have been working to improve girls' access 
to formal education and the quality of education that they receive in school. Their 
initiatives have been linked to widely differing aims and expectations of what the 
education of girls and women can do for economic and political development, 
social change, and women's empowerment; but these diverse aspirations have 
often resulted in programmes with significant similarities, supporting both the 
access of girls to education and greater gender equality and quality beyond the 
point of access. Considerable knowledge and experience have been accumulated to 
indicate the policies, strategies, and approaches that improve the access and 
retention of girls in school in different contexts. But much of this knowledge is not 
widely shared. We need to learn more from the outcomes of initiatives to promote 
gender equality in particular economic, social, cultural, and geographical contexts. 
We need to consider what has made them successful or unsuccessful, in order to 
develop policies and practices that will transform girls' and women's lives and thus 
contribute to achieving wide goals for gender equality. 

Considerable momentum has built up around the world in support of the 
commitments expressed in the MDGs. Signatory governments are engaging in 
debates and negotiations on the question of how to put the goals into practice. 
There is a huge popular demand for education and for governments to fulfil the 
promises that they made at the Millennium Summit. During the Global Week of 
Action for Education in April 2005, hundreds of thousands of activists in 1 10 
countries urged governments and international organisations to recognise 
education as the key to ending poverty, and to fulfil their millennium commit- 
ments. The popular demands are echoed by governments, UN agencies, 
multilateral financial institutions, and a very wide range of civil-society 
organisations and coalitions. For Northern donor governments, there is 
pressure to meet financial commitments made in 2000; for developing-country 
governments, there is pressure to develop good-quality plans and transparent 
means of achieving Education For All (EFA). 

Parity, equality, equity, and quality 

However, while widespread support has been expressed for the challenge of 
achieving universal primary education by 2015 (MDG 2), the target for MDG 3 
(gender parity in primary and secondary schooling by 2005) has not been met. 
Gender parity means that the same proportions of girls and boys enter and 
complete schooling. When there is no gender parity, there is a gender gap, and a 
greater proportion of either boys or girls is receiving education. While there are 
encouraging moves towards increased parity in many countries (for example in 
Bangladesh and Malawi), in many others the gap in favour of boys is wide (in 
Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Pakistan, Chad, Yemen, and Ethiopia, to name a few). 


UNICEF estimates that across all developing countries the gender gap is 10 
percentage points (UNICEF 2003). In sub-Saharan Africa, 54 per cent of all girls 
do not even complete primary education, and only 1 7 per cent go on to secondary 
education. At least one in every three girls who completes primary schooling in 
South Asia cannot read, write, or do arithmetic (Herz and Spurling 2004: 2). 

In our view, gender parity is a rather narrow aspiration. A focus on gender parity 
means measuring quantitative change and counting the numbers of girls, as 
compared with the numbers of boys, enrolling in school. Concern with parity 
may be complemented by a focus on other tangible and measurable factors, such 
as quality of infrastructure and facilities, numbers of textbooks and supplies of 
teaching/learning materials available to teachers and students, and the 
measurement of performance through examination results and numbers of girls 
graduating from primary school. But this is not always the case. Many countries 
are making progress on gender parity, but the limited concept of parity means 
that more challenging dimensions of gender equality and equity are often not 
considered, analysed, and monitored. 

This book is concerned with a wider notion of gender equality, which is expressed 
most fully by the Beijing Platform of Action. Gender equality is an aspiration 
contained in many international conventions and national constitutions; but its 
precise meaning in relation to education is often unclear. We interpret gender 
equality in terms of respect for human rights and a set of ethical demands for 
securing the conditions for all people, men and women, to live a full life. We use 
the term gender equity to characterise institutional and social processes that work 
for this interpretation of equality. But often equality and equity are used 
interchangeably. Some approaches to equality are based on a limited definition, 
requiring only that resources should be equal: for example, there should be equal 
numbers of places in school for boys and girls. Other approaches consider that 
equality entails the removal of deeply embedded obstacles and structures of 
power and exclusion, such as discriminatory laws, customs, practices, and 
institutional processes, all of which undermine opportunities and outcomes in 
education (Unterhalter 2005). Drawing on Amartya Sen's 'capability approach', 
we consider that achieving gender equality entails developing the freedoms of all 
individuals, irrespective of gender or other markers of discrimination, to choose 
actions, aspirations, and attributes that they have reason to value (Sen 1999). 
Gender equity entails putting in place the social and institutional arrangements 
that would secure these freedoms. An education system would lack key 
dimensions of equality in this sense if it was discriminatory or did not develop 
capabilities in children to achieve an education that was personally and socially 
attuned to developing freedoms. Some aspects of this equality are the freedom to 
attend school, to learn and participate there in safety and security, to develop 
identities that tolerate others, and to enjoy economic, political, and cultural 

Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

opportunities. Putting gender equity in place in the classroom is a key to 
connecting schooling and citizenship with human rights. Equity and equality 
underpin values of care and respect for children and their teachers. 

Evidence from the UK, where girls perform as well as (if not better than) boys in 
examinations, is taken to mean that gender equality has largely been addressed, 
and quality education has been achieved for all. Focus has shifted to the task of 
widening access to higher education for all social classes, without attention to 
gender. But research suggests that women's opportunities to secure graduate and 
professional employment on a par with men are still constrained by their 
domestic and family responsibilities (David 2005). Thus gender equality entails 
more than the attainment of equal numbers in school, or parity in examination 
results: it implies a fuller meaning of equality, which includes conditions in 
school and post-school opportunities. We believe that gender equality in 
education cannot be separated as a goal from gender equality in society as a 

Educational quality is crucial for the achievement of gender equality in 
schooling. Concerns to improve quality include the framing of the curriculum, 
the content and form of learning materials, the nature of the pedagogy, and 
teacher-pupil relations. Quality requires gender-sensitive use of human 
resources, and consideration of gender in the allocation of finances. Quality 
education entails a concern to include the views of all members of a community, 
and to take account of local languages and cultures. A quality education is not 
therefore acquired in isolation from the social setting in which students live. It 
embraces the notion of education as a transformative process which promotes 
social change and contributes to building a just and democratic society. A quality 
education rejects gender discrimination and social injustice. Quality education 
cannot be achieved without gender equality and equity. 

Beyond Access 

This book has developed out of the work of our project Beyond Access: Gender, 
Education and Development, a partnership between an NGO (Oxfam GB), a 
research organisation (Institute of Education, University of London), and a UK 
government department (the Department for International Development -DFID), 
working together to contribute to the achievement of Millennium Development 
Goal 3, by generating and critically examining knowledge and practice regarding 
gender equality and education, and second by providing appropriate resources to 
share and disseminate the lessons learned, in order to influence the policies of 
government departments, national and international NGOs, and international 
institutions, including UN agencies. The founders of the project were concerned to 


address the fact that the three constituencies - policy makers, practitioners and 
activists, and researchers - generally worked in isolation from each other, unaware 
or unappreciative of each other's work; they feared that this fragmentation of effort 
would hamper work to achieve and support MDG 3. 

The project's concern to maintain dialogue between these three constituencies is 
reflected in this book. Some of the chapters have developed from the work of MA 
students at the Institute of Education, where we have both worked. Other 
chapters are based on the work of NGO coalitions like the Global Campaign for 
Education, and Elimu Yetu in Kenya. Some chapters were initially presented at a 
series of Beyond Access seminars which ran from 2003 to 2005 as a discussion 
forum for policy makers, practitioners, and researchers. Chapter 3 draws on 
work on measurement commissioned by policy makers in the Commonwealth 
Secretariat, UNESCO, and UNICER 

Advancing MDG 3 

Because MDG 3 is a key concern of the work of Beyond Access, this book 
addresses several issues related to the MDG project. First, it is concerned to raise 
the importance of gender equality and ensure that it is not overlooked in the big 
push towards achieving EFA by 2015. There is no room for complacency: the 
2005 target has been missed, and there is a need to question why this has 
happened and what can be done to ensure that gender equality is recognised as a 
key element of a rights-based approach to EFA and quality education. 

Second, the book challenges the narrow framing of the 2005 target in terms of 
parity, emphasising the need to engage with all the complexities of gender 
equality, as it is expressed and manifest both within the education system and in 
the wider society in which that system operates. Where relations within school 
and between school and family contribute to maintaining gender inequalities, 
the MDGs and other international targets have not provided a strong impetus for 
change. On the contrary, the apparent sequencing of gender targets in the MDGs 
has put a misplaced emphasis on gender parity, with the result that it seems as if 
gender equality and equity can be addressed only after the achievement of parity. 
This presents us all with the challenge of switching the focus of the debate from 
parity of access to quality, equality, and equity. 

Third, the book questions the overwhelming focus of the MDGs on primary 
education and schooling, which results in the neglect of adult basic education and 
literacy. Despite the existence of more than 800 million non-literate adults in 2002, 
of whom 64 per cent are women (UNESCO 2003: 225) and despite widespread 
agreement that adult education and literacy are crucial for achieving many of the 
goals currently enshrined in the MDGs, there are no commonly agreed goals or 

Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

targets for adult education, and very limited resources devoted to it. Governments 
proclaim their commitment to ensuring adult education and literacy, but their 
actions belie their words. It has been a low priority for most governments and has 
been addressed through inconsistent and unco-ordinated programmes of 
different sizes, durations, and aims, implemented by NGOs and community-based 
organisations (CBOs). While there are good examples of innovative practice - 
although only a limited number have been documented and disseminated - they 
remain isolated examples, unable to influence government policy or practice. 

Fourthly the book demands that education planners, policy makers, and 
practitioners adopt a comprehensive approach to HIV/ AIDS and gender, because 
gender inequality is a major driving force behind HIV epidemics. The importance 
of promoting girls' education in addressing gender inequality cannot be 
overemphasised, but it should be addressed as part of a holistic approach to gender 
equality. The development needs of boys should not be neglected in initiatives to 
combat HIV/ AIDS, and there needs to be a strong focus on addressing traditional 
concepts of masculinity and some forms of male sexual behaviour. At the same 
time, harmful practices, such as violence at school and the sexual harassment and 
abuse of girls by teachers, need to be eliminated (Clarke 2005: 1 ). 

Advocating the need for a wider framing of the MDGs, contributors to this book 
illustrate what needs to change in order to bring about gender equality in 
education. They present factors that make schooling and education gender- 
inequitable, and they indicate factors that contribute to positive change. It becomes 
clear from a reading of these chapters that women and girls are not a homogeneous 
category, and that a one-size policy, approach, or curriculum will not fit all. Women 
themselves need to participate in decision making about their own education, to 
ensure that it is flexible and meets a wide range of different needs. 

The chapters reveal the complex interrelationships between poverty, cultural and 
ethnic differences, geographical marginalisation, and gender inequalities, which 
are obscured by nationally aggregated statistics. For this reason, many of the 
authors choose to examine initiatives for change in some of the most complex 
and marginalised contexts, involving some of the poorest girls and women, who 
experience the most extreme exclusion from State provision. What strategies can 
be employed, and what lessons can be drawn upon in contexts where 
governments are fragile and/or communities are nomadic or semi-nomadic? 
What are the options available in countries where decentralised governments 
have no budgets for education, and communities are expected to raise their own 
revenues? These questions need to be considered in relation to countries affected 
by conflict, as well as those that relate to more stable settings, because there may 
well be lessons in societies emerging from conflict - for instance, South Africa or 
Northern Ireland - for countries where conflict is still acute. 


A key theme of the book is the interplay between policy and practice. We do not 
consider policy to be expressed only in official documents and made only by 
people in leadership positions. We consider that the policy expressed in official 
documents is made each day by practitioners. Policy making is a diffuse process. 
Our contributors consider the ways in which official policy is re-interpreted in 
practice, and how policy is itself a form of practice. Some present examples of 
practice that offer particularly challenging issues to be considered in the 
remaking of policy. 

The structure of the book 

The book is divided into three parts. The first examines the extent of inequality 
and the nature of the challenge to achieve gender equality in education. It 
provides a picture of what has been learned, and identifies some changes that are 
needed if gender equality is to be achieved. The second part presents accounts of 
government policies and their intended and unintended consequences for 
women's empowerment. They examine the dynamics of policy making and 
policy implementation, and pose questions about how policy promotes and 
secures gender equality in education. The third part examines a range of local 
settings where gender-equality initiatives have flourished, and raises questions 
about the policy implications of different forms of practice. The examples in this 
section present work for gender equality in education by an HIV/ AIDS drama 
group, a faith-based organisation, and a girls-only private school. These are 
settings outside the remit of conventional work with State institutions and large 
NGOs, and these chapters raise some key issues that are still unaddressed in 
policy declarations. 

The concluding chapter considers the challenges that remain for policy makers, 
practitioners, and researchers if they are to advance concerns for gender equality 
in education as part of work to promote the MDGs. 

Part One: The Challenges for Gender Equality in Education 

The scene is set in the first chapter, written by Elaine Unterhalter, which reviews 
various approaches to gender, education, and development. Approaches 
associated with WID (women in development), GAD (gender and 
development), post-structuralism, and human rights and capabilities variously 
define the nature of the problem of gender inequality in education and have led 
researchers from different disciplines to emphasise different aspects of the issues 
and suggest contrasting policies. This chapter sets subsequent chapters in the 
context of this framework. 

Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The second chapter, contributed by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), 
reports on a study of the state of girls' education in nine countries in Africa and 
Asia which informed a week of campaigning throughout the world on girls' 
education in April 2003. The research indicates that progress has been made 
towards gender equality in education in places where a range of factors cohere 
and reinforce each other. These include a strong political commitment by the 
government to gender equality, and a policy development process that actively 
involves an informed body of teachers, parents, and representatives of the 
women's movement. This combination of forces, working together with 
strategies that are not isolated or a d hoc initiatives but a series of interrelated 
measures, supported by government and donor resources to sustain 
implementation, can deliver change. 

Where change is not happening or is very slow to take place, a range of measures 
need to be taken; they include ending the queue for education: all children 
should have access to school. This is not an end in itself, but a means towards 
achieving gender equality. Governments need to invest in girls and their 
education, and invest in poor families and poor schools so that they can offer a 
high-quality experience for all children. 

The GCE analysis is reinforced by the work on new strategies for measuring 
achievement, documented by Elaine Unterhalter, Chloe Challender, and Rajee 
Rajagopalan. Their chapter questions the limited measures of quality and 
empowerment currently in use and calls for a wider conception of gender 
equality, over and above mere attendance at school and completion of primary 
education. The authors suggest a new form of measurement of progress towards 
gender equality and education. Using this measure indicates the level of global 
mobilisation needed to achieve gender equality in and through education. 

Part Two: Transforming Action - Changing Policy Through 

The chapters in this section take a critical look at contexts and experiences where 
changes in government policy, together with alliances developed with civil 
society, have promoted changes in practice, of different types and different 
degrees, in the direction of greater gender quality. They question the forms of 
policy and partnership needed to ensure that educational practices intersect 
appropriately with policy to promote gender equality and quality education. 

Janet Raynor shows how policy and practice in Bangladesh are sometimes out of 
step with each other. The government's attempts to increase the access of girls to 
secondary education have brought about change in terms of large numbers of 
adolescent girls now attending secondary school. Raynor argues, however, that it 


is now time for this programme, which has been greeted with international 
acclaim, to make modifications to allow the programme to adopt an agenda of 
empowering girls and women, rather than merely aiming to extend existing 
gendered roles. Raynor considers the need to improve the quality of girls' 
education in seriously overcrowded schools, argues for efforts to increase the 
supply of women teachers to be accompanied by the provision of gender training, 
and asks why, if the main purpose of education is seen to be enabling girls to take 
up paid employment, there has been no research into employment opportunities 
for girls. 

The chapter contributed by the Kenyan national education coalition, Elimu 
Yetu, based on its own research in Kenya into the status of girls' education, charts 
the government's commitments to achieve gender equality through enabling 
legislation. It counterposes this with the variety of initiatives that members of the 
coalition have been developing and implementing, both in response to increased 
government-sanctioned opportunities for increasing gender equality in basic 
education, and to provide evidence for civil-society's adversarial role in lobbying 
the government for change. It also emphasises the important role played by civil 
society in holding government accountable to its commitments, and it offers 
valuable information about grassroots contexts and issues which demand 
innovative and context-specific responses. 

The chapter by Ian Leggett illustrates some of the issues raised in preceding 
chapters. While national statistics show high rates of gender parity in overall 
access to education, only by understanding local dynamics and factors external to 
the school will current policies of building more schools actually achieve progress 
towards educational equality for girls from groups that are marginalised from the 
mainstream society. Leggett shows how the national picture of expansion of 
education in Kenya belies what is happening in one province. He reflects on how 
a national policy aimed at expanding access where there is demand, but with 
inadequate resources or acknowledgement of local conditions, falls far short of its 
objectives. In this case it is the needs of pastoralists and their children that have 
not been sufficiently acknowledged. Without a comprehensive and imaginative 
set of initiatives which recognise the depth and breadth of the subordinate status 
of girls and women and provide specific measures to promote the participation of 
girls, the policy of expansion is doomed to failure in this province. 

From the other side of the globe, Patricia Ames contributes a study of Peru 
which reinforces the message that merely accessing schooling is not enough to 
ensure a gender- equitable education. Her chapter exemplifies the fact that while 
national statistics may show 100 per cent enrolment and gender parity, 
inequalities of access exist for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged 
groups in society. Research in rural schools identifies a range of external and 

Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

internal inequities which influence the retention of girls in school and shape 
expectations of their performance and ability. Teachers' low expectations of rural 
indigenous children, compounded by their low expectations of girls, in a school 
environment characterised by aggression and physical punishment, have meant 
that for girls the social costs of schooling are often too high, and they drop out in 
large numbers. This cycle of low achievement and high drop-out rates has 
reinforced girls' low social status. 

While the general situation in these Peruvian rural schools is bleak, Ames is 
careful to maintain that girls are not passive victims of the schooling in their 
communities; she suggests that a range of strategies could be adopted to improve 
girls' educational experience dramatically. As earlier chapters confirm, there 
needs to be a package of integrated measures for change and gender equality, 
including teacher training, support for schools in poor communities, and social 
provision that emphasises the importance of investing in girls' education. 

The chapter by Mora Oommen, on the other hand, evaluates the degree to which 
women were empowered by the national literacy campaign in India. Although 
this was a national government initiative, responsibility for its implementation 
was given to local government and CBOs. This encouraged local ownership and 
unprecedented voluntary participation. The author argues that the large-scale 
mobilisation acted as a 'social sanction' for women's participation in the literacy 
programme, thus breaking through traditional limitations on their participation 
in the public sphere. To this extent the programme went beyond imparting 
literacy and questioned a number of social norms constraining women's 
participation in public life. 

From Mali, Salina Salou and Sheila Aikman contribute an example of strategies 
for transforming gender relations in the school and the wider environment. They 
remind us that poor quality and poor provision of education have a greater 
negative effect on girls than on boys. In northern Mali, where women's 
educational attainment rates are very low, few positive examples of what 
education can do for girls are available to be used to challenge strong patriarchal 
systems. The chapter examines multiple interventions - school and family 
animators, curriculum reform, and decentralised decision-making - stressing 
that several different changes have to take place at the same time for them to have 
a sustainable impact and improve not only girls' educational experience but also 
their lives. While education reform at the national level has opened up new 
opportunities for a skills-based curriculum which reflects the differing cultural 
and geographical realities of the learners, these realities are also gendered and 
demand a gender analysis that challenges the continuity of long-established 
attitudes and practices. 



Part Three: The Challenge of Local Practices 

The third section of the book highlights a range of innovative approaches being 
taken at the community and school levels, in response to specific contexts in 
which women and girls aspire to equality. The chapters show how these 
approaches and practices are founded on the energy, commitment, and 
determination of learners and teachers/facilitators. 

The challenge of gender inequality is well documented in the fight against AIDS, 
but the importance of taking a gendered approach to HIV/ AIDS education 
programmes is not well understood. The chapter by Mark Thorpe documents a 
non-formal education approach which used drama in schools to increase young 
people's understanding of HIV/AIDS prevention in South Africa and 
Mozambique. To ensure that inequitable relations are not reinforced during and 
through HIV education itself, they need to be challenged in a process-based 
approach with specially trained staff who can ensure that young women and men 
have the space to ask questions and explore issues that closely affect their lives. 

Alicia Zents provides an insight into the participation of women in the 
Pentecostal movement in Burkina Faso. In contexts where African women have a 
long history of maintaining the vitality of the church, yet occupy a low position 
in Burkinabe society, Zents examines the extent to which the movement is able to 
transform concepts of gender, and documents the ways in which women are 
pushing against the movement's gender hierarchies. 

The final chapter in this section considers the case of Loreto Sealdah, a high- 
prestige girls-only school in India, its ethos of reaching out to girls from 
underprivileged families, and its philosophy of education for community and 
solidarity. Ruth Doggett discusses the meaning and values that girls (both fee- 
paying and non-paying 'underprivileged' students) attach to their schooling and 
its enabling curriculum, which encourages students to identify with their own 
and others' realities and become active agents of their own lives, able to take on 
non-traditional roles. The evidence suggests that the fee-paying students were 
better able to do this than the non-paying students, who were more aware of 
external constraints on their future options. 

The Conclusion highlights some of the intersections and disjunctures of policy 
and practice, assesses the nature of change that has been achieved, and considers 
some of the key challenges that the chapters have highlighted which need to be 
addressed if MDG 2 and MDG 3 are to be achieved. It emphasises the importance 
of multi-sectoral initiatives and a respect for human rights in support of gender 
equality in education, to ensure high-quality education and consequently a 
better quality of life. A multi-sector approach entails partnerships, and many of 
the chapters illustrate the importance of partnerships outside the education 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

sector for initiating and sustaining gender equality. While the book indicates that 
there are no 'quick fixes' to the deep-rooted and often widely accepted forms of 
gender discrimination that limit girls' educational opportunities, it also 
demonstrates the imperative need for political will at all levels if change is to be 
achieved. It shows how dramatic actions, such as the abolition of school fees, can 
have a major impact in terms of increased numbers of girls in school, and how 
training or other forms of structured reflection on gender inequality by teachers, 
officials, and NGOs can yield significant results. 

Sheila Aikman is the Global Education Policy Adviser with Oxfam GB, and 
co-ordinator of the DFID-funded 'Beyond Access' Project. She formerly taught at the 
Institute of Education, University of London, in the Department of Education and 
International Development. She has conducted long-term ethnographic field work on 
indigenous education with indigenous peoples of Peru and has published widely on 
intercultural bilingual education, language policy, and gender. 

Elaine Unterhalter is a senior Lecturer in Education and International Development 
at the Institute of Education, University of London. She was born and educated in 
South Africa and has written a number of books and articles on gender in South 
Africa. She has also done work on India, Bangladesh, and global institutions. With 
Sheila Aikman, she has co-ordinated the Beyond Access project since 2003. 


Clarke, D. (2005) 'Planning and Evaluation for Gender Equality in Education in the Context of HIV 
and AIDS', paper presented at Beyond Access Seminar 5 on 'Partnerships for Gender Equality', 
Dhaka, 3 1 January -2 February 2005 ( 

David, M. (2005) 'A Feminist and Critical Perspective on Family-Education Partnerships for 

Gender Equality and Quality Basic Education', paper delivered at Beyond Access Seminar 5,31 
January- 1 February 2005, Dhaka. Full text can be found at 

Herz, G. and B. Sperling (2004) 'What Works in Girls' Education: Evidence and Policies from the 
Developing World', Council on Foreign Relations 

Sen, A. (1999) Development as Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press 

UNESCO (2003) Gender and Education for All: the Leap to Equality, Global Monitoring Report 

Unterhalter, E. (2005) 'Gender equality and education in South Africa: measurements, scores and 
strategies' in L. Chisholm and J. September (eds.) Gender Equity in South African Education, 
1994-2004, Pretoria: HSRC 


Part One 

The Challenges for 
Gender Equality in Education 


1 Fragmented frameworks? 
Researching women, gender, education, 
and development 

Elaine Unterhalter 

This chapter critically reviews contrasting frameworks which present different 
ways of understanding the nature of the challenge to achieve gender equality in 
education. Different meanings of gender equality and schooling have conse- 
quences for our understanding of two Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): 
MDG 2, which is concerned with gender equality in schooling, and MDG 3, 
concerned with the empowerment of women. Different meanings entail 
different actions, and, as will be shown, organisations have interpreted gender, 
education, development, empowerment, and equality in very different ways. These 
interpretations are underpinned by different approaches to research and 
analysis: how one undertakes research on gender and women will determine the 
conclusions. This chapter examines different meanings of the challenge for 
gender equality in education and evaluates the implications of each approach for 
policy and practice. 

Four approaches to gender equality in education 

Table 1 summarises the four approaches and main phases of thinking and action 
concerning gender education, development, and equality that have prevailed 
since approximately 1970. (For a fuller discussion of some of the theoretical 
issues raised, see Unterhalter 2003a, 2005a.) 

In practice there are considerable overlaps between the four approaches, but I 
have separated them out analytically to emphasise some of their key differences. 
The WID (women in development) framework, with its stress on expansion of 
education for girls and women, linked to efficiency and economic growth, is the 
framework with the longest history and the most powerful advocates in 
governments, inter-government organisations, and NGOs. It is the framework 
that views gender in relatively uncomplicated ways and generates clear policy 
directives regarding, for example, the employment of more women teachers to 
reassure parents about girls' safety at school. 

The GAD (gender and development) framework considers gender as part of 
complex and changing social relations. Influential for more than twenty years 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

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Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

among women's organisations concerned with development, GAD has only 
slowly made an impact on the thinking of some governments and education 
NGOs. Because GAD is alert to complex processes entailed in the reproduction 
and transformation of gendered relations, it is less easily translatable into simple 
policy demands. However, GAD approaches have had some impact on practice, 
particularly with regard to teachers' understanding of work in a gendered 
classroom, women's organisations' linking of education-related demands to 
wider demands for empowerment, and the ways in which advocates of gender 
equality work in institutions. 

The post-structuralist approach questions the stability of definitions of gender, 
paying particular attention to fluid processes of gendered identification and 
shifting forms of action. While the issues raised by this approach have not influ- 
enced government policies directly, they have put on the agenda the affirmation 
of subordinated identities, and they have made some impact on the development 
of learning materials and forms of organisation that recognise the complexity of 
social identities. 

The final framework analysed is concerned with human development and 
human rights in development. In some ways this is a meta-theory, working at a 
higher level of abstraction, and suggesting not concrete policies or forms of 
practice but rather a framework in which these can be developed ethically. 
However, the human-development approach also differs significantly from the 
other three with regard to how gender and education are understood, and some 
of the processes entailed in developing policy. It thus allows us to see the three 
other approaches in a somewhat different light. 

I now want to look in more depth at the assumptions and research base of each 
approach, drawing out its policy and practice implications, its achievements, and 
some associated problems and questions. 

Bringing girls and women into school: the dominance 
of the WID approach 

The WID framework, with its emphasis on bringing women into development, 
and thus girls and women into school, has links to aspects of liberal feminism in 
Northern contexts. It stresses the importance of including women in develop- 
ment planning to improve efficiency, but not necessarily challenging the 
multiple sources of women's subordination. Histories of the WID approach 
point to its beginnings in the early 1970s with the work of Ester Boserup, which 
illustrated how women, who do the bulk of farming in Africa, were neglected in 
rural development projects (Boserup 1970; Moser 1994). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

WID has had the strongest resonance for analysts of education in governments 
and inter- government organisations. The most influential policy thinking on 
gender, education, and development in the 1990s drew on this approach, 
expressed most clearly in a collection of papers edited by King and Hill and first 
published in mimeographed form in 1991 for the World Bank. This was to have 
enormous influence on governments, and on large-scale development assistance 
projects. King and Hill emphasised the importance of counting girls and women 
inside and outside schooling, overcoming the barriers to access, and realising the 
social benefits of their presence in school: increased GDP per capita, reduced 
birth rates and infant mortality, and increased longevity (King and Hill 1991; 
1993). This analysis was framed in key policy documents throughout the 1990s, 
including the World Bank's Priorities and Strategies in Education and UNESCO's 
Delors Commission Report (World Bank 1995; Delors 1996). Its influence is still 
evident in key passages of important strategy documents from the World Bank, 
including Engendering Development (2001), and DFID's Girls' Education: 
Towards a Better Future for All (DFID 2005). 

In the WID approach, 'gender' is equated with women and girls, who are 
identified descriptively in terms of biological differences. 'Education' is 
understood as schooling. 'Development' or 'empowerment' is linked with 
economic growth or social cohesion and sometimes improved governance. Herz 
and Sperling's influential analysis What Works in Girls' Education, written in 2004 
in response to the failure to meet the MDG on gender parity in schooling, uses 
some forms of WID analysis, identifying the benefits of girls' education in terms 
of faster economic growth, more productive farming, smaller and better- 
educated families, and reduced infant and child mortality. While the report also 
argues that the education of girls will result in benefits to them, such as higher 
earning potential, better protection from HIV and domestic violence, and 
greater political participation, the assumption is that these personal benefits are 
acceptable because they fit with accepted social benefits (Herz and Sperling 
2004). Intrinsic benefits from education that might be more personal and private 
are not acknowledged. 

Questions of exploitation, subordination, and social division are generally not 
considered in this framework. The slogan ( Ifyou educate a woman you educate the 
nation nicely captures the thinking that underpins the mainstream policy 
support for WID. The education of women is for others, not for themselves. The 
benefits of women's education are to be realised in the household, often the site 
of the harshest discrimination. Some critiques draw attention to WID's narrow 
assumption that 'education' is always delivered in formal schools; that gender is 
not a political relationship, but merely a set of descriptive categories; and that the 
concerns of individual women are not to be taken into account (Unterhalter 
2000; Fine and Rose 2001; Brighouse and Unterhalter 2002). 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

The WID approach to the challenge of gender inequality in education is to get 
more girls into school. A great deal of the empirical work using this framework 
has concentrated on counting the numbers of girls in or out of school and 
measuring the breadth of the gender gap between girls and boys in enrolments or 
achievement (UNESCO 2003; UNICEF 2000-2004). This work has been carried 
out by government ministries, including census departments. District household 
surveys have been a key instrument in collecting data on school attendance. 
Additional surveys have looked at how household relations affect decisions about 
sending girls to school and keeping them there (Hadden and London 1996; Filmer 
and Pritchett 1999; Alderman, Orrazo and Patterno 1996). Analysis has also 
concentrated on quantifying the benefits of girls' and women's schooling in terms 
of reduced birth rates and improved uptake of immunisation (Klansen 1999; 
Subbarao and Raney 1995; Gage et al 1997). Much of this work has been 
undertaken by researchers working for multilateral organisations, including the 
World Bank, UNICEF, and UNESCO. Generally these researchers are economists, 
and very often research teams have been led by international experts who employ 
local research assistants for fieldwork. 

Some work mixes qualitative and quantitative data to consider gender in relation to 
achievement at school (Nath and Chowdhury 200 1 ) . In the Caribbean this work has 
studied how boys underachieve because of their relations with female teachers and 
other boys (Kutnick etal 1997; Parry 1997). While the qualitative research provides 
some of the insight about social relations that is difficult to discern in the quanti- 
tative work, the assumptions that underpin it are the same: that is, the importance 
of bringing girls into school and assuring achievement for girls and boys. 

This quantitative work on gender, access, retention, and achievement tends not 
to deal with other dimensions of inequality, particularly race, ethnicity, caste, and 
disability. While some acknowledgement is made of differences between rural 
and urban girls, there is little engagement with the complexity of social division. 
This resonates with the way in which writers in the WID framework interpret 
equality. Within this framework, equality is generally understood in terms of 
equal numbers of resources: for example, places in school for girls and boys, male 
and female teachers employed, or equal numbers of images of women and men 
in textbooks. Studies thus concentrate on describing the gender gap, that is the 
inequality in numbers of boys and girls at school (UNESCO 2003), the lack of 
female teachers (King and Hill 1994; Herz and Sperling 2004), and the numbers 
of boys and girls in children's textbooks (Joshi and Anderson 1992; Obura 1991). 
This approach pays little attention to gendered processes of learning, the 
conditions in which women teachers work, the way their work is regarded by 
their societies, or the meanings that children make and take from the images they 
see in textbooks. Chapters in this book by the Global Campaign for Education 
(Chapter 2) and Elimu Yetu (Chapter 5) are examples of a WID approach. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Policies associated with the WID approach have concentrated on improving 
access for girls, through giving them stipends or abolishing school fees, providing 
food in return for attendance at school, developing the infrastructure of training 
or accommodation to ensure that more women teachers are employed, digging 
latrines, and providing water. Some associated practice has entailed mobilising 
teachers and communities to encourage girls to enrol in school and ensure that 
they pass examinations. These are often seen as ends in themselves. In Malawi 
and Kenya, the abolition of school fees led to hundreds of thousands of girls 
enrolling in school with little provision to support them. WID practice is not 
much concerned with the content of what girls learn, how they learn, or whether 
gender inequalities face them after their years in school are over. Generally WID 
analysts will comment on the content of schooling when it has a bearing on 
access, but not more generally. For example, Herz et al highlight the importance 
of girls' studying science in Kenya because it encourages parents to send their 
daughters to school, not because learning science might provide intrinsically 
useful knowledge (Herz et al 1991). The stress in WID practice is on bringing 
girls into school and ensuring that they learn appropriately. The framework is 
not concerned to raise questions about the gendered practice of teachers in 
relation to children's learning styles, management practices in school, or 
gendered structures of power in society. 

The WID framework is not able to explain more complex aspects of gender 
equality and inequality in school. GAD critiques of WID, discussed below, have 
taken issue with some of these limitations. However, it must be acknowledged that 
WID's simple messages about policy and practice, despite - or possibly because of 
- their lack of analytical complexity, have galvanised huge programmes by 
government and inter-government organisations, mobilised additional funding, 
and led to some important legal changes with regard to the provision of 
education. Despite the many limitations of WID's failure to look beyond the 
school gate, the policy achievements associated with the framework in the past 
two decades must be acknowledged. 

The gendered power structures of school and society: 
drawing on GAD in education 

In opposition to WID, the GAD (gender and development) approach emerged in 
the late 1980s, emphasising the significance of gendered power structures of 
inequality in a range of contexts. GAD theorists argued that inequality needed to 
be challenged politically and could not merely be ameliorated by a process of 
inclusion, by the provision of welfare support, or by a belief in the greater 
efficiency of projects or programmes that included women (Moser 1993). GAD 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

grew mainly out of women's organisations (primarily but not exclusively those of 
poor rural and urban women). It was also linked to debates about feminism in 
the third world, and the contributions of critical theorists in development 
studies who highlighted the inadequate ways in which women and gender were 
conceptualised in the work of mainstream development theory (Kabeer 1994; 
Elson 1995; DAWN 1995; Randall and Waylen 1998; Molyneux 1998; Rai 2002). 
In some ways this work resonated with the approach of socialist feminists in 
Western Europe. (Radical feminism, with its trenchant critique of the politics of 
the family, had considerable impact in North America, Western Europe, and 
Australia, but was less significant politically in developing countries, although 
there are some notable exceptions, particularly in Latin America.) 

GAD work focused on the sexual division of labour inside and outside the 
household, on forms of political mobilisation, and changing gendered structures 
of power. As a form of political analysis and action, GAD paid relatively little 
attention to issues concerning formal schooling. Partly because education is so 
centrally concerned with the State, which provides an ambiguous partner for 
transforming gendered social relations (Stromquist 1995), the writings of 
influential GAD theorists tended not to deal with formal education. 

A key element in GAD analysis was to make a distinction between practical 
gender needs and strategic gender interests. Practical gender needs are concerns 
with immediate day-to-day requirements like food, water, and shelter. Strategic 
gender interests are concerns with challenging the deeply entrenched forms of 
gender discrimination in the legal system, sexual violence in the family, the lack 
of political representation, and discrimination in the workplace (Moser 1993; 
Kabeer 1994; Molyneux 1998). Although there was considerable debate about 
the link between gender needs and gender interests, GAD theorists considered 
the importance of developing programmes that could operate at both levels to 
bring about significant changes and redistribution of power to achieve greater 
equality (Molyneux 1998; Elson 2002). Very little writing on gender, education, 
and development engaged with these GAD debates, and it is unclear whether 
education can be categorised as a practical gender need or a strategic gender 
interest. Indeed, in writings critical of the WID approach and influenced by GAD 
theories, the two tended to be conflated (Chisholm and Unterhalter 1999). 

A second central concern of GAD writers was the debate about empowerment 
that had some bearing on understandings of equality. Use of the concept grew out 
of feminist movements that stressed the importance of enhancing agency among 
the poorest. However, initial attempts to give empowerment conceptual 
coherence suffered from a number of difficulties. These included how to specify 
the social context (an important concern for GAD analysts); how to work with 
changing meanings of empowerment, often linked to agendas about privatisation 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

very different from those of the women's movement; how to engage with 
questions of justice; and how to define the nature of agency or relate women's 
interests strategically to the agendas of those in power (Yuval Davis 1994; 
Rowlands 1997; Kabeer 1999; Rai 2001; Brighouse and Unterhalter 2002). 

In an important paper which addresses the need for a clearer conceptualisation, 
Kabeer discusses how empowerment might be measured. She distinguishes 
three different dimensions that need to be examined when considering women's 
choices (singly or collectively). Firstly, empowerment entails choice with regard 
to access to resources; secondly it entails agency in decision making and 
negotiating power; and thirdly it comprises achievements of outcomes of value. 
Kabeer argues that an adequate assessment of empowerment requires triangu- 
lation of measurement of all three sources (Kabeer 1999). 

First, translating this into a definition of what is implied in measuring 
gender empowerment in education would entail measuring access to 
schooling up to a certain level. (Note that here access includes retention - 
that is, the capacity to retain access - and achievement - that is, capacity to 
gain knowledge from schooling.) 

Secondly, measuring empowerment would imply measuring agency in how 
decisions about education are made, thus placing more emphasis on gender 
equality with regard to decision making about education by adult women. It 
might consider decision making about access to schooling in households, as 
well as decision making in schools or in education ministries, or in local 
authorities, like village education councils in India with devolved 
responsibilities for some aspects of education management. 

Lastly, measuring empowerment would also need to be analysed with regard 
to achievements that flow from education - not just narrowly defined 
notions of reading and writing up to a certain level, or GDP per capita, but 
more complex notions of well-being. 

It is evident that this approach differs somewhat from WID, because access to 
resources and decision making, not simple inclusion, is at issue. Similarly there 
are different inflections to GAD, particularly the varying stresses on resources 
and distribution, not merely agency. 

The discussion of empowerment identifies some key areas that are relevant to 
GAD theorists' understandings of equality. In contrast with the WID 
interpretation of equality based on equality of resources, GAD theorists consider 
equality in terms of the removal of the structural barriers to gender equality: 
unfair laws; labour-market practices; management regimes in institutions; 
barriers to women's decision making in all settings; inequitable processes with 
regard to the distribution of time, money, and schooling. The process of remedy 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

was sometimes seen as 'empowerment', but was also called 'equity', an approach 
to instituting fairness. This might entail inequalities in resources, for example in 
affirmative-action programmes. Thus equality was an ideal of equal power, 
participation, and distribution, but the process of achieving it might sometimes 
look inequitable because of historical and contextual issues that could not be 
excluded from analysis. 

The literature that draws on a GAD framework to analyse education policy has 
tended to focus more on the gendered politics of aid and national policy than on 
ethnographic work on gender relations in schools and communities (Swainson 
2000, Hossain etal. 2002; Sato 1997; Oda 2000; Stromquist 1997, 2000). Some 
GAD-influenced studies have considered levels of sexual violence in school 
(Leach etal. 2003; Mirembe and Davies 2001), and gender, school management, 
and school improvement, highlighting the substantial difficulties that women 
face in management (Davies 1998; Chisholm 2001; Coleman, Haiyan, and 
Yanping 1998). Analyses of the gendered politics of community involvement in 
education indicate the ambiguity inherent in decentralisation policies in 
societies where there are severe constraints on women's participation in decision 
making (Subrahmanian 2005; Vavrus 2003). GAD ideas were influential in the 
design and delivery of adult literacy projects such as REFLECT (Archer and 
Cottingham 1996). GAD aspirations were given a particular organisational form 
in the emergence of NGOs and new social movements from the mid-1980s, with 
a particular focus on aspects of gender inequality, often including components of 
adult education in their forms of mobilisation. The ways in which these organis- 
ations linked education to other forms of social development illuminated issues 
of empowerment and the interlinking of practical needs and strategic interests 
(Basu 1995; Stromquist 2000; Unterhalter and Dutt 2001; Khandekhar 2004). 
Contributions to this book by Raynor (Chapter 4), Leggett (Chapter 6), Ames 
(Chapter 7), Sanou and Aikman (Chapter 9), Thorpe (Chapter 10), and Zentz 
(Chapter 1 1) all use elements of a GAD approach. 

In contrast to the prevalence of economists in research associated with WID, 
writers working on education within a GAD framework draw on history, 
sociology, anthropology, politics, and development studies. Generally GAD 
research has not been conducted for commissions from large multilateral 
organisations, but represents small-scale projects, often by academics living in 
developing countries. Two notable exceptions were the studies in six countries in 
Africa carried out by a team led by Christopher Colclough in partnership with 
FAWE, studying gendered social relations and girls' access to schooling 
(Colclough, Rose, and Tembon 2001; Colclough et al 2004). This study, by a 
multidisciplinary team with some contributions by economists, contained some 
elements of a WID approach; but, because it also contained detailed data gleaned 
from interviews in communities, it was able to present a finely nuanced analysis. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The research commissioned by UNESCO for the 2003 Global Monitoring Report 
(GMR), synthesised in Chapter 3 of that report, also takes a predominantly GAD- 
type perspective, looking in considerable detail at gendered relations in schools 
and post-schooling, not only at barriers to access (UNESCO 2003). These two 
studies, particularly at the level of detailed analysis, represent a hybrid of WID and 
GAD positions; however, as evinced in the Executive Summary to the GMR, WID 
is the framework that is seen to have more wide-ranging policy leverage. 

It is notable how little of the GAD-inspired literature on gendered relations in 
education deals with schools and classrooms. In high-income countries, gender 
and education, as an area of political engagement and academic debate, was 
centrally influenced by the women's movement in the 1970s. While many of the 
demands of the women's movement in these countries had resonance with 
demands in Third World countries, there were a number of key differences. 
Among these, one of the most important was the significant participation of 
highly educated women in feminist organisation: in many Third World contexts, 
highly educated women were generally a minority in feminist mobilisation, 
although there are some important exceptions to this observation, most notably 
in Egypt and Iran. 1 A second difference lay in the fact that in high-income 
countries feminists frequently occupied important, though often fragile, 
positions in the leadership of trade unions, including teachers' unions, in 
established political parties, and as policy makers, particularly at local and district 
levels. These were generally not spaces available to a feminist leadership elsewhere 
in the world. When women did gain senior positions, it was not very frequently on 
terms associated with a politics concerning gender equality. 

The articulation of concerns about gender and education in developing 
countries often linked with the mobilisation of grassroots women's organisation, 
but was given institutional form by education ministries and powerful donors in 
development assistance, which often had very little connection with this popular 
constituency (Swainson 2000). By contrast in Western Europe, North America, 
and Australia, gender and education was given political and theoretical 
coherence largely by teachers in schools and teacher-education institutions who 
were directly involved in the women's movement. A number of these later moved 
on to work in higher education, continuing to research in schools. The political 
and academic work was thus organically linked with practice. Many of the issues 
of concern to these activist teachers and researchers, such as gender bias in the 
curriculum, co-educational or single-sex schools, the formation of femininities 
(and later masculinities) in schools, approaches to sex education, levels of sexual 
harassment at school and university, and the intersections of race and gender 
discrimination, were issues that arose out of practice (Lees 1993; Weiner 1994; 
Kenway et al 1998; Arnot, Weiner, and David 1999; Epstein and Johnson 1998; 
Paechter 2000; Francis and Skelton 2001; Arnot 2002; Leonard 2001). In some 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

contexts, remarkable spaces opened in the education bureaucracy for women 
who had a particular combination of knowledge about gender and connection 
with the women's movement. Termed femocrats in Australia, but recognisable in 
a number of different contexts of institutional leadership, they were sometimes 
able to secure considerable resources for gender equality in education, although 
often at grave personal cost (Blackmore 1995; Morley 1999). 

For this group of writers, the analysis of liberal feminists, so influential with 
regard to WID elsewhere in the world, had very little to say, largely because access 
was not the problem, except to some areas of higher education. Even this ceased 
to be a major barrier in the 1990s, as access to higher education by previously 
excluded groups was widely encouraged in the drive to build high-skilled 
economies. While girls' achievement at school initially seemed to be lower than 
that of boys, by the 1990s there was a moral panic about boys' underachievement 
(Epstein, Elwood, and Maw 1998; Kenway and Kraack 2003). 

Much more influential for these writers were theorists who could help to analyse 
the persistence of inequalities of gender, class, and race/ethnic identity, despite 
universal access and high levels of achievement by girls. Thus Bernstein's work on 
class, Bourdieu's work on habitus, Foucault's analysis of power, concerns with the 
simultaneous exclusions and inclusions of citizenship, a number of feminist 
post-structuralist accounts regarding the negotiations of meaning, and feminist 
analysis of embodiment generated the most useful theoretical and political 
insights. In contrast with writings on gender, education, and development, this 
literature has been more theoretically engaged with debates in sociology, cultural 
studies, and women's studies, and more focused on practice. Concomitantly it 
has taken rather less account of education in relation to economics, political 
philosophy, or the changing nature of households, although there are important 
exceptions to this generalisation (Crompton 1999; Moller Okin 1999; 
Walkerdine, Lucey, and Melody 2000). 

The work of theorists using GAD in education has not generated the simple 
'what works' messages associated with WID. GAD influence on policy and 
practice can be seen at two levels. Firstly, GAD thinkers have developed critiques 
of policy making that are concerned with the gendered processes of decision 
making. Gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming are both planning tools 
that have been developed in an attempt to make gender central to the concerns of 
policy makers, rather than seeing it as a quick solution to a range of social 
problems (lahan 1995; Kabeer 2002; Budlender and Hewitt 2002). Gender 
mainstreaming seeks to legitimise gender equality as a fundamental value that is 
reflected in development choices and institutional practices for a society as a 
whole; to advance gender equality from central, key ministries; and to facilitate 
the presence of women as decision makers (UNDP 2002). UNICEF and DFID 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

have developed gender-mainstreaming guides for policy makers, taking 
particular account of education (UNICEF 2003; Derbyshire 1998). Gender 
budgeting seeks to identify the gendered expenditure of a departmental budget, 
focusing on elements that can be seen to yield specific benefits to women and 
girls. Some evaluative work on gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting has 
been published, showing some of the uneven processes and outcomes entailed 
(Razavi and Miller 1995; Derbyshire 1998; Goetz 1997; Schalkwyk 1998), but 
studies of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in education have yet to 
be undertaken. These concerns with attending to gendered processes in 
organisations may well be amenable to further adaptation for schools and their 
management committees. Gender training, which often underpins gender 
mainstreaming work (Williams et al 1999), has much potential for use in the 
development of teacher-education modules that consider gender. 

While WID has been successful in generating simple messages and clear policy 
directives, the achievement of GAD has been to highlight the complexity of 
institutional change. GAD researchers and policy activists have demonstrated 
the importance of having appropriate processes in place to redress imbalances in 
gendered power in organisations. They reveal how much care and time needs to 
be allocated to redressing deeply entrenched and sometimes unacknowledged 
gender inequities in schools, education ministries, political decision making, 
families, and the labour market. 

Problematising universal categories: the challenge of 
post-structuralism to gender, education, and 

While WID and GAD emerged out of development politics and practice, post- 
structuralism (and related ideas, loosely grouped together as 'post-colonial 
theory'), was primarily an approach located in universities or among groups of 
highly educated critics. The approaches that they developed were applied as a form 
of critique to a range of development practice and the methodologies associated 
with thinking about the Third World. Commentaries highlighted problems in the 
universalisation of a notion of 'third- wo rid woman' and 'development', and the 
power relations masked and perpetuated by development-assistance rhetoric 
(Mohanty 1988; Marchand and Parpart 1995; Spivak 1999). An important strand 
of the literature presents schooling as a space that disrupts and diminishes the 
power of local or indigenous knowledges (Tuhiwai Smith 1999; Kowakole 1997). A 
key question posed by writers who used this framework, which is largely absent 
from most WID and GAD discussions of gender, education, and development, 
concerns questions of methodology and the 'colonial gaze': the process by which 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

research participants 'become gendered', in accordance with certain ascribed 
meanings of the term and the silencing and erasure of women from many 
conventional sources for data collection (Spivak 1999). 

Post-structuralist thinkers have raised critical questions about identity and shown 
how the meaning of gender entails fluid and shifting processes of identification in 
tension with the fixed structures noted by GAD analysts. For these writers, the 
process of education is partly a process of recognising this fluidity and critiquing 
the process of marginalisation of non-mainstream identities. Thus in this 
framework equality is not the major concern, as a key political and theoretical 
objective is the recognition of difference (Mannathoko 1999). 

Relatively little work has used a post-structuralist framework to consider gender 
and education in development settings, in contrast to the rich literature on this 
theme in Western Europe, North America, and Australia. However, the 
complexity of the challenges posed by the HIV/ AIDS epidemic has generated 
work that considers the gendered and sexualised identities of learners and 
teachers (Pattman and Chege 2003; Pattman 2004), and ways in which meanings 
associated with school spaces can subvert concerns with gender equality (Kent 
2004). The fluid identities of educated women in Africa and India have also been 
documented (Stambach 2000; Narayan 1997). 

Generally post-structuralist writers on gender, education, and development have 
been employed in higher education, either working in or closely connected with 
Western European and North American institutions. It is here that their 
influence has been most pronounced in course content and in the focus of what 
is published. While their influence on government and NGO policies has not 
been large, their analysis of the importance of identities has had resonance with 
political mobilisation to address subordinated identities, for example gay and 
lesbian identities in South Africa, or Dalit identities in India (Gevisser and 
Cameron 1995; Khandekhar 2004). 

Equality of what in education? Rights and capabilities 

The WID framework draws primarily on economic analyses, GAD on 
sociological approaches, and the post-structuralist approach on insights from 
literary theory and cultural studies. Each has had a different constituency with 
regard to policy making and practice. The generally acknowledged context to the 
work in all three approaches is the global compact on human rights, gender 
equality, and education, specifically the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Jomtien and Beijing 
Declarations. While WID and GAD theorists use these documents to legitimise 
their concerns, some post-structuralist writers are critical of their universal 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

aspirations and the disjunctive between declared intent and actual practice. 
However, questions posed in political philosophy regarding the nature of rights, 
needs, and capabilities and their implications for thinking about gender and 
education are outside the scope of all three frameworks. 

These questions have been addressed in the formulation of the 'capability 
approach' by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, who have posed questions 
concerning the definitions of rights to education and the political foundation of 
the demand for gender equality (Sen 1999; Nussbaum 2000). The capability 
approach considers that the evaluation of equality, for example in education 
provision, needs to be based on an understanding of human capabilities that is, 
what it is that each individual has reason to value. This contrasts sharply with the 
human-capital approach, influential in WID analysis, which stresses that the 
evaluation of education provision is about some aggregated benefit to society or 
future society. While human-capital theory has little to say about injustices and 
inequality in the household, the workplace, or the State, the capability approach 
is centrally concerned with these, but relies not on outlining the structures of 
inequality (as GAD does), but on positing a strategy based on an ethical notion 
of valuing freedoms and affirming rights as ethical obligations of each person to 

Sen and Nussbaum have expounded their views of the significance of education 
as a key capability (Saito 2003; Nussbaum 2004). Sen drew on this analysis in a 
key speech to the Commonwealth Education Ministers' conference in 2003, 
when he explained how education capabilities and enlarged capabilities for 
women underpinned other freedoms (Sen 2003). The concern of the capability 
approach with multi-dimensionality, linking provision of education with health 
services, income, aspects of trade, and governance, has been a key influence on 
UNDP's Human Development Reports (Fukuda and Parr 2003). Research using 
the approach is characterised by multidisciplinary approaches which mix 
economics, political philosophy, education, and health. 

The capability approach is not without important critics, particularly with 
regard to its failure to take account of injustices of recognition, not solely 
distribution (Fraser 1997), its inability to engage with dimensions of group- 
based social mobilisation for democratisation and gender equality (Young 2000; 
Stewart 2004), and its tendency to universalise, which may not take sufficient 
account of particular contexts. 

To some extent, empirical work drawing on the approach shows how issues of 
recognition and social context can be accommodated. Research on women, 
gender, education, and the capability approach considers the ways in which 
evaluations of literacy can be enhanced by drawing on the approach ( Alkire 
2002). This approach might also be used in relation to evaluating policy to 


Fragmented frameworks? Researching women, gender, education, and development 

overcome gender violence in the context of HIV in South Africa (Unterhalter 
2003), and it might inform an understanding of education linked to gender 
equality (Walker 2004). Contributions by Oommen (Chapter 8) and Doggett 
(Chapter 12) in this book, while not working explicitly with a capability 
framework, still express concerns with rights and the enlargement of freedoms 
that resonate with work linked to the capability approach. 

There are some clear policy implications of the approach. Governments using 
the capability approach have an obligation to establish and sustain the 
conditions for each and every individual, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, race, 
or regional location, to achieve valued outcomes. These may entail ensuring that 
each person acquires a certain level of educational attainment, but they 
undoubtedly entail ensuring the freedoms that allow valued outcomes to be 
articulated and achieved (Gasper 2004; Unterhalter 2005b). Thus, for example, 
failing to ensure conditions where sexual violence in and on the way to school can 
be identified and eradicated would be a failure to ensure freedom for valued 
outcomes. While GAD writers have tended to describe the structures that 
generate these problems, the capability approach contains an ethical injunction 
with regard to formulating policy for change. Similarly, failure to ensure oppor- 
tunities for a particular group to participate in decision making about valued 
outcomes, again well documented in GAD literature, would also be a limitation 
on freedoms or capabilities. Sen's capability approach highlights the importance 
of diverse social settings where capabilities will be articulated. He emphasises the 
importance of free forms of discussion and association in articulating 
capabilities. Sen writes about development as freedom because the freedom to 
think, talk, and act concerning what one values is a meaning of development 
closer to a concern with human flourishing than narrower notions of a certain 
level of GDP per capita, or a pre-specified level of resource. 

The capability approach attempts to overcome some of the difficulties with the 
universalism in the concept of rights by highlighting the importance of securing 
the conditions for individuals articulating Valued beings and doings'. The stress 
on securing conditions for social justice sets this approach apart from WID, with 
its stress on practical strategies, GAD with its focus on disempowering structures, 
and post-structuralism with its emphasis on identities. A combination of the 
capability approach with other analytical frameworks seems a useful way forward 
for future policy work. 


This chapter has identified four frameworks in which the debate about gender, 
education, and development has been set. It can be seen that while each has a 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

distinctive set of concerns, demands, policy implications, and favoured 
researchers, in particular settings there is considerable overlap. The policy paper 
produced by the Global Campaign for Education for the Commission on the 
Status of Women in New York in 2005 articulated many key WID demands for an 
end to user fees and expanded access to school. But it also highlighted GAD 
concerns with gendered processes of learning in school and gender inequalities 
outside school. It presents a view of multiple actors in development that has 
some resonance with the post-structuralist critique and emphasises the 
importance of girls' learning linked to outcomes that they value, which resonates 
with the capability approach (GCE 2005). It may be that the failure to meet the 
2005 MDG will catalyse new thinking, bringing together the richness of the 
insights associated with the different frameworks, and thus generating new 
forms of action that go beyond the fragmented achievements of the past. 

Elaine Unterhalter is a senior lecturer in Education and International Development 
at the Institute of Education, University of London. She has written a number of 
books and articles on gender in South Africa and has also done -work on India, 
Bangladesh, and global institutions. With Sheila Aikman, she has co-ordinated the 
Beyond Access: Gender, Education and Development project since 2003. 


1 My thanks to Niloufar Pourzand for clarification on this point. 


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2 Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Global Campaign for Education 

This chapter is based on a report by the Global Campaign for Education, entitled 
'A Fair Chance: Attaining Gender Equality in Basic Education by 2005' (GCE 
2003). The report drew on secondary research conducted in nine countries: 
Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, and 
Pakistan. Using evidence from case studies and the wider literature, the first 
section of this chapter considers the causes of gender inequality in basic 
education, and more specifically the additional barriers that girls face when 
enrolling in school and attending classes. The second section investigates what 
has been done to close the gender gap. It cites four main success factors for 
eliminating gender inequalities, and analyses the interventions within integrated 
strategies that have been particularly effective. The third and concluding section 
considers what needs to be done now to make gender equality in education a 

The success stories from our case-study countries have several factors in 
common. In particular, they have discarded a project-by-project approach in 
favour of comprehensive plans to tackle all of the main factors that keep girls out 
of school. The success of their ambitious approaches has been guaranteed by 
high-level political support; organised backing from powerful women and other 
gender advocates and civil-society organisations within the country in question; 
the participation of key education stakeholders, including teachers and 
communities; realistic resource allocations; and, in the case of most low- income 
countries, sustained and co-ordinated donor support. In several of our case- 
study countries, political commitment to girls' education was closely linked to 
wider struggles to empower women and overcome gender injustice. Moreover, 
programmes specifically aimed at increasing the enrolment of girls have been 
most effective when they are accompanied by a nationwide effort to expand 
access for all children, for example by removing school fees, constructing more 
schools, and hiring more teachers. As long as education opportunities are costly 
or in short supply, access will continue to be 'rationed', with those who are 
wealthy, urban, and male at the front of a very long queue. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Why do fewer girls than boys go to school? 

Girls face many barriers in their attempts to gain an education. In most 
developing countries, the economic benefits that families will receive are usually 
much lower than the social returns, and considerably lower than the returns 
from boys' education. The precise causes and consequences of gender inequality 
in basic education vary from country to country, but there is a common set of 
constraints that must be tackled. The most important are endemic poverty; the 
unaffordable costs of schooling; the burden of household labour; shortage of 
school facilities, especially in rural areas; negative and even dangerous school 
environments; cultural and social practices that discriminate against girls, 
including early marriage and restrictions on female mobility; and limited 
employment opportunities for women. Even when girls do manage to gain access 
to school, their self-confidence is not reinforced by the content of the 
curriculum, which tends to perpetuate gender stereotypes. Girls are trapped in a 
vicious circle. Because they face such difficulties at school, many of them struggle 
to complete their education and to pass key national examinations. As a result, 
their parents are less inclined to invest heavily in their education. The story of 
Kanchi from Nepal (see Box 1) illustrates how endemic poverty is preventing 
girls from realising their full potential at school. 

Son preference 

Cultural and social beliefs, attitudes, and practices prevent girls from benefiting 
from educational opportunities to the same extent as boys. There is often a 
powerful economic and social rationale for investing in the education of sons 
rather than daughters. In most countries, both the public and private sectors 
continue to be dominated by men. Consequently, the chances of a young woman, 
especially from a poor rural background, finding a 'good job' remain extremely 
limited. In Ethiopia, for example, only 18 per cent of senior officials and 
managers, and 25 per cent of technical and associated professionals, are women 
(Rugh 2000). In Mali, parents commonly regard girls' education as a 'lost 
investment', because it is the future husband's family who reap the returns, not 
the girl's own family. 

However, it is important to emphasise that parental decision making with regard 
to schooling is complicated and multidimensional. Parents' preferences often 
change quickly when the direct and indirect costs of educating girls fall 
significantly. Recent surveys in the highly conservative Pakistani provinces of 
North West Frontier and Baluchistan, where until recently more than 40 per cent 
of villages had no government-funded schools that were open to girls (Rugh 
2000: 15), show that the same parents increasingly aspire for both sons and 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Box 1: Kanchi's story 

Kanchi is eight years old. She lives with her family in a village in south-east Nepal. They 
belong to the community of mushars ('the mice eaters'). Her family is considered 
'untouchable'. They live as landless squatters on government-owned land, or on the edge 
of the landlord's farm. Her father and mother are agricultural labourers. They survive on 
the grain that they receive as compensation for their work of harvesting and winnowing. 

Children start working from an early age: as soon as they are able to walk, they are 
assigned duties. The younger ones either work as domestic servants or they help with 
carrying firewood, herding the goats and cattle, and taking the midday meal to their 
parents in the field. 

There are nine people in Kanchi's family. She started school with the help of a local NGO, 
but she stopped attending because her parents could not afford the school books that she 
needed. The costs of the books are reimbursable, but her parents do not know this. Her 
community faces another problem in educating its children: most are not citizens and 
therefore do not have birth certificates, which are required in order to enrol in school. The 
upper castes and local landlords who control the government bureaucracy are opposed to 
their obtaining citizenship, because they fear that this will enable them to buy land and free 
themselves from their abject status as bonded labourers. 

Kanchi says: 'My father has been trying to find the money to buy my schoolbooks'. But her 
parents are more determined to send their second son to school. When asked how she will 
manage to find the money for his education, Kanchi's mother says, 7 will try all means. 
After all, he is a son.' 

Another daughter in the family also no longer attends school, because she must stay at 
home to cook, clean, and look after the younger ones while their mother is away at work. 
The eldest sister is married. At the age of 18, she has a son, aged two and a half. She 
encourages Kanchi to study, and wishes that she too had had the chance. 

(Source: GCE 2003) 

daughters to become doctors, civil servants, teachers, and business people. 
Parents' attitudes also change fast when the private returns to girls' education 
increase. However, most developing countries made only limited progress in 
expanding female employment opportunities during the 1990s. Given the very 
direct link between education and obtaining a good job, this has been a major 
disincentive for parents to educate girls. 

Early marriage 

The low value attached to girls' education reinforces early marriage, and vice versa. 
In the late 1990s, the median age of marriage was 17.1 in Malawi; 16.1 in Mali; 16.5 
in Nepal; 17.2 in Nigeria; and 15.6 in Ethiopia (Demographic and Health Surveys, 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

various). In Nepal, 40 per cent of girls are married by the age of 15. Too often, 
marriage is seen as a higher priority than education. In Mali, for example, parents' 
unwavering expectations of marriage for their daughters are combined with 
cultural traditions that dictate that the woman enters into her husband's family 
upon marriage and, is in many ways, lost' to her parental family (GCE 2003). 

However, marriage does not always work against girls' education. For example, 
where a girl's family receives dowry, there are incentives to educate daughters. In 
Muslim countries such as Bangladesh, being educated can help to secure a 
husband from a higher social class. In the Punjab and Pakistan, however, the 
necessity to give dowry impedes education, because many families have to 
choose between saving money for their daughters' dowry and saving it to pay for 
their education. 

In some African countries, girls are withdrawn from school in order to 
participate in circumcision ceremonies in preparation for marriage. Many 
parents also withdraw their daughters from school because local and national 
authorities are failing to protect them from sexual abuse, creating a very real fear 
of their becoming pregnant or contracting HIV. A significant proportion of 
female drop-out in the higher grades of secondary school is due to pregnancy in 
many countries, especially in East and Southern Africa. 

School is too expensive 

The direct costs of sending all children to school are usually too high for poor 
parents. While primary-school tuition fees have now been abolished in many 
countries, nearly all developing countries still require parents to pay charges of 
various kinds; in many cases, these charges are far higher than the tuition fees. 
They include charges for books, stationery, exam fees, uniforms, contributions to 
'building funds', levies imposed by the school management committees, informal 
'tips' to teachers, and travel costs. 

In Tanzania, before the removal of school fees, it cost about half of the annual 
income of poor rural families to send one child to primary school for one year 
(Penrose 1998: 104;Watkins2000: 178). Secondary-school tuition fees alone cost 
the equivalent of three months' minimum wage (Tomasevski 2003). Parents in 
234 villages in rural India cited 'unaffordability' as the single most important 
factor keeping children out of school (PROBE 2000). 

Girls have too much to do at home 

'Needed at home' and/or 'need to earn money' are major reasons why poor girls 
drop out of school in most countries. 'Opportunity costs' refer to labour time lost 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

to the parent when the child goes to school. These opportunity costs are usually 
much higher for girls than for boys, since girls are expected to do more domestic 
work than boys. For example, poor girls in rural India are expected to clean the 
house, wash clothes and utensils, and collect water before school; and collect 
firewood, cook the evening meal, look after siblings, feed cattle, and fetch water 
after school. Ethiopian girls of primary age work for 1416 hours a day (Watkins 
2000: 191). A study in Egypt showed that boys do only 15 per cent of the chores 

In the case-study countries, there are very few Centres for Early Childhood 
Development to relieve older sisters of their child- care obligations. In the context 
of HIV/ AIDS in high-prevalence countries in Africa, the burden of work at home 
for girls is particularly acute, because they are increasingly required to stay at 
home to nurse sick relatives, look after siblings, and do domestic tasks normally 
done by adults. In addition to their domestic chores at home, girls are expected 
to do work around the school and in the fields, which leaves them very little time 
to study and complete homework. In Nepal, girls contribute at least 50 per cent 
more labour than boys. 

Government schools are too few and too far 

In Mali, the average distance to school exceeds 7 km in rural regions; in the 
capital region, the average distance is less than 1 km (Watkins 2000: 193-4). 
Ministry of Education planners do not always take girls' enrolment targets into 
consideration when determining how many schools should be built. The need to 
travel long distances to school is a particular barrier for girls, especially (but not 
only) in countries where a cultural premium is placed on female seclusion. For 
reasons of safety and security, most parents are reluctant to let their daughters 
walk long distances to school. In Egypt, another study found that girls' enrolment 
dropped off sharply when schools were located more than 1.5 km away, while in 
Pakistan the threshold was 1 km (Rugh 2000: 31). 

In parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the compelling shortage of 
secondary-school places has fuelled the expansion of private schools. In many 
countries, particularly in South Asia, the burgeoning private sector has attracted 
mainly male students. In some countries (including India and Nepal), the 
expansion of private secondary schools has resulted in expanded enrolments of 
girls in government secondary schools. Although the private sector is relieving 
governments of the burden of providing secondary-education facilities, there is 
clearly a danger that the rapid expansion of private education is creating a two- 
tiered system which entrenches inequalities based on social class, caste, and 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Schools fail to protect the basic rights and dignity of girls 

Schools in most countries are not girl-friendly, and girls often suffer sexual 
harassment, bullying, and other forms of intimidation, sometimes even rape. 
These abuses often meet with silence and inaction on the part of local and 
national authorities. 

Failure to provide adequate physical facilities, such as toilets and running water, 
is an inconvenience for boys, but a disaster for girls. During menstruation, most 
girls will not attend school if there are no toilet facilities. Also, sexual harassment 
may occur unless separate toilets for girls and boys are provided. If toilets are 
provided, they are often poorly serviced and maintained. 

Teachers frequently pay more attention in class to boys than girls. A study in 
Nigeria showed that while positive interactions between teacher and student 
were almost equally divided between boys and girls in the early years of 
schooling, by the sixth grade teachers were significantly more positive towards 
boys than towards girls, spending more time on the former (Rugh 2000: 57). This 
tends to perpetuate the already low self-esteem of many young girls. 

In some countries, including large parts of India, gender segregation persists in 
the classroom. Teachers routinely use biased language which reinforces 
distinctions of class, caste, and gender. Children from poor and lower-caste 
backgrounds are particularly discriminated against and are sometimes subject to 
beatings and forms of verbal abuse (Subrahmaniam 2003; Ramachandran 2003). 
They are not helped by the fact that most teachers in India belong to upper castes. 

Schools fail to motivate or encourage girls 

It is widely believed that the limited number of female teachers in both primary 
and secondary schools is a major constraint on girls' education. The presence of 
female teachers tends to make schools more girl-friendly and provide role 
models for girls. 

Most countries in our study had long-established quotas for the recruitment of 
women teachers, yet none had managed to fill these quotas, primarily because 
governments have failed to develop effective incentives to encourage female 
teachers to work in rural areas. Teacher deployment in some countries is so 
blatantly corrupt that it is impossible for rational and objective staffing practices 
to be adopted. Access for young women to teacher-training colleges is still 
severely limited. 

Across the developing world, typically less than one-quarter of primary-school 
teachers are women. In rural and remote areas, there are usually even fewer 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

female teachers. In Nepal, nearly 66 per cent of primary-school teachers in 
Kathmandu are women, but only 15 per cent in the Far West Region. The number 
of female teachers in the upper primary grades is also much lower than that of 
males. This reflects the failure of girls to progress through secondary school to 
obtain teaching qualifications. 

Considerable progress has been made in designing more gender-sensitive 
curricula. However, the use of textbooks with stereotypical images of women and 
men is still common in many countries. Women are consistently depicted solely as 
mothers and housewives, while men are portrayed in adventurous and decisive 
roles such as property owners. Seven out of our nine case-study countries now 
have gender- sensitive curricula at primary level. But the challenge is not merely to 
transform the content of the curriculum, but also to improve teacher training so 
that teachers are adequately equipped to deliver it. 

NGOs have powerfully demonstrated and advocated the need for education that 
enhances children's capacity and self-confidence to address real-life challenges. 
For girls, knowledge and self-confidence in sexual and reproductive-health 
matters can be transformative; in the context of the AIDS epidemic, it has 
become an issue of life or death. But promoting awareness of students' rights as 
citizens and as women is equally important. Most fundamentally, as captured by 
the South Asian concept of 'joyful learning', education perhaps does most to 
empower girls when it affords children the confidence to express themselves as 

The long list of constraints that result in sizeable gender gaps in many countries 
looks formidable. However, a number of countries, including Bangladesh and 
Malawi, have made remarkable progress during the past decade or so towards 
increasing girls' enrolments in both primary and secondary school and 
dramatically reducing, and indeed eliminating altogether, the gender gap in 
enrolments and achievements. The next section explores how they have done so. 

What has been done to close the gender gap? 

Our research suggests that the countries that have made the greatest progress in 
eliminating gender inequalities have four main things in common. 

First and most important, there has been strong political commitment to 
supporting women in both development and education. 

Related to this, policy development has been informed and influenced by 
the demands of strong women's networks, and other key stakeholders such 
as teachers and parents. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Third, alongside overarching efforts to provide free and universal access for 
all groups, comprehensive strategies have been implemented which 
specifically tackle the key causes of gender inequality in education. Each 
strategy comprises a package of inter- related measures, rather than isolated 
and ad hoc interventions. 

And finally, both governments and donors have been willing to allocate the 
resources necessary to sustain implementation. 

Taking women and education seriously 

Eliminating gender inequality in education will not work unless it is part of a 
much broader nationwide mobilisation with ambitious goals to ensure that 
women fully and equally participate in all aspects of economic, social, and 
political development. This creates an enabling environment for Ministries of 
Education and education NGOs to work together to achieve gender equality in 
education. Effective 'gender and development' strategies include active labour- 
market policies that promote skills and tackle pervasive discriminatory practices 
in the workplace; reform of patriarchal inheritance laws; tackling violence 
against women; greater political involvement of women at both national and 
local levels; and raising the legal age of marriage. Supporting the economic 
empowerment of women through small-enterprise and micro-enterprise 
development, especially through the provision of credit, is also critically 
important. In other words, a 'package deal' is required: one which covers all 
aspects of gender inequality and not merely the denial of educational 

Signing up to international agreements such as those reached in Jomtien and 
Dakar is of course important, but it is the manner in which governments, 
working with civil society, translate these well-intentioned goals into action that 
is most critical. Until gender equity becomes a visible and popular cause, 
governments and elites are likely to continue neglecting it. 

Indigenous struggles for democratisation have been very important in 
empowering women and ensuring that gender is increasingly mainstreamed in 
all key areas of policy. Veteran Nepali activist Shahana Pradhan describes the 
deep links between the democracy movement and the girls' education movement 
in Nepal: 

/ came into politics, not because I was interested in politics, but as a young girl I 
wanted to be educated and attend school along with my brothers. . . We joined the 
first political rally against the Ranas [the monarchs]. We were immediately 
arrested, and upon inquiry our strong and assertive demand was a school for girls 
...By 1947, the Nepal Mahila Singh [Nepal Women s Association] had been 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

formed by a very large number of women, with the major objective of bringing 
about social and political changes through education. Therefore, 'Education for 
Women was its initial objective. By 1949, there was an [increasing] sense of 
responsibility among parents about sending girls to school. There was a 
mushroom growth of schools after democracy was established in 1951. 
(Belbasel998:187) 1 

Mainstreaming gender within EFA strategies 

To achieve gender parity, education-sector plans must respond to poor people's 
needs, and they must include a comprehensive attack on all forms of educational 
inequality recognising that girls typically face more than one source of 
disadvantage (gender, class, caste, ethnicity, physical disability, etc.). It is also 
important to develop locally appropriate strategies to overcome the multiple 
economic, cultural, and social barriers that keep girls out of schools (see Box 2). 

In practice, this has happened in relatively few countries. Most EFA programmes 
have focused on easing general constraints on access, but without planning specific 
steps to ensure that girls benefit equally from the new opportunities created (falsely 
assuming that gender inequalities would be automatically redressed by the 
expansion of free primary education). Or they have focused on separate girls' 
programmes without doing anything to address the overwhelming constraints on 
access - such as high costs and shortages of schools and teachers - that place all 
disadvantaged groups, especially poor, rural girls, at a permanent disadvantage. 
Another problem is that politicians have found it easy to dismiss 'gender' as a 
foreign concept, partly because women's groups, NGOs, and other civil-society 
members who could act as champions for girls' education have been excluded from 
policy dialogue between governments and donors. In Pakistan and Nigeria, it has 
been a long struggle to get politicians and policy makers to mainstream gender in 
major donor-supported education projects. A key factor behind recent progress 
has been the co-option of gender advocates from the NGO sector into influential 
policy-making positions in government, bringing with them not only their own 
commitment but also their capacity to reach out to, and mobilise, wider civil- 
society networks. Clearly there is no universal solution, because these constraints 
vary so much from one country to another. However, a balanced package 
addressing all aspects of gender inequalities in education is essential. 

Priority measures for integrated strategies 

Governments and NGOs have adopted a range of policies, programmes, and 
projects in order to improve girls' education. Comparative analysis suggests that 
within an integrated strategy, the following interventions have been especially 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Box 2: Getting girls into school the BRAC way 

The approach of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) to non-formal 
primary education has been instrumental in proving that gender and poverty are not 
necessarily impediments to education. An innovative approach to curriculum design and 
school management encourages attendance by poor children, and by poor girls in 
particular, who are typically excluded by the formal system. Crucially, BRAC has 
succeeded in channelling poor children into the mainstream, by qualifying them to enter 
the formal system on graduation. The success of the approach lies in the way in which it 
has evolved to respond to poor people's needs, while tackling sensitive problems of 
gender relations with locally appropriate strategies. Not only are BRAC schools thus 
attractive to children and parents, they are also accessible in terms of the direct costs and 
opportunity costs to parents of sending their children to school. 

BRAC's success in widening educational access for poor students, and poor girls in 
particular, can be attributed to the responsiveness and flexibility of the approach. From the 
outset, the programme has evolved to be relevant to the needs and interests of the 
community. Parents must request a school for their village and support the programme by 
finding a location for it, setting school hours, and attending monthly parent-teacher 
meetings. A committee of three parents, a local leader, and a teacher has overall 
responsibility for school management. Teachers are usually women with secondary-school 
education, recruited from the local community. They receive initial and refresher training, in 
short but intensive sessions. Local community involvement ensures that parents remain 
committed to and involved with the school, and that the school remains responsive to the 
learning needs of its pupils. The curriculum is practical, including issues relating to 
everyday life, and the fact that school hours are set to allow for other activities helps to 
minimise the opportunity costs of sending children to school. Unlike in the formal sector, 
there are no hidden costs for poor families who send their children to BRAC schools. 

(Source: Hossain in Subrahmanian 2002) 

effective: free primary education, increased incentives, more accessible schools, 
tackling sexual harassment and discrimination against pregnant pupils, 
developing a network of community schools, introducing bridging programmes 
to mainstream non-formal education, and promoting early childhood education 
and care. 

Free primary education for all 

The whole or partial abolition of primary-school fees has been a central element 
of recent strategies for Universal Primary Education (UPE) in many countries, 
including Kenya, Tanzania, The Gambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Bangladesh, 
Cambodia, India, and Nepal. Removing these fees has signalled government 
commitment to education as a right, and has helped to release enormous pent-up 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

demand for education, causing massive increases in both girls' and boys' 
enrolments. In Malawi, for example, the number of primary school pupils soared 
by 50 per cent, from 1.9 million to 3 million, in just one year. In Bangladesh, total 
enrolment in primary and basic education rose from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 
18 million in 2001. 

The very success of free primary education has in turn created new financial and 
administrative challenges. Ministries face urgent needs to train and employ more 
teachers and to supply more classrooms and learning materials at primary level, in 
order to reduce class sizes to reasonable levels: in government primary schools in 
Bangladesh, class numbers often reach 200. They must simultaneously respond to 
unprecedented demand for secondary-school places, which remain in severely 
short supply in most African and South Asian countries. If this problem is not 
quickly addressed, there is a real risk of recreating inequalities at the next stage of 
education, and perhaps ultimately undermining demand for primary education. 

The 'hidden costs' of sending children to school remain high in most countries. 
Efforts to regulate or abolish 'unofficial' charges levied by school committees and 
head teachers have achieved mixed results. In Tanzania, a new block grant to 
schools was introduced in 2002 to reduce the risk of schools imposing additional 
charges to compensate for lost income from official fees. However, ensuring that 
these grants actually reach the schools is difficult. 

All of these challenges reinforce the need for donors to deliver a better- 
coordinated and more generous response when governments take the 
fundamental step of abolishing fees. Otherwise, it is very difficult to see how the 
education MDGs can be attained. 

Parental incentives to educate girls 

Incentive schemes have been introduced in many countries to reduce the overall 
costs of primary and secondary schooling for girls. Incentives are both in cash 
and in kind. 

Primary-school stipends: Small stipends have been offered to needy girls in 
many countries to support their primary schooling. In Nepal, for example, nearly 
40,000 poor girls have received small scholarships (Rupees 250 per annum) in 
order to support their primary schooling. The impact of this programme has 
been significant in terms of increasing girls' intake and retention, and reducing 
their drop-out rates. 

Improved nutrition: Feeding programmes are also increasingly common. One 
of the main problems facing the drought-stricken countries of sub-Saharan 
Africa has been the inability of children to attend school on account of hunger. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Even if they do attend, they have limited concentration. In Malawi, the World 
Food Programme introduced a pilot feeding programme for primary-school 
children in 2000. Initially, only the 'most needy' children were targeted, but in 
response to the overwhelming levels of poverty, it was decided to provide free 
meals for all children. This illustrates the difficulty of targeting by 'need' or 
'gender' in a situation of general deprivation. In-school feeding programmes (at 
pre-school and primary schools) in Central and Southern Africa have also 
become an important means of supporting children affected by HIV/ AIDS. The 
provision of free school meals has a major impact on school attendance. Under 
the Food for Education programme for primary-school children from poor 
families in Bangladesh, parents have to guarantee 75 per cent attendance of their 
supported children and a minimum of 40 per cent marks in the end-of-year 
examinations, in return for food. In mid-2002, this scheme was converted into a 
cash grant. Both boys and girls benefit. The impact of the programme on 
schooling attendance has been very positive. 

Secondary-school scholarships: A major challenge facing countries that have 
achieved UPE is to respond to the demand created by the increased numbers of 
those who do manage to complete primary school. In most countries, only 
children from better-off families are able to afford secondary school and, without 
financial incentives for poorer children, this will continue to be the case. 
Although girls' enrolments at primary level have improved, they are often less 
likely than boys to complete primary school and move on to secondary school. 
The same applies to the transition from secondary to tertiary education. 

Ensuring girls' safety and dignity at school 

While societal and family issues are important) the presence of a vibrant and 
happy school in the neighbourhood can dramatically change the way 
communities view education for their children. 
(GCE 2003) 

The low quality of basic education has been recognised as a fundamental 
constraint on attempts to expand girls' education in virtually every country. From 
a gender-equality perspective, quality means creating a functioning and positive 
school environment in which girls can learn. We have reviewed a number of 
interventions that have attempted, with very limited success, to make schools 'girl- 
friendly', reduce female drop-out, and improve girls' learning attainment. Given 
the immensity of the task and the difficulty of making an impact, we recommend 
that governments start with the basics: by eliminating the sexual intimidation and 
harassment of girl pupils, and providing basic facilities for their safety and dignity. 
Unless and until these prerequisites are in place, more ambitious targets for 
improving quality are unlikely to be achieved. Governments that are serious about 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

getting girls into school must prioritise the provision of toilets and running water 
above other infrastructural improvements. 

Dealing with sexual harassment and intimidation of girl pupils is an uphill 
struggle in most countries, because it means challenging deeply entrenched male 
attitudes towards female sexuality; but, by the same token, it is very difficult to see 
how schools can ever become 'girl-friendly' as long as such attitudes and practices 
are allowed to persist. 

Box 3: Challenging sexual harassment 

A primary school in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, has more than 1000 pupils. 
Harassment of female students, child labour, abduction, and rape are some of the harmful 
practices in the school. Solutions to these problems have been proposed by the school's 
Girls' Club. Teachers, NGOs, community members, students, and the police force are also 
involved in challenging harassment. Teachers give lectures on some of the harmful 
practices, both to other staff members and to the students. 

Female teachers provide sex education and discuss the problems that arise for girls and 
women. In one incident, a girl in Grade 3 had stopped attending school. The fact was 
reported to the Girls' Club. The members followed it up and found that the girl had been 
raped at the school by an 18-year-old student in Grade 4. The girl was brought back to 
school, and the boy was taken into police custody the same day. The girl's father was 
contacted and brought in for discussions with the Director. 

In another incident, a girl was forced to marry against her will. The Girls' Club intervened 
and succeeded in getting a divorce for her. The girl was able to resume her studies. 
Another girl was forced to quit school because of repeated harassment. After a year's 
absence, she was approached by teachers and club members, who persuaded her to 
continue her lessons. Girls are encouraged to participate in all extra-curricular activities, 
including sports. The Family Planning Club provides sex education, especially for girls who 
are older but are still in lower grades. 

(Source: GCE 2003) 

In many countries, girls who get pregnant, often as a result of unwanted 
encounters with teachers or male pupils, are penalised by being forced to drop 
out of school (while the baby's father seldom faces any kind of sanction). 
Pregnant girls are reportedly expelled from school in Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, 
Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia, while the rules have been 
changed in Bolivia, Botswana, Chile, Cote d'lvoire, Guinea, Kenya, and Malawi 
(Tomasevski 2003: 165). However, even where laws and regulations have been 
enacted to guarantee young mothers the right to continue their education, it is 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

equally important that school management provides a sympathetic and 
constructive environment in which girls can return after giving birth. Botswana 
has found it necessary to deal with many obstacles in order to encourage girls to 
return, including relaxing age limits and procedures for re-admission (FAWE 
2000, quoted in Tomasevski 2003). 

Community schools 

The emergence of various kinds of community school has had a major impact on 
efforts to redress gender inequalities in education in a growing number of 
countries. Community schools have been developed in different shapes and 
forms, mainly in South Asia and Africa over the past two decades. They differ 
from government schools in that they are mainly funded by contributions and 
are managed by the local community. They also tend to be located in the more 
remote areas, where populations have had little contact with 'modern' schooling 
(Hyde 2003). 

The success of the BRAG model (see Box 2) has inspired the development of 
similar community schools in a growing number of countries elsewhere in Asia, 
and also in Africa. For example, UNICEF has supported the development of 
community schools in Uganda, Guinea, Zambia, and Egypt. The government 
provides classrooms and pays the salaries of teachers, while UNICEF trains the 
facilitators. Schooling is free of charge, and children are not required to wear 
uniforms. The project has had high levels of school attendance and low rates of 
drop-out, while student performance is generally better than in State primary 
schools. Evaluations show that, despite often very different country contexts, 
learning outcomes of community schools are frequently better, and certainly no 
worse, than in government schools. Furthermore, relationships between 
teachers, students, and communities appear to be good, and these schools 
provide opportunities for basic education for children who might otherwise 
have had none at all. 

However, a number of common problems have also been identified: community 
schools tend to be introduced in poor areas with low access to schooling, lacking 
transport and communication; the community is compelled to provide 
significant (and often onerous) support for the construction and management of 
the schools and payment of the teachers. The teachers/instructors are often less 
qualified, and/or paid less, than teachers in government schools. Sponsors of 
community schools have attempted to use age, and geography, as criteria to 
restrict access to the schools (in order to maintain small class sizes), whereas the 
communities often want a more inclusive approach. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 


In India, as in several francophone African countries, the present expansion of 
government schools is being made possible by the employment of 'para- 
teachers', who come from the local communities, are paid less, enjoy fewer 
benefits or career-development opportunities, and have less training and lower 
qualifications than professional teachers in State schools. This presents a 
dilemma for government policy, because the use of such teachers does enable 
schools to function, but at the risk of developing a 'second tier' of education. 
Systematic evaluation is needed to ascertain the impact of these schemes on 
quality and equity. 

Bridging (accelerated) programmes 

The main aim of bridging, or accelerated, programmes has been to get children 
back into school. They share some of the characteristics of community schools, 
but tend to be more remedial in their approach. 

Box 4: Mahila Shikshan Vihar, Jalore 

Situated in the Jodhpur District of Rajasthan, the Mahila Shikshan Vihar (MSV), Jalore, is 
an institution with a difference. Young women are motivated to take part in a residential, 
intensive education programme. Most have either dropped out of school or have never 
attended one. Women are divided into eight groups, consisting of 9-12 students, 
according to their educational level and pace of learning. Teachers work with the groups, 
teaching, testing, and preparing them to take the Grade V exam. There is one teacher for 
every group of 1 0-1 2 women, moving along at the pace of the learners. These young 
women learn at such a fast pace that it leaves the teachers exhausted. They seem to have 
boundless energy for games, music, theatre, cycling, and even driving the solitary auto- 
rickshaw parked on the campus. They manage their own cooking, washing, and cleaning, 
and they maintain the school premises, including the kitchen and the garden. In the 
evenings and late at night, these bright young women can be seen huddled together, 
studying, teaching, and learning. Twenty-four hours seem too short. It almost seems as if 
they were trying to catch up on every minute of their lost childhood - and enjoying every bit 
of it. The Jalore MSV can leave a visitor feeling dizzy. 

(Source: GCE 2003) 

The idea of attaching bridging courses to a government school would seem 
sensible and likely to reinforce the importance of the mainstream. However, such 
schemes should not be accepted as permanent solutions. The aim should be to 
get the education system functioning properly, so that the need for such 
programmes is gradually reduced and eventually eliminated. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Promoting early childhood education and care 

Pre-school children benefit greatly from attending Early Childhood 
Development and Care (ECDC) centres. The benefits include improved social- 
isation and improved learning. Such facilities also free up older girls to attend 
class, instead of looking after younger siblings. Community-based pre-schools 
have been established on a pilot basis in Cambodia, in order to promote girls' 
enrolment in Grade 1, with excellent results. However, cost considerations have 
prevented most countries from significantly expanding this type of educational 
provision. A study of early-learning childhood-development programmes in 
Kenya concluded that 'in addition to increasing the future productivity of 
children, low cost ECDC programmes would be likely to produce the twin effects 
of releasing the mothers' time for market work and allowing older girl siblings to 
participate in school. ECDC programmes may be seen as optimal investments 
that affect both the current and future welfare of households with small children' 

Involving communities 

A lot has been done to raise community awareness of the importance of 
educating girls. Participatory methods are now commonplace and used by 
NGOs and governments alike to promote grassroots participation in education. 
Lok Jumbish (meaning People's Movement) was jointly established by an NGO 
and the government of Rajasthan in northern India in the early 1990s to respond 
to very low enrolment of girls, high drop-out rates, teacher absenteeism, and lack 
of schools close to home. A highly effective and innovative approach has evolved 
on the basis of widespread participation and experimentation. Huge strides have 
been made in increasing enrolments and encouraging more girls to stay on at 
school. UNICEF also has two major awareness-raising programmes. The Meena 
Initiative in Bangladesh uses a multimedia approach to raise the profile of girls, 
as well as stressing the importance of education. The Sara initiative in East, 
Central, and Southern Africa was modelled on 'Meena'. Materials produced are 
used in both formal and non-formal settings. Both programmes have been 
supported by bilateral donors. However, although Meena is considered to be a 
success in the South Asian context, adapting the same set of materials from one 
cultural environment to another has been problematic. 

Involving and nurturing gender advocates 

In Malawi, local women's groups played an important role in lobbying for special 
attention to be given to female education (Swainson 1998: 35). In particular, the 
organised political power of the League of Malawi Women greatly enhanced the 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

influence of gender advocates within the Ministry of Education and Ministry of 
Community Services. In addition, the first woman Minister of Education, 
appointed in 1993, 'played a central role in steering through the pregnancy and 
school uniform reforms ... she was ideally placed as a gender advocate to 
introduce what were culturally-sensitive and controversial measures, such as 
those dealing with schoolgirl pregnancy' (Swainson 1998: 37). 

Similar conclusions can be derived from experience in Bangladesh. According to 
Jahan (1998: 33-4), the government's commitment to girls' education was 
galvanised in the mid-1990s by a substantially strengthened women's movement, 
which effectively 'articulated women's demand for equal access to, and control 
over, all social resources and services'. Their leverage was increased by the actions 
of international bodies, resulting in commitments to women's education and 
gender equity that were signed by the government. A recent assessment of three 
Sector Wide Approaches (SWAPs) to donor aid for education suggests that their 
success in promoting gender-equity goals could be greatly increased if donors 
made more active efforts to reach out to, consult, and support indigenous gender 
networks. Donors should 'work on the assumption that gender equality is an 
inseparable part of the sustainable development agenda, which already has the 
support of many key players in education in the partner country; [and] ensure 
that support to "champions of reform" extends to these "gender champions'" 
(Norton etal 2000: 15). 

Beyond rhetoric: making gender equality in education 
a reality 

Setting clear operational targets 

Clear, time-bound targets for the elimination of gender gaps in access and 
completion must be supported by the commitment of necessary resources and 
proper management systems. Gender targets should be incorporated into the 
performance targets, appraisal systems, and career incentives of every education 
worker, from government ministers down to classroom teachers. 

Bilateral and multilateral donors should also translate the education MDGs into 
clear outcome-targets for their own support for girls' education. While the trend 
towards comprehensive sector-development plans and budgetary support may 
make it difficult or impossible to identify how much aid has been committed to 
'girls' education' per se, donors could set specific targets for the numbers of out- 
of-school girls whom their aid programmes will have assisted to enter and 
complete school by 2010. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

The size of the challenge 

Gender-enrolment parity has already been largely achieved in Latin America, the 
Caribbean, East Asia, and the Pacific. South and West Asia still pose the greatest 
challenge, followed by the Middle East, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, the overall female net enrolment rate will have to almost 
double from its current level in order to meet the 2015 target. Among the group 
of French-speaking African countries where gender inequalities are particularly 
acute, female enrolments will have to increase by more than 200 per cent 
(assuming zero repetition), compared with around 120 per cent for males. In 
Southern Africa, on the other hand, female enrolments will have to increase by 
only six per cent to meet the 2015 target, mainly because of the impact of 
HIV/ AIDS on the school-age population. 

What must be done? 

Clearly, there is no single formula that can be applied to all countries. The need 
for diverse and creative national policy responses is underlined in Table 1, which 
shows the major recommendations made by the local researchers for eight case- 
study countries in the Fair Chance Report. 

Table 1 : Recommended initiatives to improve girls' access to education in 
eight countries 

Priority Gender Interventions 5~z^om SS z 

O. 42 . I*; ' w a* to 

i: i 

~ 1 

Q. 0) 

NFE/Bridging for Adolescent Girls 

Female Literacy 

Gender Sensitive Curriculum and Practice 

Integrate Life Skills into Curriculum 

Protection Against Sexual Harrassment at School 

Support for Children Affected by HIV/Aids and 
Pregnant School Girls 

Improve Separate Toilets at School for Girls and Boys 

Day Care Facilities 

Compulsory Education 

Mentoring for Girls 

Incentives (fee subsidies, cash or kind) for Pupils 

Participation in Community/School Management 

Improve and Expand Teacher Training for Women 

Incentives for Women Teachers 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

However, there are also certain basic concerns that must be addressed in nearly 
all countries. In order to achieve the 2005 and 2015 Millennium Development 
Goals for education, governments and donors must work together as follows. 

End the education queue 

In Ethiopia, almost two-thirds of rural girls have never been to school. Gender 
gaps are often greatest in countries where overall net enrolments are low. By 
failing to provide enough free school places to accommodate all of the boys and 
all of the girls, governments create an education queue in which the poorest and 
least privileged groups, including girls, are almost certain to come last (Filmer 
1999). The following steps are needed to eliminate this queue: 

Build enough schools and hire enough teachers to guarantee that all 
communities are served by a school within safe walking distance for girls. 

Remove school fees, which guarantee the continuing exclusion of poor rural 
girls (in Uganda, following the introduction of free primary education, the 
number of girls enrolled increased from 1.4 million in 1996, to 3 million in 

Expand 'bridging' schemes developed by NGOs to attract hard-to-reach 
children into the school system. 

To avoid recreating the queue at secondary level, governments must plan to 
rapidly extend free and universal access to secondary schools. Currently, 
only one in five girls in Africa and two in five girls in South and West Asia 
get the chance to go to secondary school. 

Offer extra help for poor families to keep girls in school 

Positive action must be taken so that girls - especially those who are poor, lower- 
caste, and living in remote rural areas - can benefit from educational expansion 
in equal measure - or greater measure - than boys. In particular, extra assistance, 
such as a free school meal, or stipends linked to regular attendance, helps poor 
families to keep daughters in school for longer. It is also an inexpensive and 
effective way to redistribute resources towards poor communities, since a 
relatively small up-front investment by governments enables poor girls to 
acquire a lifelong asset which helps them to escape the poverty trap. Stipends for 
secondary-school girls have been particularly effective: they not only increase 
secondary enrolments, but also create strong incentives for girls to enter and 
complete primary school. In Bangladesh, districts where secondary-school 
bursaries were introduced experienced a sharp decline in child marriages, as well 
as soaring girls' enrolments. Governments need to involve communities and 
civil-society groups in developing incentive packages that are appropriate to 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

local circumstances, and the costs of implementing such programmes in all 
districts need to be factored into donor and government plans. 

Launch a rescue plan for schools in poor communities 

The problem today is not that parents do not want to send their daughters to 
school. The tragedy is that they would like to send them, but the absence of a 
proper functioning school and the poor quality of education comes in the way of 
realising their aspirations. 
(India report) 

Many schools in poor, rural areas (and urban slums) lack even the basics needed 
to function. All schools need a trained, motivated teacher who turns up every day 
to teach, and enough books and desks for all the pupils. Construction of safe and 
private toilet facilities for girls should be mandatory. Strong sanctions against the 
sexual abuse and harassment of girl pupils must be enacted and enforced. 

A first priority should be improving the status, pay, and support of teachers, 
especially those who are posted to rural or 'difficult' areas. Long-established 
quotas for gender parity among rural teachers should be backed up with efforts 
to extend and improve teacher training facilities in the rural areas as well as the 
urban areas, with additional incentives and career-development opportunities 
for female teachers willing to take up posts in the rural areas. 

While learning outcomes are unacceptably low in many countries, it is essential 
that reforms are rooted in the local realities. Experience of the last 20 years shows 
that attempts to import learner-centred learning methodologies without taking 
local cultures into account have often been problematic. 

Encourage a range of education provision 

The scale and urgency of the action necessary to meet the targets of gender parity 
and gender equality make it essential that NGOs are strongly supported in 
playing a complementary role in developing sustainable education provision. 
Sadly, not every country has an NGO of the size and vision of BRAG in 
Bangladesh, but much more can be done to expand and mainstream the 
provision by NGOs of basic education, especially for hard-to-reach groups. 
These schools need to develop clear pathways into and links with the formal 
system, so that the non-formal sector does not become a ghetto for girls and poor 
students. Greater flexibility is needed, so that eventual transfer to State schools is 
facilitated and encouraged. Some of the new, wide-ranging education-sector 
development plans currently being implemented in many countries do not pay 
enough attention to this key role of NGOs, nor have NGOs been sufficiently 
involved in the design and management of these sector plans. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Engage with civil society 

Experience shows that a top-down approach to girls' education is not only 
ineffective, but it may create resistance and resentment that will ultimately be 
counter-productive a leading cause of 'implementation failure' in girls' 
education (Ramachandran 1998). Acting with urgency must not be confused 
with acting in haste, or used as an excuse for shutting out the participation of 
parents, teachers, and gender experts in designing reforms. 

The participation of communities, teachers, and women's groups in the policy- 
making process is crucial to developing appropriate, well-informed responses to 
local complexities, and generating the broad-based support needed to implement 
them successfully. 

Governments and donors must open the door to robust and regular exchange 
with civil-society groups, instead of the usual one-off 'consultations'; they must 
also provide timely access to information and support civil-society efforts to 
build advocacy skills. 

Break the glass ceiling 

Expanding primary-school opportunities for girls is obviously a first priority for 
the countries furthest off track for achieving the 2005 goal. But, given the very 
severe shortages of secondary-school places in most developing countries, a sole 
focus on attaining UPE may have the unintended effect of turning the primary- 
school leaving exam into a 'glass ceiling' that few girls are able to break through. 
To avoid creating a new education queue at secondary level, governments must 
plan for the rapid extension of free and universal access to secondary schools. 

Given the unemployment crisis in most countries, school leavers stand little 
chance of finding a job in the formal sector, unless they have performed well in 
their secondary-school leaving examinations. Moreover, many of the health and 
productivity benefits of educating girls are not fully unlocked until secondary 
education is attained. This illustrates the importance of balanced investment by 
donors and governments in increasing girls' access, completion, and 
achievement at secondary level. 

In a large majority of countries, gender inequalities are most severe at 
universities and other higher-education institutions. It is often forgotten that the 
gender-parity goal includes equity at tertiary level by 20 1 5. Expanding the output 
of female graduates from these institutions is essential in order to ensure that 
women can begin to occupy the full range of professional and managerial jobs, 
and in doing so, can break down dominant patriarchal views about gender and 
employment. Increasing the numbers of educated and qualified women can act 
as a powerful and positive influence on girls. 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Counter the impact of HIV/AIDS 

The AIDS epidemic has very serious implications for the attainment of gender 
equality in basic education, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The three main areas 
of impact are lower enrolment growth, increased teacher morbidity and 
mortality, and increased numbers of orphans and other children directly affected 
by the epidemic. Girls are likely to be particularly badly affected by the impact, 
because they will be expected to look after sick parents and other family members, 
and take over some of their household activities. Girl orphans are also thought to 
be more vulnerable than boys and are, therefore, very likely to drop out of school. 
Given that AIDS-related mortality is expected to be highest among young female 
adults, this has far-reaching implications for female teachers and any attempt to 
increase the number of female teaching staff. It is essential, therefore, that in high- 
prevalence countries, comprehensive strategies are developed by Ministries of 
Education with their partners to both prevent and mitigate the impact of the 
epidemic on students and teachers, particularly females. 

Invest more in girls 

Countries that have achieved success in girls' schooling are the ones that have 
dramatically increased their own spending on basic education until it constitutes 
as much as 20 per cent of their budget, or 3 per cent of their GDP. Yet even at this 
high level of government commitment, low-income countries will still need 
substantial help - in the order of US$ 5.6 bn per year in external resources - in 
order to achieve the education MDGs (UNESCO 2002). However, the total value 
of bilateral education aid in 2000 was 30 per cent lower in real terms than in 1999. 
The nine countries in this study alone face a financing gap of about US$ Ibn per 
year. Until the financing gap is closed, the gender gap cannot be closed. 

Aid not only needs to be increased: it needs to be intelligently targeted towards 
countries that face the greatest numerical and financial challenges in attaining 
the 2005 and 2015 goals, and whose governments show real and demonstrated 
commitment to redressing gender inequalities. Sustained, long-term financial 
aid is required to enable governments to commit external resources to meet 
salary costs and other recurrent expenditures. If the payment of teachers' salaries 
relies exclusively on domestic resources, this is likely to be a major constraint on 
the expansion of basic and secondary education. The impact of increased 
financing for education for all through the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) will be 
limited unless it includes funding for programmes to get girls into school. 

FTI financing estimates also need urgent revision, to take into account the cost of 
implementing measures which can help to achieve gender equity - including the 
removal of fees and charges, the introduction of nation-wide subsidy or incentive 
schemes for the poorest families, and positive steps to improve conditions for both 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

teachers and students. We know what needs to be done to provide all girls with their 
right to a basic education, and we know what it will cost. We also know what a high 
price there is to be paid for failure. We must now mobilise this ambition and all the 
available resources to implement and achieve what we know to be right. 

The Global Campaign for Education, founded in 1999, brings together major NGOs 
and teachers' unions in more than 150 countries around the world to promote 
education as a basic human right. The elected GCE Board takes policy decisions and 
oversees the development of campaign strategy, and a World Assembly meets every 
two years. It works to mobilise public pressure on governments and the international 
community to fulfil their promises to provide free, compulsory, public, basic 
education for all people; in particular for children, women, and all disadvantage^ 
deprived sections of society. 


1 However, the repression of civil society after 1 960 impeded the development of the women's 
movement, and for the next 30 years government action on girls' education was largely restricted 
to token measures. Since the reinstatement of multi-party democracy in 1990, growing freedom 
of association has made space for cross-party groups such as the Women's Security Pressure 
Group ( WSPG) to put pressure on the government for policy reforms in all areas relevant to 
women. Significant progress on girls' enrolment and retention is finally being made. 


Belbase, L.N. et al (1998) 'The Nepal experience' in V. Ramachandran (ed.) 1998 
FAWE (2000) 'Botswana re-entry policy ', FAWE News 8/3, July-September 

Filmer, D. (1999) The Structure of Social Disparities in Education: Gender and Wealth, Policy 

Research Report on Gender and Development, Working Paper No. 5, Washington DC: World 

GCE (2003) 'A Fair Chance: attaining gender equality in basic education by 2005', Global Campaign 
for Education 

Hossain, N., R. Subrahmanian, and N. Kabeer (2002) The Politics of Educational Expansion in 
Bangladesh, IDS Working Paper 167, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies 

Hyde, K.A.L. (2003) 'Expanding Educational Opportunities at Primary Level: Are Community 

Schools the Answer?', draft report (processed), Nairobi: sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation 

Jahan, R. 1998. 'The Bangladesh experience', in V. Ramachandran (ed.) 1998 

Loskin, M.M., E. Glinskaya, and M. Garcia (2000) 'The Effect of Early Childhood Development 
Programs on Women's Labour Force Participation and Older Children's Schooling in Kenya', 
World Bank Development Research Group, Washington, DC: World Bank 


Ensuring a fair chance for girls 

Norton A., M. Sibbons, D. Smawfield, and A. Gibbard (2000) 'Mainstreaming Gender through 
Sector Wide Approaches in Education - Synthesis Report', London: Centre for Aid and Public 
Expenditure, Overseas Development Institute and Cambridge Education Consultants 

Penrose, P. (1998) Cost Sharing in Education: Public finance, school and household perspectives, DFID 
Education Research Serial No. 27, London: Department for International Development 

PROBE Team (2000) Public Report on Basic Education in India, Delhi: Oxford University Press 

Ramachandran, V. (ed.) (1998) Bridging the Gap between Intention and Action: Girls' and women's 
education in South Asia, New Delhi: ASPBAE and UNESCO 

Ramachandran, V. (2002) 'Gender and Social Equity in Primary Education: Hierarchies of Access', 
New Delhi 

Rugh, A. (2000) Starting Now: Strategies for helping girls to complete primary, SAGE Technical 
Report No. 1, Washington DC: Academy for Educational Development 

Subrahmanian, R. (2002) Gender and Education: A review of issues for social policy, UNRISD Social 
Policy and Development Paper No. 9, Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social 

Subrahmanian, R., Y. Sayed, S. Balagopalan, and C.Soudien (2003) 'Education inclusion and 
exclusion: Indian and South African perspectives', IDS Bulletin 34/1, January 

Swainson, N., S. Bendera, R. Gordon, and E.C.Kadzamira (1998) Promoting Girls' Education in 
Africa: The design and implementation of policy interventions, Education Research Serial No. 25, 
London: Department for International Development 

Tomasevski, K. (2003) Education Denied: Costs and Remedies, London: Zed 

UNESCO (2002) EFA Global Monitoring Report: Education for All - Is the world on track? Paris: 

Watkins, K. (2000) The Oxfam Education Report, Oxford: Oxfam GB 


3 Measuring gender equality in education 1 

Elaine Unterhalter, Chloe Challender, and Rajee Rajagopalan 

Developing an understanding of how to improve gender equality in education is 
not a simple matter. One of the many challenges that it poses is the nature of the 
information base. Qualitative work has provided insights into how social 
relations inside and outside schools shape gender inequalities and can contribute 
to change; but generally this work is based on small-scale, in-depth research. 
Qualitative work can deepen knowledge about the nature of gender inequalities, 
but it cannot provide an overview of their extent, or an indication of where 
additional resources to address their consequences would best be deployed. For 
this purpose, quantitative work is needed - but there are major problems with 
the methods by which gender inequality in education is currently measured. This 
chapter critically reviews the existing measures of gender equality in education 
used by international agencies and governments. It goes on to propose 
alternative forms of measurement which seem to us better able to capture the 
aspirations of Education For All and the understanding that gender equality 
requires forms of counting that themselves go beyond mere statistics about 

Current measures of gender equality in education 

The mobilisation of resources for Education For All (EFA) after the Jomtien 
conference in 1990, and the follow-up meeting at Dakar in 2000, resulted in more 
punctilious collection of gender- disaggregated data on primary gross enrolment 
ratios (GER) and net enrolment ratios (NER). GER is the number of children 
enrolled in school, expressed as a proportion of the children of a specific age cohort 
(say 511) who should be enrolled in school. GER can sometimes be more than 100 
per cent if there are large numbers of under-age and over-age pupils in school. NER 
is the number of children in the appropriate age group enrolled in school, 
expressed as a proportion of the official age group required to be in school. GER 
and NER, even when disaggregated by sex, only give us a picture of the number of 
children on the school register. They can tell us nothing about whether children 
attend regularly, once registered; whether they complete grades successfully; or 
whether passing a grade means that children have acquired knowledge that they 


Measuring gender equality in education 

can use outside the school context. In addition, because in many countries 
children's births are not registered, NER is often based on estimations. 

Acronyms used in this chapter 

EDI Education Development Index, used in GMR 

EFA Education For All 

EMIS Education Management Information System 

GDI Gender Development Index, used by UNDP 

GEEI Gender Equality in Education Index 

GEI Gender-related EFA index, used in GMR 

GER Gross Enrolment Ratio 

GMR Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO) 

HDI Human Development Index 

MDG Millennium Development Goal 

NER Net Enrolment Ratio 

Generally GER and NER data are based on the Education Management 
Information System (EMIS) of education ministries, and are passed to the 
UNESCO Institute for Statistics for the compilation of international datasets. 
EMIS is only as good as the relations of trust, truthfulness, and accuracy that 
underpin the system. In some contexts local officials do not know the reasons 
why they collect data for EMIS. They may have difficulties in reaching areas that 
are socially or geographically distant to collect information; they may believe 
that underestimating or overestimating children on the school register may 
bring additional facilities to a locality. Carr Hill et al (1999) emphasise the 
fragility of the data on which many national and international conclusions are 
based. When participatory activities are held in villages to identify children who 
are not at school, more robust data are assembled. However, there are difficulties 
in translating local mobilising actions into official data on GER and NER, 
although in some countries this form of micro-planning is used by governments 
as well as NGOs. 

Throughout the 1990s, GER and NER in many countries showed a gap between 
girls' and boys' levels of enrolment. This gender gap came to be seen as a major 
source of concern, demonstrating that in many countries fewer girls than boys 
were enrolled in primary and secondary schools (although it should be noted 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

that there can be gender parity - equal numbers of boys and girls in school - 
when there is low GER or NER). So great was the concern with reaching gender 
parity that this became the chief indicator for the Millennium Development 
Goal 3 on the empowerment of women (Millennium Commission 2000). 

Recent developments in measuring gender equality in 

The gender-related EFA index (GEI), developed by UNESCO for use in its Global 
Monitoring Reports (GMR), is an attempt to indicate the extent to which boys 
and girls are equally present at different levels in the education system (primary, 
secondary, and adult education). However, a country can have a GEI of 1, 
indicating complete equality between boys and girls, but still have low rates of 
access, retention, and achievement for girls and boys. For example, in 2003 
Myanmar had a GEI of 0.949, with only 84 per cent primary NER; and Kuwait had 
a GEI of 0.966 with a primary NER of 83 per cent (UNESCO 2003: 288-9). Gender 
parity on its own cannot tell us much about gender equality in relation to 
accessing education, progressing through school, and living in a gender-equitable 
society after school. 

From the late 1990s, gender-disaggregated data have become available on 
progression through school (that is, the completion of primary and secondary 
school), with data often available by district. These data give richer insight than 
mere enrolment figures can provide on whether or not an education system is 
delivering gender equity in progression. Generally the statistics show that with the 
exception of a very few countries - for example, Angola, Benin, Ethiopia, Guinea, 
and Mozambique - once girls gain access to school, their rate of repetition is less 
than or the same as that of boys, and so girls in school do as well as boys (UNESCO 
2003: 336-43). However, an assessment of research evidence on gender and 
learning achievement in developing countries found considerable variation 
between countries. In some countries, girls achieved as well as boys, while in 
others their learning achievement was at a markedly lower level (UNESCO 

In GMR, 'gender' is viewed as merely the numbers of boys and girls entering and 
progressing through a school system. These forms of measurement give no 
indication of gendered power relations in schooling, which have a marked 
impact on progression and achievement. This approach to measuring gender 
equality does not provide information on the ways in which gender equality or 
inequality link with other dimensions of human flourishing, for example health, 
access to decision making, the labour market, or income. In fact, these figures can 
give an impression quite at odds with the literature based on qualitative research 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Box 1 : Case study - Bangladesh 

In Bangladesh, which saw a rapid increase in the numbers of girls in school throughout 
the 1990s, the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) established Education Watch 
in 1999. This initiative, run by civil-society organisations, monitors progress in the quality 
and availability of primary education. 

Data on enrolment were collected household by household from 312 villages in 64 
districts. In total, 45,548 households were visited during the survey. In addition, school 
records were scrutinised for information on completion and attendance (885 schools 
were assessed). The quality of the educational experience was measured by carrying 
out individual interviews with more than 3,350 children (1 1-12 years old) through the 
Assessment of Basic Competencies Test, independent of the set curriculum. The test 
assessed the 53 competencies that the Bangladesh government had specified as central 
to the curriculum. Those children achieving a minimum level of competency in the four 
separate areas of reading, writing, arithmetic, and life skills/knowledge were classified as 
having received a 'basic education'. Only 29.6 per cent of pupils who had completed 
primary school attained all the competencies tested. This figure contrasts sharply with 
Bangladesh's high enrolment figures. Bangladesh has a gross enrolment ratio of 100.2 
per cent - yet CAMPE's findings expose the fact that educational access does not 
necessarily ensure high quality. This lack of educational quality works to the 
disadvantage of girls. Boys performed better than girls in CAMPE's assessments of 
learning achievements. Even in non-formal schools, considered to be relatively gender- 
sensitive, girls' results were lower than boys'. 

(Source: CAMPE 1999) 

in a country. In South Africa, for example, quantitative data show high levels 
of gender equality in access and progression, but qualitative data highlight 
danger at school from sexual harassment and violence, girls' anxiety about their 
futures, and considerable discrimination against many women teachers 

The UNESCO GMR has tried to develop a definition of quality in schools, 
linking it analytically with equality. Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of 
UNESCO, in his Foreword to the 2005 GMR, commented that 'Quality must pass 
the test of equity: an education system characterized by discrimination against 
any particular group is not fulfilling its mission' (UNESCO 2004). However, the 
2004 GMR itself pays little attention to gender dimensions of quality and does 
not suggest what the 'test of equity' might be. The GMR focuses instead on four 
proxy measures for quality, only one of which has data with a gender dimension. 
The measures used are pupil/teacher ratios, teachers' qualifications, expenditure 
on education, and learning achievements. Only this last has been measured with 
respect to girls and boys. The failure of the GMR to link quality substantively 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Box 2: Case study - Jordan 

The limitations of quantitative measures of gender parity are exemplified by the case of 
Jordan. Jordan has achieved gender parity at all levels of education - and indeed has a 
ratio of women to men students of 1 .06 at tertiary level - yet women struggle to become 
economically or politically empowered in adulthood. Women hold only 8 per cent of 
parliamentary seats. Women's estimated annual earned income is very low: $1896, 
compared with men's annual earned income of $61 18 (UNDP 2004).The ILO estimates 
that women make up less than one quarter of the labour force in Jordan (ILO 
2003-2004). Indicators of women's income and workforce participation in Jordan are 
among the lowest in the world, despite the fact that their access to education equals that 
of their male contemporaries. This highlights the limited scope of the gender-parity 
indicators. The complex reasons behind women's lack of empowerment in Jordan and 
many other Arab States include patriarchal family structures, restrictive social and 
gender relations within society, and actual State policies (Khoury and Moghadam 1995). 
So while on paper girls and boys in Jordan appear to have equal opportunities, in 
practice it is clear that social, cultural, and economic norms limit the opportunities 
available to adult women. 

with equity is a problem of both measurement and analysis. The assumption of 
the report is that girls and boys enter schools which are unmarked by gender with 
regard to quality. The gender-neutral ways in which quality has been assessed 
offer no opportunity to understand the similar or different achievements of 

In an attempt to bring together information on access, quality, and the gender 
gap, UNESCO developed the Education Development Index (EDI) from 2003. 
The EDI constituents and related indicators are as follows: 

universal primary education: net enrolment ratio; 

adult literacy: literacy rate of the group aged 1 5 and over; 

gender: gender- specific EFA index (GEI, the arithmetical mean of the 
Gender Parity Indices for the primary and secondary gross enrolment ratios 
and the adult literacy rate); 

progression: survival rate to grade 5. 

The problem with the EDI with regard to gender is threefold: 

Its main gender component, the GEI, is concerned with parity, which, as 
discussed above, gives insufficient insight into context. Men and women, or 
girls and boys, may have gender parity in literacy or access to schooling but 
have low levels of participation. 


Measuring gender equality in education 

The EDI does not take account of gender in children's survival in schooling. 
It primarily considers gender in relation to access and not achievement. 

The EDI weights each of its four components equally. Thus enrolments, and 
gender parity in enrolments, are weighted equally with achievements. 
However, research in many countries shows that enrolling children in 
school is only the first hurdle. Ensuring attendance and completion are 
much harder tasks, and this is particularly the case for girls, whose progress 
is constrained by many factors linked to safety, hygiene, nutrition, and 
family responsibilities ( Watkins 2000; Tomasevski 2003). Weighting access 
as equivalent to achievement underestimates the EFA challenge that 
confronts governments, but it is particularly serious because of its failure to 
assess gender- related aspects of school achievement adequately. 

Towards an alternative measure 

There are three major problems with the existing measures of gender equality 
and inequality in education. Gender parity and the gender gap are inadequate 
measures of gender equality, because they do not acknowledge context. Existing 
measures of quality obscure the gender question. And the EDI fails to take full 
account of the significance of gender inequality in achievement. These problems 
have led the Beyond Access project to develop a new measure which expresses 
more accurately the aspiration for gender equality in education. 

The approach has been developed as a contribution to the debate about the need 
for a publicly accountable criterion of justice in terms of gender equality in 
education. Thus the approach is offered partly in the hope that it will elicit 
useful critical discussion. It draws on work undertaken by Amartya Sen and 
Martha Nussbaum, who distilled a general approach to human flourishing 
based on capabilities and human rights (Sen 1999; Nussbaum 2000). These 
ideas have been operationalised in the UNDP's Human Development Reports, 
which have developed the Human Development Index and the Gender 
Development Index (GDI) (Fukuda Parr and Kumar 2003; UNDP 1995-2004). 
A number of writers explore capabilities in relation to aspects of education 
(Alkire 2002; Unterhalter 2003; Unterhalter and Brighouse 2003; Terzi 2004; 
Walker 2004; Unterhalter 2005b). 

A key idea when measuring capabilities (which might be termed valued doings 
and beings) is that they are multi-dimensional. Measuring capabilities entails 
measuring functionings - that is, what people achieve, for example completing 
five years at school - and measuring the freedoms or opportunities that people 
have to achieve them (Sen 1999: 74). Measuring gender equality in education is 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

not only about recording the gender gap in enrolments of girls and boys in 
school (gender parity), but about measuring some of the other cross-sectoral 
aspects of gender equality and equity in relation to health, wealth, and decision 
making which all have a bearing on gender equality in school. A second aspect 
of capabilities is that, while the concept has particular strengths with regard to 
other measures of equality - for example, people's expressed desires, or 
aggregated utility (the greatest good for the greatest number) - the more one 
needs to draw comparison at a cross-country level, the less fine-grained are the 
capabilities that can be measured, and the more one has to rely either on 
measures of resources (like access to school) or on other routinely collected data 
that can act as some kind of proxy for capabilities (Unterhalter and Brighouse 
2003; Unterhalter 2005a). 

There are many problems with developing a quantitative measure of gender 
equality in education. It represents the interrelationship between countries or 
regions as competitive - creating a culture of winners and losers - when in fact 
they are deeply interlinked and in need of each other's support. It sets up an 
arbitrary board of scorers, who usually have little experience of delivery, to judge 
performance. And it tends to extinguish the processes of working towards 
achievement. These are compelling reasons not to proceed down this path of 
analysis, relying either on scorecards or on quantitative measures of gender 
equality. However, alongside these arguments must be considered the confusion 
that results from not knowing which countries or districts are improving gender 
equality in education; which areas need resources, and why we deem this to be 
the case; and in what areas countries can learn from each other. These reasons, 
based on harnessing available resources to work together on developing a 
methodology for measurement of a problem of global significance, seem to 
mitigate to some degree the negative dimensions described above (Unterhalter 

However, it should be stressed that the utilisation of this or any other version of 
measurement of gender equality in education should not be a substitute for 
detailed quantitative and qualitative research. A key dimension that requires 
consideration in any form of measurement is an analysis of social and cultural 
relations and the opportunity for dialogue, debate, and the exploration of 
differences, particularly with regard to the public-private interface. Such work 
must be conducted rigorously to provide a corrective to the simplifications and 
crude assumptions of any approach based on scorecards or league tables. Only 
in-depth analysis will furnish the detailed knowledge of local contexts and 
actions necessary to take forward any of the very general directions that 
measurements of gender equality in education might point to. 


Measuring gender equality in education 

The Gender Equality in Education Index 

Bearing these issues in mind, we developed the Beyond Access Project scorecard 
for gender equality in education, which we have renamed the Gender Equality in 
Education Index (GEEI). The GEEI puts together data gathered by UNICEF on 
girls' attendance at school, by UNESCO on girls' achievement in primary school 
and access to secondary school, and by UNDP on the gender development index 
(GDI). The GDI is a measure that consists of the distribution of female to male 
life-expectancy in a country, literacy and enrolment in school, and estimated 
earned income. The three indicators (life- expectancy, education, and income) 
are equally weighted when compiling the index, although the education index 
gives two-thirds weight to the adult literacy index and one-third weight to the 
gross enrolment rate (UNDP 2003: 343-4). 

The Beyond Access GEEI has been developed to assess both access and retention 
in broader ways than hitherto. It includes not only the numbers of girls who 
attend and remain in primary school, but also an assessment of whether those 
girls are able to translate that attendance and retention into future secondary 
schooling, healthy lives, and reasonable incomes. Four widely used measures 
have been used to develop the GEEI for girls' access to and retention in school: 

girls' net attendance rate at primary school 

girls' survival rate over five years in primary schooling 

girls' secondary Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) 

a country's gender development index (GDI). 

These measures were selected because they indicate access to primary schooling 
(net attendance rate), derived from household surveys; retention in primary 
schooling (survival rates); the potential of the education system to generate 
teachers and managers who are concerned to achieve gender equality (girls' 
secondary NER); and the possibilities for these women to survive and flourish as 
adults (GDI). 

The Beyond Access scorecard is not an unweighted index. In compiling our 
index, we weighted girls' survival over five years in primary school and the 
capacity of women to survive into adulthood, retain literacy, and earn a decent 
livelihood (signalled by the GDI) as twice as important as attendance in primary 
schools. We weighted girls' enrolment in secondary school, which we believe 
points to the emergence of a cadre of women who will work in social develop- 
ment with some orientation towards gender equality and equity, as 50 per cent 
more important than attendance. (See Appendix for a more detailed explanation 
of how the GEEI is calculated.) 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

There are a number of critiques of the GDI as a measure of gender equality. 
Charmes and Wieringa point out that the GDI measures general welfare, rather 
than gender inequality. In fact, the values for the GDI are very similar to those for 
the HDI, particularly for countries with high human development (Charmes 
and Wieringa 2003). They also point out that the choice of measuring health by 
using life-expectancy, a very long-term measurement, is not likely to offer a 
precise indication of women's health for the current time period - unlike, for 
instance, infant and child mortality rates. Other critics point out that statistics of 
earned income do not include the work that women do in the subsistence 
economy (Elson 1999). Brandolini (2004) argues that the calculations for the 
HDI and GDI are problematic, because it is implied that gains in one dimension, 
for example in schooling or income, can be traded off against losses in another, 
for example longevity. These are substantial criticisms, but in our view they do 
not negate the usefulness of the GDI as an easily accessible measure of some 
aspects of gender in relation to human well-being, which is why we have used it 
in the GEEI. 

The UNDP's Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) might have been a better 
measure of how girls and women are able to translate their education into earning 
and political decision-making. The GEM is an average of three indices: women's 
share of parliamentary representation; their economic participation through 
share of positions as legislators, senior officials, managers, and professionals; and 
their share of earned income. There are criticisms of the GEM. For example, the 
number of seats in parliament occupied by women does not fully indicate how 
much power women actually have. Emphasising women's earned income in the 
formal sector undervalues women's earnings in the informal sector or care 
economy ,where a great many exchanges that are of value to women and their 
societies take place. However, despite these limitations, the GEM does provide a 
proxy measure of the level to which women are visible in key political posts, earn 
equivalent amounts to men in the formal sector, and have professional 
employment. Unfortunately, however, the GEM has not been calculated for many 
countries, and if it has been calculated recently there are no time-series data, so 
comparisons cannot be made. Because GDI has generally been calculated for the 
early 1990s and 2000s for most countries, it has therefore been used in GEEI 
instead of GEM. 

Tables 13 present the GEEI for Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, and 
Latin America between c. 1993 and 2003. They are based on work commissioned 
from the Beyond Access project by the Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCO 
Bangkok, and UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia (Unterhalter et al 2004; 
Unterhalter, Rajagopalan, and Challender 2005; Unterhalter and McCowan 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Table 1: GEEI for Commonwealth Africa, c. 1993-2001 






























South Africa 







































































Source: Unterhalter etal 2004 

The changes in GEEI for Commonwealth countries in Africa from the early 
1990s to approximately 2003 tell a devastating story. Of the top six countries in 
approximately 1993, only Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia have made 
gains. These gains are not large, and the highest-scoring countries in Africa rank 
well below countries like Sri Lanka in Asia and most of the countries in Latin 
America (see Tables 2 and 3). Zimbabwe's GEEI has declined more than 40 per 
cent. There have been similar large declines in countries lower down the ranking 
order. Cameroon has declined by more than 50 per cent in GEEI, Nigeria by 23 
per cent, and Kenya by 28 per cent. Although there was a small decrease in GEEI 
in Trinidad (see Table 3) and in Philippines and Pakistan (Table 2), in no other 
region were there spectacular declines in GEEI like those observed in Africa. The 
combination of debt, decline in social-sector provision, war, and repressive 
governments has had devastating effects on gender equality in education. The 
data in Table 1 show that only in Uganda, where there was huge government and 
civil-society mobilisation for gender equality in education, were there significant 
gains; but the task ahead even for Uganda is still considerable (see Table 4). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Table 2: GEE! for Asia, c. 1993-2001 






Korea, Rep. Of 


















































































Sri Lanka 




































Lao, PDR 






Sources: Unterhalter, Rajagopalan, and Challender 2005; Unterhalter and 
McCowan 2005 

Table 2 shows Asia divided into two halves with regard to gender equality in 
education. A large number of countries, predominantly in South East Asia, and 
some in Central Asia, already have relatively high GEEI. Sri Lanka made 
spectacular gains in GEEI in a decade of low economic growth. The most 
populous countries in the region - Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan - score low 
on GEEI. Some countries - Bangladesh, Nepal, and Lao PDR - have made huge 
gains in GEEI, but are still in the lower half of the table. 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Table 3: GEEI for Latin America, c. 1993-2004 









































Costa Rica 
























Dominican Republic 












El Salvador 


















Source: Challender and Unterhalter 2004 

Table 3 shows that while many countries in Latin America have much higher 
levels of GEEI than do countries in Asia and Africa, two countries - Nicaragua 
and Guatemala - with histories of war and repression continue to have low GEEI, 
despite considerable gains during the decade. There have also been enormous 
gains in El Salvador and Bolivia. But Table 3 also tells another story that resonates 
for Africa and Asia. Countries with relatively high GEEI in 1993 did not reach 100 
per cent by 2003, and Trinidad, despite its natural resources and high levels of 
industrialisation, experienced a fall in GEEI. Raising GEEI requires constant 
attention; it does not automatically follow from a relatively high score that 
forward momentum will be maintained. In fact it might be as hard to move from 
80 to 100 per cent GEEI as from 33 per cent to 81 per cent, as Bolivia did. 

What does the GEEI tell us? 

Similar trends can be discerned across all three regions from the GEEI. Countries 
with long and devastating histories of war or repressive government are at or near 
the bottom of the league. Conversely, countries with long histories of democratic 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

government are at the top. Countries which, despite a history of war and undemo- 
cratic government, have paid attention to reconstruction also come near the top 
(Namibia and South Africa; Malaysia and China; Chile and Cuba). Countries with 
high levels of women's mobilisation or political participation, such as Uganda, Fiji 
and Chile, score higher than countries where there has been minimal or only 
'top-down' mobilisation on these issues. Countries with vast regional inequalities 
(Kenya and Ghana; Indonesia and India; Chile and Venezuela) score considerably 
lower than countries where regional inequalities are not an issue on this scale 
(Mauritius and Botswana; Korea and Malaysia; Trinidad and Cuba). 

Other interesting issues emerging from the tables include the large overall rise in 
GEEI in Latin America over the course of the 1990s: in 1990 the median GEEI 
score was 71; in 2000 it was 87. However, there is a sharp division in these 
increases: the two lowest scorers have remained in this position, with relatively 
small rises. Thus, Nicaragua's score rose from 33 to 46 and Guatemala's from 26 to 
39 between 1990 and 2000. Meanwhile, several countries just above them in the 
GEEI in 1990 have experienced meteoric rises in their GEEI: for instance Bolivia 
and El Salvador, which more than doubled their scores between 1990 and 2000. 

Larger economies do not equate with higher scores. The largest economy in Latin 
America, Brazil, was ranked joint tenth in 2000. Of the two lowest scorers, 
Nicaragua is classified by the World Bank as a low-income economy, and yet 
Guatemala - a middle-income economy - appears below it. This trend is also 
apparent on the Africa Scorecard: South Africa, with the largest economy on the 
continent, is not the country with the highest GEEI. While it is no surprise that 
Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, and Singapore, which have a high GDP per 
capita, come at the top of the scorecard for GEEI, it is notable that countries with 
relatively low GDP per capita, such as Sri Lanka and China, score so highly. 

The division of the GEEI for Asia into two very distinct halves is also interesting. 
There is a big gap between the lowest- ranking 'high scorer', the Philippines, on 67 
per cent, and the highest- ranking 'low scorer', Bangladesh, on 47 per cent. While in 
Africa there are many low-scoring countries, a regional disjuncture of this form is 
not evident. Another notable aspect of the Asia scorecard is that countries which 
have or have had communist governments for long periods (China, the former 
Soviet republics, Mongolia, and Vietnam) and countries which have had many 
decades of government commitment to the expansion of education (South Korea) 
score far higher than countries such as India and Pakistan which have had less co- 
ordinated policies on mass education. Bangladesh, which has mobilised huge local 
and international resources to improve education, scores far more highly than other 
countries in South Asia, where policy on education has been less clearly directed. 

What does the GEEI tell us about how far the world needs to go to meet the two 
Millennium Development Goals that relate to education: MDG 2 and MDG 3? 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Tables 4-6 compare the rate of improvement in GEEI for countries in Africa, 
Asia, and Latin America between c. 1993 and 2001 and estimate the level of 
further improvement that would be needed in order to reach a GEEI score of 95 
per cent. A GEEI score of 95 per cent would indicate net girls' primary attendance 
of 90 per cent and above, girls' primary survival rate of 90 per cent and above, 
girls' secondary NER of 60 per cent and above, and GDI of 0.800 and above 
(equivalent to the gender-equality levels in life-expectancy, education, and 
income of Korea, Singapore, and Japan in 2003). 

Table 4 shows the extensive mobilisation of resources that will be needed in 
Africa to reach a GEEI of 95 per cent. Every single country will have to increase 
the level of effort expended between 1993 and 2003. Countries at the top of the 
scorecard, like Namibia, Botswana, and Mauritius will need to invest two to three 
times the amount of effort in gender-equality programmes. South Africa will 
need to achieve 14 times the level of improvement attained in the first decade of 
democracy. But the majority of the countries will need to invest hundreds of 
times the level of resources and effort mobilised in the previous decade. 

Table 4: GEEI scores for Africa, c. 1993-2003, and improvements needed to 
reach GEEI 95 per cent by 201 5 




% increase 
needed to reach 
GEEI of 95 





















South Africa 




























































Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Table 5: GEEI scores in Asia, c. 1993-2003, and improvements needed to 
reach GEE! 95 per cent by 201 5 




% increase 
needed to reach 
GEEI of 95 

Korea, Rep. of 
































































Sri Lanka 






























Lao PDR 





Table 5 shows that while many countries in Asia will have to sustain the gains of 
the previous decade, some relatively high scorers will have to double or treble the 
level of mobilisation (Indonesia and Mongolia). Countries in the bottom half of 
the scorecard will either have to equal the very high level of mobilisation of the 
previous decade (Bangladesh), or double or treble it (Nepal and India). Lao will 
need levels of mobilisation ten times as great as the previous decade, while 
Pakistan will need 300 times greater mobilisation (although there is some doubt 
about the figures reported in this case). 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Table 6: GEEI scores for Latin America, c. 1 993-2003, and improvements 
needed to reach GEEI 95 per cent by 201 5 




% increase 
needed to reach 
GEEI of 95 





























Costa Rica 




















Dominican Republic 










El Salvador 















Table 6 shows that working to achieve the two education MDGs will entail for 
many Latin American countries sustaining the growth of the last ten years in 
relation to gender equality, or slightly increasing resources for this area. El 
Salvador will need to increase momentum by 40 per cent, not losing the 
significant gains of the previous decade. Nicaragua and Guatemala, however, will 
have to nearly treble the gains that they made from 1993. 


The GEEI presents an alternative means of measuring gender- equality gains and 
losses in and through education. GEEI calculations show catastrophic falls in 
many countries in Africa through the 1990s, and they indicate that maximum 
mobilisation of resources is needed for that continent to halt this under- 
acknowledged disaster and achieve good levels of gender equality. While the 
extent of the task in Africa is enormous, huge challenges also remain to increase 
GEEI in many countries in Asia and Latin America. Reaching the targets for 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

MDG 2 and MDG 3 by 2015 is not impossible, given the talent and wealth of the 
world. This assessment of GEEI gives some indication of the size of the task and 
the levels of mobilisation needed. This task falls not only to the people who live 
in the countries with low GEEI. The MDGs are challenges to global collaboration 
and resource mobilisation. The numbers point to the heightened levels at which 
we need to work together. 

Appendix: Calculating the GEEI 

The GEEI was constructed by using four measures deemed useful as indicators of 
girls' access to and retention in school, and women's health and levels of income 
after school. The indicators selected were girls' primary attendance, girls' survival 
rate over five years of primary schooling, girls' secondary NER, and the Gender 
Development Index (GDI). 

Data from the EFA Monitoring Reports, UNICEF's State of the World's Children, 
the Human Development Reports, World Bank reports, and countries' own EFA 
assessments were used. Occasionally, where there were no figures available, 
secondary literature was consulted. 

Net primary attendance rates, survival at school, secondary NER, and GDI levels 
were given a value based on the following assessments shown in Table 7. 

Table 7: Criteria for scoring achievements with regard to access and 
achievement in girls' education 


Criteria to achieve the score 


Excellent conditions. Already at (or extremely well positioned to achieve) gender 
equity in 2015 and likely to fulfil the aspirations of the Beijing Declaration. 


Very good conditions. Substantial achievement with regard to gender equity 
and well on the path to achieving 2015 goal with regard to access. Some gains 
needed in order to improve retention. 


Good conditions. Progress towards 201 5 evident, but further work necessary 
on access and retention. 


Poor conditions. Progress towards 2015 slow. Considerable and intensive 
work needed on access and retention. 


Very poor conditions. 201 5 goals unlikely to be reached without massive 
mobilisation on all fronts to secure access and achievement. 

Using these criteria, the scoring system illustrated in Table 8 was developed with 
regard to the indicators. 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Table 8: GEEI scores and indicators 


Net girls' primary 

Girls' primary 
survival rate 

Girls' secondary 



90% and above 

90% and above 

60% and above 

0.800 and above 

















59% and below 

59% and below 

29% and below 

Below 0.499 

Raw scores on the basis of this table were then weighted as follows: 

Net girls' 

Girls' primary Girls GDI 



survival rate secondary NER (raw score 

(sum of 


(raw score (raw Score x 2.5) 


(raw score 

x2.5) x1.75) 



divided by 4) 

Detailed calculations of the GEEI for Africa and Asia are to be found in earlier 
papers (Unterhalter etal 2004; Unterhalter, Rajagopalan, and Challender 2005). 

Elaine Unterhalter is a senior lecturer in Education and International Development 
at the Institute of Education, University of London, where (with Sheila Aikman) she 
has co-ordinated the Beyond Access: Gender, Education and Development project 
since 2003. 

Chloe Challender is Editor for the Beyond Access project. She has worked for NGOs 
and the UK Treasury on international development issues, especially children's 
rights, for several years. 

Rajee Rajagopalan is a part-time research assistant on the Beyond Access project. 
Previously she worked as administrator of the International Development Unit at 
the Institute of Education, University of London. 


1 This paper is based on work commissioned from the Beyond Access project in 2004-05 by the 
Commonwealth Secretariat, UNESCO Bangkok, and UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia. 
We are grateful to all three organisations for permission to publish this chapter, which draws on 
reports prepared for them. A further paper, with a detailed consideration of these issues as they 
apply in South Asia, is to be published by UNICEF in 2005. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 


Alkire, S. (2002) Valuing Freedom. Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction, Oxford: Oxford 
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Programmes in Developing Countries', London: Department for International Development 

Challender, C, and E. Unterhalter (2004) 'A Scorecard for Latin America' in Equals Issue 8, online at 

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Human Development 4/3: 430 

Elson, D. (1999) 'Labour markets as gendered institutions: equality, efficiency and empowerment 
issues', World Development 27?3: 61 1-27 

Fukuda Parr, S. and A.K.S. Kumar (eds.) (2003) Readings in Human Development, New York: 
Oxford University Press 

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Khoury, N. F. and V. M. Moghadam ( 1995) Gender and Development in the Arab World - Women's 
Economic Participation: Patterns and Policies, Tokyo: United Nations University Press and 
London/New Jersey: Zed Books 

Millennium Commission (2000), 'The Millennium Development Goals', online at 

Nussbaum, M. (2000) Women and Human Development, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
Sen, A. ( 1 999) Development as Freedom, Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Terzi, L. (2004) 'On Education as a Basic Capability', paper presented at the 4 th International 
Conference on the Capability Approach, University of Pavia, Italy, 2-7 September 

Tomasevski, K. (2003) Education Denied: Costs and Remedies, New York: Zed Books 
UNDP (1995-2004) Human Development Reports, New York: UNDP 

UNESCO (2000) 'Status and Trends. Assessing Learning Achievement', Paris: UNESCO, on line at 1/001 198/1 19823e.pdf (consulted March 2005) 

UNESCO (2003) Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2003-4: Gender and Education for All, 
Paris: UNESCO 

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Unterhalter, E. (2003) 'The capabilities approach and gendered education: An examination of 
South African complexities', Theory and Research in Education 1/1: 7-22 


Measuring gender equality in education 

Unterhalter, E. (2005a) 'Gender Equality and Education in South Africa: Measurements, Scores and 

Unterhalter, E. (2005b) 'Global inequality, capabilities, social justice: The millennium development 
goal for gender equality in education', International Journal of Educational Development 25: 

Unterhalter, E. (2005c) 'Mobilisation, meanings and measures: reflections on girls' education', 
Development 48/ 1 

Unterhalter, E. and T. McCowan (2005d) 'Girls' Education and the Millennium Development 
Goals: What do the indicators show us?', paper presented at UNGEI Technical Meeting, 
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Watkins, K. (2000) The Oxfam Education Report, Oxford: Oxfam 



Part Two 

Transforming Action: 
Changing Policy through Practice 


4 Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering 
a neighbour's tree? 

Janet Raynor 

There is an old Bengali saying which observes: "Caring for a daughter is like 
watering a neighbour's tree'. It reflects the view that it is a waste of resources to 
invest in a daughter who will be 'lost' to another family through marriage. It is 
one of the arguments that have been used in the past to justify girls' exclusion 
from school in Bangladesh. However, various recent education initiatives by both 
government and NGOs have placed stronger emphasis on girls' education, 
leading to a widely praised increase in access over the last ten years. They include 
a secondary stipend programme which started on a small scale in 1982 and 
became a nationwide programme in 1994. The expansion of girls' education in 
Bangladesh - and how it is perceived - is the subject of this study, with the 
government's secondary Female Stipend Programme (FSP) used as a case study. 1 

The study examines attitudes towards girls' education and educated girls and 
women in Bangladesh. It explores attitudes towards the programme, and the 
programme's effects on social attitudes. Many reports on the various forms of 
the FSP offer a quantitative analysis, showing the success of the project in terms 
of access or retention (Sarker, Chowdhury, and Tariq 1995; Khandker and 
Samad 1996; Daily Star 2003a; New Nation 2004b). However, few reports offer 
insight into the ways in which lives and attitudes are being affected. Little 
attention has been paid to the impact of the programme at the family or 
individual level, or how stated values compare with observed behaviour. This 
study examines these aspects, exploring the attitudes of girls and boys, mothers 
and fathers, teachers and education officials, and project personnel. Specific 
focus areas include the following: 

Perceptions: does girls' education strengthen traditional gendered roles or 
lead to empowerment? Is it seen to be beneficial or detrimental to the 
individual girl, to boys and men, and to society as a whole? 

Purpose: in the past, girls in Bangladesh have been denied formal 
education. Is girls' education regarded now as a need, a right, or a luxury, 
and what is its perceived purpose? 

Culture: is maintenance of cultural values seen to be more important than 
formal education for girls? Do dominant social groups use 'culture' as an 
argument to preserve the status quo 7 . 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Background to the study 

Working in education in Bangladesh over the past 12 years, I have come into 
regular contact with people who were in some way connected to or affected by 
the FSP. This was particularly so during 1998-99, when I was involved in a 
secondary-level programme in eastern Bangladesh, where discussions arising in 
informal meetings with those involved in secondary education indicated that 
there was a general lack of understanding of the rationale behind the FSP, and 
that there were various forms of resistance to it. This resistance might take the 
form of, for example, an influential village leader and member of a School 
Management Committee insisting that it was a waste of resources to educate a 
girl from a rural area, because she would be unable to use that education to find 
suitable employment. A government education official declared to a group of 
teachers that the programme discriminated against boys and was therefore 
unacceptable. Others, however, were very supportive of the project. These 
attitudes seemed worth exploring, because the success of the project depends to 
a large extent on how 'acceptable' it is within the context in which it is operating. 

The Bangladeshi context 

Bangladesh has a population of approximately 138.5 million people, making it 
the ninth most populated country in the world (CIA 2003), and (barring a few 
island nations) the most densely populated country in the world. Since its 
independence from West Pakistan in 1971, it has been devastated by war and 
natural disasters, and has attracted much international aid. Until 2003, it was 
ranked as having 'low human development', but it has recently edged into the 
medium development range, ranking 138 out of 177 countries in the 2004 
UNDP Human Development Index, which indicates that there has been some 
positive development (UNDP 2004). 

However, in terms of the UNDP's Gender Empowerment Measure, Bangladesh 
ranks 76 th out of the 78 countries included (UNDP 2004). Although under the 
1972 constitution women and men have equal rights (Government of Bangladesh 
1996), and although various legal measures have been taken to improve the 
position of women, in practice little has changed especially for poor women and 
girls in rural areas (Mannan 2002; Koenig et al 2003). When the government of 
Bangladesh (GoB) ratified the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), it 'maintained reservations on all 
articles calling for women's equal rights in the family' ( Jahan 1995a: 102). The 1980 
Prohibition of Dowry Act has done little to reduce dowry practice, with the 
incidence of dowry substantially increasing since the 1970s (Esteve-Volart 2003), 
and 247 reports of dowry violence - including 1 22 deaths - in the last three months 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

of 2004 (Daily Star 2005). Similarly, in 1961 family ordinance laws set a minimum 
age for marriage and restricted men's rights to polygamy and divorce, but in rural 
areas these laws are often overlooked (Jahan 1995a; Khan 2001). The International 
Centre for Research on Women's Demographic Health Survey 1996-2001 lists 
Bangladesh as the country with the second-highest rate of child marriage, with an 
estimated 75 per cent of girls married before they reach the age of 18 (ICRW 2003), 
although the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics gives a figure of 47 per cent (cited in 
UNESCO Bangkok 2003). Sweetser, in a report exploring gender relations, non- 
formal education, and social change, notes a marked generational difference in 
attitudes towards women. She gives examples of attitudes displayed by the older 
men, which included their disapproval of 'modern trends' of women or girls going 
to school, working in the fields, arranging their own marriages, riding bicycles and 
motorcycles, taking up seats on buses, and being served in a shop first. One man 
seemed to sum it up by saying: 'All the degradation in the world starts with the 
loosening on the restrictions on women' (Sweetser 1999:16). In such a context, 
there could well be a struggle for girls' and women's rights to participate in 
education, and any empowerment that it might be seen to lead to. 

Education in Bangladesh 

One of the first documents advocating formal education for girls in Bangladesh 
(then part of India) is 'Wood's Education Despatch' of 1854. In that document, 
'female education' was promoted because it enhanced the educational and moral 
tone of the people (excerpts annexed in Jalaluddin and Chowdhury 1997). What 
educational provision there was for girls focused on 'education for enlightened 
motherhood' (Chanana 1994): they were being trained to be mothers, rather than 
- for example - being prepared for paid employment or for tertiary education. The 
1974 Qudrat-e-Khuda Education Commission Report of the newly independent 
Bangladesh firmly asserted that 'women's education should be such as to be of help 
to them in their domestic life', and stressed that subjects such as 'child-care, the 
nursing of the sick, preservation of health, food and nutrition' must be included. It 
also suggested that girls should be channelled into Vocations specially suitable to 
them', such as primary-school teaching, nursing, and typing (Jalaluddin and 
Chowdhury 1997: 290). For more than 100 years, formal education for girls was 
not designed to bring about fundamental change in society. 

The Female Stipend Programme 

The stipend programme has brought about change. Adolescent girls are now 
visible in large numbers, going to and from school in rural areas - in itself a 
fundamental change. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The FSP offers an allowance to encourage families to send girls to school, and to 
help to meet the costs of education. The first form of the FSP for secondary- level 
girls was set up by Bangladesh Association for Community Education (BACE) in 
1982. According to Mr Azizul Huq, Director of BACE (personal interview), the 
initiative was '100 per cent Bangladeshi', the prime mover being Dr Mohammed 
Abdus Sattar, at that time Secretary for Population Control and Family Planning in 
the Ministry of Health and Population Control. The pilot project was reportedly 
inspired by population-related literature which suggested that girls' enrolment in 
secondary education would delay marriage and increase contraceptive use, and 
thus reduce fertility levels. It was initially supported by USAID, and later by the Asia 
Foundation, before being taken up by NORAD in 1992. There were remarkably 
positive results, with female enrolment almost doubling in some project areas, and 
drop-out rates being dramatically reduced (Haq and Haq 1998). Based on the 
success of the pilot projects, a nationwide programme was launched in 1994 under 
the umbrella term of Nationwide Female Stipend Programme. All rural districts 
became part of the programme, with funding from NORAD, the World Bank, the 
Asian Development Bank, and the government itself. 

Under the programme, girls in rural areas in Classes 6-10 are eligible for the 
stipend, conditional on their maintaining a minimum of 75 per cent attendance, 
obtaining a minimum of 45 per cent in annual school exams, and remaining 
unmarried up to the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination in Year 10. 
The award consists of an allowance, free tuition, a book allowance for Year 9, and 
SSC examination fees in Year 10. The stipend is not large: girls receive a sum 
equivalent to no more than US$ 1.00 a month, and schools get US$ 1.50-2.00 a 
semester in tuition fees. It is paid to all girls who meet the eligibility criteria, 
regardless of family wealth. Means-testing was introduced as an experiment in the 
1980s, but proved to be too problematic (Valad 1995). However, there is 
continuing pressure from donors for the introduction of means-testing to 
increase the sustainability of the programme, and to target impoverished families 

The model has been praised internationally as a means of achieving Millennium 
Development Goals. For example, a conference in Shanghai in May 2004 on 
'Reducing Poverty, Sustaining Growth', co-hosted by the World Bank and the 
Chinese government, focused on successful examples of scaling up anti-poverty 
interventions, and the FSP was one of them. The conference - and Bangladesh's 
success in promoting girl's education - attracted much positive media attention 
(for example, Agence France Presse 2004; Daily Star 2004; New Nation 2004c), 
along with claims that Bangladesh had already achieved the Millennium 
Development Goals of eliminating gender disparity in education (emphasis 
added). What is meant here is parity of enrolment, that is, equal numbers of boys 
and girls in school. 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

In terms of increasing enrolment, the FSP has undoubtedly been a success. Rising 
from about 700,000 beneficiaries in the first year of the nationwide programme, 
the number peaked in 2001 at more than 4 million as more girls completed 
primary school, more schools joined the programme, new girls joined the 
programme, and more girls stayed on at higher levels. There has been a drop 
since 2002: the numbers were down to about 2.25 million beneficiaries in 2004. 
This drop is largely due to stricter criteria for awarding stipends. There have been 
various reports of widespread corruption, with well-informed unofficial 
estimates of the number of 'irregular' awards being as high as 50 per cent 
(BANBEIS 1998, 1999, 2001; FSSAP 1999, 2004; Mahmud 2003; World Bank 
2003; FESP 2004; and discussions with project personnel). The corruption issue 
is not the focus of this study, but it is real and should be noted. However, it is an 
undeniable fact that girls are now in secondary school in Bangladesh in large 
numbers, and that gender parity of enrolment was apparently achieved in 2000. 

It should be noted that - as Figure 1 shows - while there have definitely been 
increases in girls' enrolment, and most significantly since the introduction of the 
FSP, there has also been an increase for boys, perhaps in part because of the FSP. 
It should also be noted that the increase in girls' enrolment cannot simply be 
ascribed to the FSP: it is one of many education initiatives in Bangladesh, but the 
FSP is also seen as having had a positive impact on the enrolment of girls in 
primary schools (Thein, Kabir, and Islam 1988; Chowdhury, Choudhury, and 
Nath 1999; Ahmed and Ahmed 2002). Most of the more recent statistical data 
shown here were collected for a study commissioned by DFID Bangladesh, on 
which this section draws heavily (Raynor and Chowdhury 2004).The 2003 
figures given here are provisional only, and they show only those who enrolled at 
the beginning of the academic year, with no indication of how many girls actually 
completed the year. We must wait to see what impact the 'tightening up' has had 
on the overall enrolment of girls, but there has almost certainly been a drop in 
girls' enrolment in 2004 and 2005 (Thornton etal 2005). 

The FSP was, and still is, based within a Women in Development (WID) 
framework, with a focus on what women can do for development, rather than vice 
versa - an example of what Unterhalter describes as programmes that 'utilise 
women as a tool for a greater good' (Unterhalter 2000:17). Herz's (1991) World 
Bank Discussion Paper Letting Girls Learn is a fairly representative example. It 
focuses on the education of girls, cites early forms of the FSP as a 'promising 
approach' in education, and represents the thinking of at least one of the major 
external agencies involved in the FSP. It was written when plans for the nationwide 
programme were being considered. It lists the standard WID justifications for 
greater investment in girls' education, such as healthier, better- educated children 
and reduced population growth. In what can be seen as an extension of the 
attitude expressed in the adage about 'watering a neighbour's tree', Herz 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Figure 1: Growth of secondary-school enrolment in Bangladesh, 1970-2003 


f ^ 

I 6 



I 2 

I girls | boys 

Girls' enrolment over 50% from 2000 

Introduction of stipend 
programme, 1994 

Free tuition for girls 
in classes 6-8, 1990 

Free, compulsory 
primary education, 1990 

Girls' enrolment 
about 18% 

? c N <& rS? Q 

r n? ^ n? n? 


Sources: BANBEIS 2002;BANBEIS 2003, and discussions with BANBEIS 
personnel 2004. Note: the columns on the left are at five-year intervals; those on 
the right relate to one year. 

recommends financial incentives and subsidies for girls' education, arguing that 
they are 'economically justifiable because the parents who pay . . . have little to 
gain, but society benefits greatly from the presence of educated women' (op. dt. y 
p. xiii). FSP policies, like the instrumentalist WID policies from which they are 
drawn, take account of women's productive and reproductive roles, but do not go 
beyond them. For example, the FSP focus on delayed marriage is for fertility 
control, rather than representing a rights-based approach to the prevention of 
child marriage. 

Although current official government policy strongly promotes girls' and women's 
education, private resistance may work against that public policy. Some research 
indicates that her father's education and assets may actually have a negative impact 
on a girl's schooling in Bangladesh. This finding comes from a comparative study 
of four countries - including 826 households in 47 villages in three sites in 
Bangladesh - exploring factors that influence the bargaining power of household 
members. The authors speculate that 'wealthier Bangladeshi fathers may attach a 
higher premium to marrying their daughters off earlier' (Quisumbing and 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

Maluccio 2000:54), although this goes against the widely held belief that poverty is 
a driving factor in early marriage. There have also been public outbreaks of (male) 
resistance to certain education programmes, particularly in the east of the country, 
and particularly around 1994, when the stipend programme was introduced 
(Sultan 1994, Jahan 1995b, Momen 1995, and Kabir 1996 all report such cases). 
However, these were reports of responses to education programmes with some sort 
of overt empowerment agenda such as the teaching of legal rights, and all were 
linked to programmes for women rather than girls. 

While twenty years ago girls were visible to some extent in primary classes, very 
few girls were allowed to attend secondary school: they tended to be withdrawn at 
or around puberty (Sattar 1982). Most recent figures indicate that girls' enrolment 

- primary and secondary - is now about equal to that of boys. Bellamy (2004) 
indicates that girls' net primary enrolment had risen to nearly 90 per cent by 2000 

- compared with 48 per cent in 1996 (BANBEIS 1999) - and gives the 2000 
secondary Gross Enrolment Rate as 45 per cent for boys and 47 per cent for girls. 
Thus, if figures are correct, Bangladesh has succeeded in providing equal access to 
girls and boys at primary and secondary levels. However, there are strong 
reservations about the quality and relevance of education in Bangladesh for both 
boys and girls (Sen 2002; Mahmud 2003); this has particular consequences for 
girls, who are still less likely to complete secondary school, gain an academic 
qualification, or enter secure paid employment (Ahmed 2000; Daily Star 2003b; 
UNESCO Bangkok 2003; World Bank 2003). Parity of enrolment is no mean 
achievement, but Bangladesh still has a long way to go in terms of meeting the EFA 
goals of quality and equality in education (World Education Forum 2000) or the 
Millennium Development Goals relating to gender in education in particular, and 
gender equality and empowerment in general (United Nations 2000). 

Das Gupta et al (1993), in a study prepared during the run-up to the 
implementation of the nationwide FSP in 1994, indicate that the most frequently 
mentioned advantage of educating girls was that they could get jobs. Although 
both men and women said this, almost 50 per cent of women cited it, compared 
with only about 30 per cent of men, men's responses tending to be spread over 
other categories such as 'educate her own children'. The second most frequently 
cited advantage overall was that education would help a girl to get a better 
husband. Sarker etal (1995), in an evaluation of FSP pilot programmes, indicate 
that education for girls is mostly perceived as a domestic benefit, enabling them 
to get better husbands, to help their husbands, or to teach and look after their 
own children better. Similarly, Sweetser found that 'Typically, the first benefit of 
girls' education cited by villagers pertains to their future roles managing the 
home economy' (1999:17). As Haider notes, 'most of society's justifications for 
educating girls remains one of counting the benefits at large, while ignoring her 
individual rights and personal worth' ( 1995: 12 1 ). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The 1993 Das Gupta study indicated that men in particular cite the cost of girls' 
education as a reason for not sending girls to school. All those interviewed for 
this study were worried that schooling endangers girls' morality and reputation, 
with mothers being particularly concerned that boys might harass their 
daughters on the way to and from school (Das Gupta, Islam, and Siddiq 1993). 
Sweetser's study shows older men focusing on the concern that education might 
lead to the undermining of traditional social and economic structures. Nor is 
everyone sure that education should or can help a girl to get a job. Sweetser 
reports one man's statement that it was pointless sending girls to secondary 
school because they would still have to bribe someone to get a job: 'what they 
really need, in his view, is a husband' (1999:18). 

One issue which produces remarkably mixed reports is that of the impact of 
education on dowry, which can be seen as an indicator of the status and value of 
girls in society. Reduction in dowry is often cited as one of the benefits of girls' 
education (see Bellew and King 1993, for example). Several early FSP texts 
comment positively on the impact of education on dowry, although most cite no 
empirical evidence to support the claim (Thein, Kabir and Islam 1988; Mustafa 
et al 1990; Das Gupta et al 1993). More recent studies, such as Amin (1996), 
Jeffrey and Jeffrey (1998), and Arends-Kuenning and Amin (2001), link 
education to increased dowry demands. If this is the case, many parents may feel 
hesitant about sending their daughters to school beyond an age at which they can 
be 'married off' cheaply. 

At the secondary level, apart from targeting girls' enrolment, many education 
programmes - the FSP being one - also have an objective of channelling girls into 
teaching. This is partly to ensure that girls have female role-models in schools, 
partly because teaching is seen as an 'appropriate' job for women, but also to meet 
the needs of the ever-expanding education system. 

The study 

The FSP 'case' was studied through interviews, questionnaires, observation, and 
a review of documentation. Most of the research for this paper was conducted in 
2000; it was followed by work in Bangladesh which kept me in touch with the 
project, visits to donor and project staff, and a review of recent project 
documentation in 2004. The main fieldwork undertaken in Bangladesh 
consisted of 31 visits to schools and project offices, set up with the help of the 
Project Director of the GoB element of the project. To respect participants' 
privacy and to preserve confidentiality, the thana (small administrative area / 
district council), schools, and individuals are not named - or they have been 
given different names. 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

Forty-one interviews were conducted, with six secondary-school girls, four 
secondary-school boys, nine mothers, five fathers, nine head-teachers (some of 
whom also spoke as parents), and ten 'implementers' (project personnel, etc). 
A large proportion of those interviewed came from comparatively wealthy 
families, which is not representative of the country as a whole but is fairly 
representative of families with children in secondary schools in Bangladesh. Of 
the 24 parents and children interviewed, only five acknowledged that the stipend 
was the determining factor in school enrolment. 

The questionnaires, administered to 456 respondents, indicated the degree to 
which a view expressed in an interview might be regarded as representative of a 
wider group. The questionnaire was given mainly to groups of students and 
teachers within the designated thana, because it was safe to assume that they were 
literate and therefore able to complete it. Questionnaires were completed by 233 
girls, 166 boys, 15 female teachers, 31 male teachers, and five 'others' (for example, 
school-management committee members). 

Limitations of the study include the fact that it was restricted to those in or 
connected with secondary schools; the case study covers only one thana y so 
findings are illustrative rather than generalisable; and all interviews were 
conducted in English (either directly or through an interpreter), which may have 
limited the articulation and detection of certain attitudes. The administration of 
written questionnaires was necessarily restricted to those who were literate; and 
the sensitivity of the subject may have inhibited some participants. The schools 
were in a thana only about 50 km from Dhaka, and the findings in this study are 
inevitably affected by the proximity to Dhaka. 

Findings: the multiple meanings of girls' education 

While collating questionnaire data, I was struck by the overall tendency of 
women and girls to use the 'extremes' of the attitudinal scale, while men and boys 
generally favoured the middle categories. Where girls/women had 'strong' 
opinions in 58 per cent of responses, only 46 per cent of responses from 
boys/men used these categories, and they were more likely to use the 'neutral' box 
( 1 1 per cent male versus 6 per cent female). This strength of feeling was evident 
in the interviews, where women and girls gave answers with little or no 
hesitation; men and boys needed more time to formulate responses - and were 
occasionally unwilling or unable to answer. The difference in degree between 
male and female responses may well translate into different male and female 
behaviours, with girls/women acting in accordance with their strongly stated 
beliefs, and the behaviour of boys/men perhaps even contradicting stated 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Perceptions ofFSP and girls' education 

Some interviewees see girls' education as strengthening traditional roles; others 
see it as leading to some sort of empowerment. Still others see it as a threat. 

Of the nine mothers interviewed, four not only supported the project but also 
felt that it was right that it should be restricted to girls. One middle-class woman 

I have a son, but I have no objection to boys not getting it - girls need it more. I 
think the government recognises that girls . . . don't get to study as much as boys 
so they've done this to push them ahead. It's good that it's for girls only. The 
only negative thing I can think of about the FSP is that it would be bad if they 
got rid of it! 

However, this woman would send her children to school with or without the 
stipend, and she was obviously not familiar with financial hardship. Another 
woman, veiled but vocal and obviously not wealthy, was adamant: 

No, it's not necessary for boys, they have enough advantages. Both my sons - 
they're now 20 and 25 - completed up to Class 4. My older daughter, she's 20 
now, and married, had no school at all. But the last one is OK. She's lucky 
because she's the last one and we can get her educated. She's in Class 8 now, and 
we let her finish primary school because I knew she'd get the stipend in 
secondary school. My own life would have been much better if I'd been educated. 

The switch of pronouns here is revealing: 'we' let the girl finish primary school, 
but T knew she would get the stipend. The T almost certainly persuaded the 'we' 
that represents the husband, with whom she has to present a united front. The 
last sentence shows her wistful personal views of the value of education. 

However, 'stipends for boys' is an issue, especially where there is poverty. A 
woman from a poor family said she thought it was a good thing that the FSP was 
for girls only, but - placing poor boys in the same marginalised area as girls in 
general - added that 'it would be OK if it was for very poor boys too'. And one father 
with a large family, a low income, and one daughter receiving the stipend said: 

/ want the stipend for my sons. It's unfair that girls get it but boys don't. I agree 
that girls have definitely been less fortunate than boys in society, so maybe the 
programme has been introduced so girls can have a better future? But I've got 
five sons, and they need education. 

Fathers, most of whom had daughters benefiting from the FSP, were generally in 
favour of the programme - perhaps because it saved them having to decide 
whether to spend money on a daughter's education. However, the four boys 
interviewed felt that the programme was unfair to boys or 'not a very good idea'- 
but the opinions expressed were mild. 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

The majority of girls strongly agreed with the questionnaire statement saying 
'The FSP is beneficial to me] but a surprisingly high percentage of boys did too (40 
per cent strongly agreed, with another 36 per cent ticking the 'agree' box). 
Interestingly, in the piloting stage of the questionnaire one project administrator 
questioned the validity of that statement in a questionnaire to be administered to 
boys as well as girls. He felt that no boy would be able to respond positively to it, 
because the FSP was clearly designed to benefit girls. Most of the boys 
interviewed felt that the FSP would benefit them by giving them an educated wife 
who would have a better chance of adding to the family income, and being a 
better mother to their children. 

As to whether education will empower/liberate girls, there were marked 
differences between male and female responses. Girls/women optimistically felt 
that education was the answer to their problems. Boys/men also generally 
indicated that there was an element of liberation in girls' education, but the 
questionnaires did not show whether this was seen as a threat or not. The 
interviews were more enlightening. 

One person in the 'implementers' category provided a good example of 
conflicting private and public views. The man ('Mostafa') was a loud advocate of 
girls' education, saying that educated women could be equal participants in the 
country's development, and his questionnaire presented model 'correct' 
responses. But his actions spoke even more loudly. When we visited Mostafa, we 
were given red-carpet treatment. While we were talking in his office, a woman 
moved among us, serving refreshments and making sure that our needs were 
met. At some stage, she was referred to as a mother of one of the schoolchildren. 
Only later were we informed that she was Mostafa's wife, a full-time teacher at the 
school, and that she had arisen at 5 am to cook in honour of our visit. After 
school, she took us to a neighbouring house to interview another woman, and we 
were then pressed into going to her own house for a meal. She did not sit down to 
eat with us, and when I suggested that she might, Mostafa spoke for her and said 
that it was 'her pleasure' to serve us. I tried several times to engage her in 
conversation, but each time, Mostafa responded for her. He had also arranged for 
a photographer to come and take pictures of his children with the visiting 
dignitaries (us). Mostafa was included in the photo; the woman/mother/ 
wife/teacher was not. 

Like many other respondents, Mostafa is happy for women to be educated and 
undertake paid employment - as long as it does not erode his position within the 
traditional patriarchal structure. It seems that there is a general desire among 
men/boys for education to lead to employment - but not to empowerment. Both 
boys and girls tended to repeat the accepted view that girls' education makes 
them better wives and mothers, and benefits society as a whole. None spoke of 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

individual benefits to the girls themselves. Only the mothers envisioned better 
things for their daughters. One, herself educated to the level of Higher School 
Certificate, said: 

It's changing social status in the family. She's going to get a better job and 
because of that a better life, and better living conditions will follow. In the past 
it was only boys, but now it's also girls, and girls are a huge proportion of the 
population and girls and boys together add up, and that's going to develop 
economic and social status much more. Girls are already much more free 
because of this programme and they have new aspirations and hopes and they 
can probably discern a brighter future. 

Another, who had set up her own poultry- farming business and was earning an 
enviable US$ 42 a month (significantly more than her husband), said: 

/ can see the change already, especially a significant change in the neighbourhood, 
seeing so many women who were destined to be housewives, but got education 
and now have jobs. It's a revolution. After a girl is educated, why shouldn't she 
work for a better future? Why should anyone have anything negative to say about 
it? We all need to be independent. When they won't feed us, why not let each 
individual take care of themselves and make their own decisions? 

The 'they' in this last sentence presumably applies to patriarchy in general, and 
perhaps to her husband in particular. 

If girls can get into the position where they can 'take care of themselves' (as this 
woman suggested), perhaps the need for dowry will disappear. Questionnaire 
responses conformed to the generally received wisdom that education reduces 
dowry demands (69 per cent agreed, noticeably girls/women). However, 
interviews produced more mixed views. Two of the boys were adamant that they 
did not expect a dowry if their wife-to-be was educated ('it's illegal and it's bad'}. 
Two of the fathers also felt that dowry would not be necessary for an educated 
girl; another said 'it depends on individual families'. But one bitterly reported: 

/ want to marry off my second daughter as soon as possible. She's just done her 
BA at college... I've paid all that for her education and now I have to find the 
dowry money. It will cost me not less than Tk 30,000-40,000 [about US$ 600]. 
The only reason I'm having to give the dowry is because she's educated, and she 
needs an educated husband. My eldest daughter wasn't educated, and I didn't 
have to give a dowry for her. 

Class-related issues may come into this. The man is an uneducated vegetable 
seller who has made exceptional sacrifices to provide education for his daughter. 
Prospective families willing to take on such a girl may ask more in dowry to 
compensate for her humble origins. 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

Most of the women/mothers felt that dowry demands would be lower for 
educated girls, but not all. Two did not, and they presented avoidance of marriage 
as a solution to the dowry problem: 

Education for girls means you have to get a better-educated husband. That 
costs more. . . Having girls educated might help in the long run. It depends. By 
and large, there's probably a positive effect, because a girl who's educated can 
stand on her own two feet and look after herself. Marriage isn't as essential for 
her as it is for someone who's not educated. 

A second woman said: 

/ don't like dowry. I'm not planning it for my daughter and I won't ask for one 
for my son. Parents are still willing to pay for dowry for educated daughters, but 
what I'm saying is that girls, they can refuse it themselves, saying: 'No, we're 
educated, we can work on our own, we can survive on our own. There's no need 
to get us married now' 

Further research is needed, but if it is shown that under certain circumstances 
education adds significantly to dowry costs, and the most commonly stated 
reason for not sending girls to school is financial, it may be that dowry costs 
should be factored into the standard direct costs and opportunity costs of 
educating girls. A stipend of about fifty cents a month is not much of a 
compensation for having to pay an increased dowry. 

The purpose of girls' education 

Girls' education was variously seen by respondents as a need, a right, or a luxury, 
as indicated by the perceived or stated purpose, the main purpose being 
'employment'. It may be that women view education as a way of escaping 
tradition, whereas men (who tend to have more 'domestic' views of the purpose 
of girls' education) see it as a way of enhancing it. However, interviews with 
boys/men indicated that they were coming to terms with the idea of women 
working outside the home, although in particular households this may be a 
problem. Even if an educated girl/woman is allowed to work outside the home, 
paid employment opportunities for girls/women in rural areas are very limited, 
and attempts to promote income-generating activities for women have met with 
limited success - partly because of women's restricted access to markets. 

Interviews showed that most people linked girls' education to employment, but 
for men/boys the stated reason was almost exclusively financial, whereas 
women/girls linked employment to such things as 'independence', 'confidence', 
and 'worth'. Views of what type of work is suitable for a woman were generally 
very stereotyped, based on an extension of women's traditional domestic roles, as 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

the following 'public' interview example shows. A girl was asked what she wanted 
to do on leaving school: 

Zakera: I want to have a job; I want to work - wherever there's a job. I'd like to 
work in a hospital. 

JR: What sort of job exactly? 

(Interruption from Iqbal, a high-status man present): A nurse, she wants to be 
a nurse. 

Zakera: (nods agreement) 

She might privately have higher aspirations, but publicly accepts being 
channelled into the lower-status option. An FSP promotional text presents a girl 
aspiring to be a doctor, but her motivation ('/ want to be a doctor to serve the 
sick. . . ') conforms to traditional 'feminine' attributes (World Bank 1993:3). 

The majority of questionnaire respondents felt that secondary education for girls 
was good for society. However, although adult questionnaire respondents were 
unanimous in saying that education was a right, the children were less sure. 

Education and cultural values 

The official view - and that presented by FSP - is that education for girls 
generally enhances traditional cultural values (in preparing them to be better 
wives and mothers), and is for the national good. This is graphically depicted in 
a set of posters and calendars to promote girls' education (FSSAP / FEAP). 
Captions on the pictures present girls' education as contributing to the greater 
good; illiteracy is presented as a tragedy, with pictures of smiling school students 
and messages such as 'The sorrowful days are over' and 'Call the bird of happiness 
into this house of sorrow'. 

The posters depict happy studious girls, almost all of whom modestly cover their 
bosoms with their schoolbooks. Girls' uniforms in Bangladesh have a stylised 
form of dupatta, a cloth that conceals the shape of the breasts. As if the dupatta 
were not enough, the books in the FEAP pictures even more effectively hide 
potentially disturbing signs of womanhood - and hence perhaps marriageability? 
In addition, all pictures are girls-only, even though most girls have no choice but 
to attend co-educational schools. Thus, the pictures show girls' education as 
posing little threat to cultural values. The only apparent cultural deviation is that 
many of the girls are making eye-contact with the camera, whereas adolescent 
girls are generally expected to keep their eyes modestly lowered. Perhaps because 
the books have obscured signs of sexuality, this eye-contact adds to the picture of 
youthful innocence: these girls do not yet know about sex; it is safe to let them out. 
Also revealing of the 'official' view of girls' education is the logo on FSP 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

promotional materials. It depicts a girl firmly placed within a home, interacting 
with her book rather than with the outside world. There is nothing to threaten 
cultural practices here. 

However, despite the official 'public' view, there is evidence of private misgivings 
about girls' education. This emerged in the questionnaires rather than the 
interviews, although only as a minority view. It could be that people are more 
willing to be honest in their responses to written questionnaires than in face-to- 
face interviews, or simply that the questionnaire sample was large enough to 
detect these misgivings. 

For the questionnaire statements 'Educating girls will cause problems for the 
husbands', 'Adolescent girls should stay at home', and 'Secondary education is 
wasted on girls' there were distinct generational differences, with both girls and 
boys perhaps surprisingly showing more conservative views than the adults. 

The statement 'Boys need secondary education more than girls' produced the 
widest spread of answers, with a quarter of respondents strongly disagreeing 
with the statement; other answers were spread over other categories. This is an 
indication that education may be viewed by some as a luxury for girls, but as a 
necessity for boys. A total of 16 per cent of respondents strongly agreed with the 
statement, the majority of these responses being from boys and male teachers. 
And as one father said: 7 suppose it's a good idea, girls getting education, but boys' 
need for education is bigger than girls'. They will be the breadwinners.' 

While the interviews produced little evidence of cultural bias against girls' 
education, it is worth noting that where it was evident, it was from boys/men, and 
most openly from boys. A couple of examples are given here, the first from the 
eldest of a family of three boys: 

It's OK if she's educated to the same level as me, but I don't want her [i.e. his 
future wife] to work, I want her to stay at home. Most parents feel their 
daughters are going to get married when they grow up and they'll be 
housewives, so there's no need for them to get educated. It's a waste of money if 
they're going to spend all their time at home. But if they're educated, then 
maybe they can stand on their own feet, and can get jobs. 

Joynal seems rather confused. On the one hand he is saying that he wants an 
educated wife, but not for her to work; on the other hand, he says that the only 
point of education is to get a job. As he has no sisters, this is perhaps an issue that 
he has not yet had time or cause to consider fully. Another boy, Mokhles, simply 
asked: 'What's the point of getting girls educated when they're going to be married 
off as soon as possible?' He has two brothers and one sister. The sister received no 
formal education f She was needed to help in the house and stuff like that'), and was 
'married off' at 16. Presumably his attitudes towards girls' education come from 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

his family. But he too is confused about what he wants in a wife: 

/ want my wife to be educated to university level and good at all sorts of 
housework, and I would definitely like her to work outside the house to 
contribute to the family's income. But it's important that I am more educated 
than my wife. 

Mokhles expects a lot from his wife, but not equality. He was unable to say why 
he felt that he should have a higher level of education. Yet another boy felt that 
husbands should be older than their wives, thus providing more inbuilt 
inequality within the relationship. (The average age-gap between husbands and 
wives in Bangladesh is about seven years.) 

It is difficult to know what these few muddled thoughts of adolescents mean. But 
if they are at all typical, they seem to be in conflict with Sweetser's 1999 findings 
of more conservative attitudes in older men. Or perhaps the boys have simply not 
learned to dissemble in the way that the men had? I suspect that the men whom I 
interviewed used 'money' as a coded argument against educating girls. With 
men, the cost of girls' education came up repeatedly, even though all but one were 
financially 'comfortable' and had no obvious problems in putting their sons 
through school. There is a detailed account (PROMOTE 2000) of a mother and 
a (woman) teacher trying to persuade a father to allow his daughter to stay in 
school. His sons were in Classes 8 and 10. His daughter was in Class 7, but he was 
arranging marriage for her because he was not willing to spend any more on her 
education. The argument is not about poverty, but about prejudice. Perhaps 
when men mention cost, they mean 'waste' (as in 'watering a neighbour's tree'), 
but they know this is no longer a publicly acceptable view. It could be that men 
use money as a convenient excuse, whereas women see it as less of a barrier. 
Perhaps the women know that if there is a will to educate daughters, there is 
usually a way. Unfortunately, the decision usually depends on the will of the 

The impact of expanded access to schooling 

This case study revealed widespread approval of the FSP and the increase in girls' 
access to education. However, the study produced evidence that the impact of the 
expansion was not necessarily always good for girls, or that certain assumptions 
about girls' education were not necessarily true. 

With regard to the quality of education, there is some evidence of negative 
impact. Many of the schools visited were seriously overcrowded, with classes of 
well over 100 students - a direct result of the FSP. In at least one co-educational 
but segregated school that I visited, boys' classes were divided into two sections, 
whereas the girls were squeezed into one section. The girls - who have a higher 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

attendance rate than boys - were working in extremely cramped conditions. 
Thus, while the school benefits from the guaranteed fees paid for the girls, the 
girls are receiving a lower-quality education than the boys. In addition, the 
project is not linked to curricular change processes, so the schooling received has 
little relevance to the world outside, no direct links with employment or 
employers, and - apart from the stipend itself - no direct challenge to the 
gendered inequities that exist in Bangladesh. 

Exam results indicate that there is still a significant gap between the achieve- 
ments of boys and those of girls. In the 1998 SSC exams, girls in metropolitan 
areas achieved better results than boys for the first time. This caused a flurry of 
editorials and letters to the newspapers. There are indications that girls' 
achievements in 'good' rural schools are now almost matching those of boys, but 
that in the majority of rural schools not only do girls have a lower pass-rate, but 
far fewer girls are entered for the exam. Phase II of the FSP (Mahmud 2003) has 
addressed this to some extent by increasing the SSC allowance to cover the full 
fee, but as girls are still - for financial and 'security' reasons - denied the private 
tuition that is so necessary for passing the exam, this will probably not have much 
positive impact on results. It could even increase the gap, with more girls being 
entered for the exam but not given the academic support that they need in order 
to pass it. 

To date, one of the criteria for continued receipt of the stipend is obtaining marks 
of 45 per cent or above in end-of-year examinations. For non-recipients, a pass 
mark of 33 per cent is sufficient to allow promotion to the next grade. This 
naturally works against the interest of girls from poorer families, who have less 
support in their schooling; but it has also led to many of the 'irregularities', with 
girls' grades being adjusted - for a variety of reasons to ensure the continuation 
of stipends and fees. All strands of the FSP are currently considering lowering the 
requirement to 33 per cent, the main reason being to reduce the 'irregularities' 
(discussions with project personnel, 2004). While this could be seen as a more 
equitable measure for girls, it will probably result in more girls continuing to 
Class 10 without much hope of passing the SSC exam. Unless other measures are 
taken to support girls in their schooling, this might reinforce the idea that girls 
are simply not capable of academic success. 

The final point relates to the need for women teachers to encourage girls' 
enrolment (Bellew and King 1993, World Bank 1997, Bellamy 2004). Many 
education initiatives are designed to increase the number of women teachers, 
partly for this reason. However, in the field study conducted in 2000 in which 
nine rural schools were visited, the most remote had no woman teacher 
(although the Head had made several requests for at least one - to teach Home 
Economics), but girls outnumbered boys 725 : 675. All schools visited had high 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

girls' enrolment, regardless of how many women teachers they had. An estimated 
55 per cent of rural schools have never had a woman teacher (Sanghbad 2000, 
newspaper article citing BANBEIS statistics). While there are many good reasons 
for encouraging women to enter the teaching profession, one might question the 
belief that the presence of women teachers is needed to encourage enrolment. 


Overall, findings were positive, with widespread support for the FSP in particular, 
and the expansion of girls' education in general. The study showed that all groups 
saw the main purpose of education as enabling girls to take up paid employment. 
In the light of this, it is important to find out what employment opportunities 
there are for girls once they leave school. Given stated FSP project objectives of 
getting more girls into paid employment, it seems remarkable that there are no 
large-scale tracer studies to show how effective the project has been in meeting 
those objectives. If it is found that the chances of finding paid employment are too 
limited, the programme might lose its impetus and could even suffer a reversal. 
There is a strong need for the project to be linked to existing or future initiatives in 
employment opportunities and income generation, which must include a realistic 
appraisal of such opportunities in an essentially agrarian economy with limited 
scope for formal employment - for men or women. 

As many of the interviews showed, most of the children in the sample would have 
been sent to school whether there was a stipend programme or not; only for a few 
was the stipend a determining factor. This finding strengthens arguments for the 
introduction of means-testing. Those families in which girls are sent to 
secondary school are those that have positive attitudes towards girls' education; 
more research is needed on the attitudes of those families from which girls do not 
attend school. In a country like Bangladesh, much non-enrolment can be 
attributed to poverty, but it may be that in some cases poverty is used as an excuse 
for not sending girls to school - when the real reason is based on traditional 
patriarchal values, and parents' reluctance to 'water a neighbour's tree'. Of 
particular interest is the effect of education on dowry demands. There is some 
evidence to show that increased dowry, linked to increased education, may be an 
inhibiting factor for some parents. It would be useful to establish the extent of 
this, and it may need to be factored into standard calculations of the cost of 
educating girls. 

The attitudes of boys/younger men have been neglected in past studies relating to 
girls' education; but, as the patriarchs, husbands, and fathers of the future, their 
favourable views are vital for the continued expansion of education for girls. 
However, this study indicated that the views of the boys were less favourable than 


Educating girls in Bangladesh: watering a neighbour's tree? 

those of any other sub-group. Further research into the attitudes of this group 
could lead to better-targeted awareness programmes, and a long-term objective 
of making the husbands and fathers of the future more open to the possibilities 
offered by the education of girls. 

Although the word 'empowerment' has crept into recent FSP documents, 
empowerment of women/girls is not an overt part of the programme. In this 
study, women/mothers were seen to be the strongest advocates of girls' 
education, but their own lack of empowerment restricts their role in decision 
making. A re-orientation of project objectives towards strengthening women's 
influence on family decisions would enhance the achievement of other project 
objectives (as well as enhancing the lives of the women). Such changes might best 
be achieved by linking with other programmes working in such areas as non- 
formal education, curriculum reform, and employment for empowerment, 
rather than a simple extension of traditional gendered roles. The FSP has a very 
strong momentum. By capitalising on that momentum and the widespread 
acceptance of the programme, the time seems right to build in modifications that 
actively promote the empowerment and equality of girls and women. 

The parents in the case study are happy to send their daughters to school while 
someone else - in this case, the FSP - is 'watering the neighbour's tree'. But the 
project is not sustainable in its present form: proof of lasting change will be seen 
if the 'watering' continues even though funding stops. 

Janet Raynor has worked as a teacher and education programme manager in 
Indonesia, South Africa, and Bangladesh. She has lived in Bangladesh for five years 
and worked on a range of education projects. She is currently completing her doctoral 
research at the Institute of Education, University of London. 


1 There are a number of names and acronyms for the various forms of the stipend programme. 
Here, I use 'FSP' as an umbrella term for all current and earlier versions of the programme. 


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5 The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Elimu Yetu Coalition 

Although Kenya's education policy does not discriminate against girls and 
women, their participation is characterised by manifest disparities. There are 
serious regional disparities in primary enrolment, particularly in the Arid and 
Semi-Arid Lands, where pastoralism and nomadism predominate. There are also 
wide variations in drop-out rates between regions, and in the last ten years 
completion rates in Kenya have never exceeded 50 per cent. Low completion 
rates, especially for girls, mean that few pupils who do succeed in completing 
their schooling manage to penetrate the labour market. 

The challenges that confront girls' education in Kenya include both in-school 
and out-of-school factors; they span the economic, cultural, social, regional, and 
policy realms. Since 2000, government and non-government agencies have tried 
to address these challenges, which are expressed in the interlinked problems of 
unequal access, poor rates of retention, and poor quality of education for girls. 
Their concerted efforts have in fact reduced the differential in girls' and boys' 
participation in basic education. 

This chapter reports the findings of research conducted by the Elimu Yetu 
Coalition with the broad aim of reviewing the progress made in girls' education 
in Kenya, primarily in primary education, since the World Education Forum in 
Dakar in 2000. J It aimed to do this by identifying the problems and challenges 
facing girls in achieving equal and full participation in basic education, especially 
girls from marginal communities, hardship areas, and disadvantaged families/ 
backgrounds. The research also aimed to assess existing and on-going efforts by 
government and NGOs to map who is doing what in the field of girls' education, 
and what has and has not worked. A second set of objectives concerned 
documentation of best practice, aiming to provide information to inform Elimu 
Yetu's campaigning and other advocacy work for girls' education in order to 
achieve the Millennium Development Goals on gender parity and gender 

The first section of this chapter considers the factors that hinder girls' 
participation in education both the out-of-school and in-school factors - in the 
three areas. It then examines the main interventions and programmes which the 
government of Kenya and a range of NGOs have been implementing to increase 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

girls' participation. The third section considers the advocacy work that is being 
increasingly carried out to raise awareness of the importance of girls' education; 
it also considers the dynamics of policy and planning for the promotion of girls' 
education in Kenya. 

The research methodology 

The research was conducted in March 2003, using a variety of qualitative 
methods which included in-depth interviews with education officials, civil- 
society organisations, community leaders, and teachers. Interviews were 
conducted with out-of-school children, children newly enrolled through the 
government's Free Primary Education legislation, and girls 'rescued' from early 
marriages. Focus-group discussions were held with parents, community 
members/leaders, and pupils. In addition, a literature review of policy 
documents and research reports was carried out. 

The interviews were conducted in two predominantly rural Districts - Tharaka 
and Kajiado - and in informal settlements in Nairobi. The information gathered 
in these areas was supplemented by interviews with NGOs working in a range of 
other rural and urban slum contexts. Kajiado and Tharaka are areas where the 
population is predominantly pastoralist, and the districts rural. 

Kajiado district is one of the 17 districts in the Rift Valley Province. It covers an 
area of 21,105 km 2 . The general topography of the district is characterised by 
plains and volcanic hills. The plains are dissected by several valleys. Children have 
to walk up and down the ridges in order to reach their schools. Cultural beliefs 
among the Maasai, who are the dominant ethnic group in the district, have 
affected children's education, and especially that of girls. 

Tharaka district, carved out of the former Tharaka Nithi district in 1998, is one 
of the poorest districts in the country. The poverty level stands at 65 per cent in 
absolute terms. The average income for most people in the district per month is 
Ksh 500 (about US$ 6.50). The main factors that damage girls' educational 
progress in the district are female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages. 

The informal settlements in Nairobi are characterised by poor living conditions, 
insecurity, environmental degradation, congestion, and unemployment. High 
heaps of garbage are common, there are few toilet facilities, and health-care 
facilities are absent - all of which creates the conditions for environmental 
diseases. Even basic schooling is not provided. Kibera, Kariobangi, and Mukuru 
are informal slums on the outskirts of Nairobi with high population densities. 
The occupants do not have legal tenure of the land, and schools are consequently 
not supported by the government. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Factors influencing girls' educational prospects 

Across all the areas in the study, the out-of-school issues that influence girls' 
prospects of education can be classified as social and cultural practices (early 
marriage, FGM, and student pregnancies); the low social status of girls and 
women; poverty; and girls' and boys' unequal labour burdens. In-school factors 
include sexual harassment; teachers' low expectations of girls' performance; 
gender-stereotyped learning materials; high rates of repetition for girls; and 
inadequate sanitary facilities. 

Out-of-school factors 

Early marriage 

The practice of early marriage was found to be most pronounced in Kajiado 
district, where girls are married at a young age (under 1 5 years) and often to older, 
wealthy men in order to fetch a good dowry, which in this region takes the form of 
cattle. (See Box 1.) In Nairobi, however, early marriage was not so pronounced, 
although it was found that girls becoming pregnant often dropped out of school 
and sought marriage. 

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is another factor behind girls' premature 
withdrawal from school. FGM is widely practised among the Maasai communities 
(and others in Kenya). Once a girl has undergone it, she is considered an adult 
woman and ready for marriage. The age at which girls are circumcised has been 
declining, and their subsequent 'adult behaviour' includes sexual activity and a lack 
of interest in schooling. Medical complications resulting from FGM and 
pregnancy contribute to drop-out rates in some communities. 

Low values attributed to girls and their education 

In communities where 'traditional' practices such as FMG are widespread, both 
girls and boys interviewed felt that girls' education was not valued as highly as 
boys' education. Boys in particular emphasised the fact that girls were often kept 
at home, but parents insisted that they valued education for their sons and 
daughters equally. In the informal urban settlements, some parents expressed the 
belief that educating a girl simply enriches her husband's family, while educating 
a boy is seen as enriching his own family. Interviewees noted that too much 
education may prevent a girl from getting a suitable husband, and that educated 
girls may cause difficulties in marriage, which could lead to divorce. 

The study also made clear the unequal gender division of labour in households. 
The work burden on girls at home was repeatedly cited as a negative factor 
affecting their education. 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Box 1 : Early marriage and schooling 

I am from Engaroni Division of Kajiado District. I have three brothers and four sisters. Two 
of my siblings, one brother and one sister, have gone to school up to primary level. They 
are sponsored by our uncle, who is working in Nairobi. 

I attended Engaroni primary school up to Class 2; then my father said he had no money to 
educate me. I was circumcised in 1996 and stayed at home the whole year. In 1997 1 got 
married to an old friend of my father. He was my father's age; the old man (my husband) 
was around 40 years old. He paid dowry in terms of two cows and an unknown amount of 

My mother told me of the arrangements, but I was too young to take any action. I was only 
9 years old by then. Then one Saturday morning I went to the chief to report the matter. 
The chief came to my husband's home and demanded that I be taken back to my parents' 
home, but my in-laws made plans to take me somewhere else to hide from the chief. 

When I heard about this plan, I ran away from my marriage and returned to my home. My 
father shouted at me and asked whether the chief had become my father. The following 
day my husband came and talked with my father. I was then ordered to go back with him, 
which I obeyed. After spending one night at my husband's home, I ran back home. My 
father asked me why I was back, but this time he did not send me back to my husband's 
home, because he feared the chief, who had threatened to jail him. 

Therefore they allowed me to go back to school, but on condition that I would see my 
husband every weekend. I went to school for one week but refused to see my husband 
during the weekend, because it was shameful: other children would laugh at me, a married 
wife in school. 

(14-year-old girl, Class 8, AIC Primary School) 

One informant said, 'If there is a baby to be taken care of, it will be the girl to do so 
- at the expense of her education! Also, parents keep children - most often girls - 
at home on market days. Many girls are expected to take their younger siblings 
with them to school - a practice which many teachers do not encourage. 'But 
teachers also realise that forbidding girls to bring siblings increased the girls' drop- 
out rates, so they allowed them (interviewee, Aga Khan Foundation Nairobi). 

In informal settlements in Nairobi, both boys and girls interviewed reported that 
girls were overburdened with housework, which included cooking, cleaning, 
washing, and taking care of the young ones. 'My sister is my mothers assistant. She 
even takes the baby to hospital She also goes looking for water, where she might have 
to queue the whole day (pupil, Shadrack Kimalel School, Kibera, Nairobi). 

In Kibera, where children attend private and community schools in the informal 
settlements, boys engage in hawking wares at weekends in order to earn money 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

for school fees. They also seek casual labour during the holidays. Girls often work 
in saloons, and some resort to providing sex in exchange for money. Most girls 
who were interviewed lacked money to buy sanitary wear and consequently 
stayed away from school during their menstrual periods. Pornographic movies 
in the neighbourhood exposed girls to negative gender images. Drunkenness and 
drug abuse are daily activities in these settlements, and in Kibera drugs and beer 
are sold in the kiosks. Girls are exposed to this hostile environment on their way 
to and from school. 

The number of HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya is projected to be around 1.5 
million in 2005 (MoH/NACC 2002). In the three areas surveyed for the study, 
informal settlements in Nairobi were hardest hit by the impact of HIV/ AIDS. 
Here, many girls have assumed the extra responsibility of looking after their 
siblings, and child-headed families are on the increase. However, in Kajiado and 
Tharaka, HIV/AIDS cases are minimal. Both the government officials and 
teachers interviewed in these districts said they knew of few pupils who had 
dropped out of school in response to the impact of HIV/ AIDS on their lives. 

The case described in Box 2 illustrates effects of poverty on girls' education. 
Safety and security factors also play a key role in keeping girls out of school. Long 

Box 2: Dropping out of school 

I was born in 1989, and my mother is single. I was enrolled in Class 1 in 1995 in Majengo 
primary school [a private school], but my mother had a lot of problems, like raising money 
for food and rent. We were occasionally locked out by the landlord for not paying rent on 
time. So we moved to Mukuru informal settlement, and my mother managed to pay rent for 
some time. Initially, I found it difficult to cope, but later adjusted to the cramped and squalid 
living conditions in Mukuru. 

When I was in Class 3, my mother had a baby and life became difficult. I began going to 
school without lunch, although our neighbour, called Baba Amos, would bring some food 
for us and give my mother some money. I learned later that he was my sister's father, and 
we eventually moved in with him. 

My mother tried doing some business and she would travel up-country to buy cereals for 
sale. But one day in 1999 1 returned home from school to learn that she had died in a road 
accident. There was no money for the funeral, and I have never seen her grave. 

We still live with Baba Amos in one room. I wash clothes in people's homes to provide for my 
sister and I help Baba to sell busaa. I dropped out of school because there was no money for 
my fees, but recently I got a sponsor for my sister, so that she can go to school. When Free 
Primary Education was introduced, I wanted to go back to school, but Baba Amos became 
very angry. I don't think he has ever been to school, though he knows how to count money. 

(Out-of-school girl, 14 years old, Mukuru Slum, Nairobi) 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

distances to schools from home expose girls to physical and sexual dangers and 
lead to drop-out. Distances are long in the Kajiado region (16 km-40 km), while 
in the urban areas commuting to school on public transport poses dangers to 
girls from harassment by drunks (Chege 1995). 

Teenage pregnancy, a direct result of the security and poverty issues outlined 
above, strongly affects girls' ability to participate in education. According to 
the Kenya Domestic Household Survey, adolescent mothers constitute more 
than half (55 per cent) of adolescent girls. Although the Kenyan government 
has a policy of allowing the re-entry of girls to schools after giving birth, many 
girls and parents are not aware of it, and those who do return suffer from 
stigmatisation, ridicule, and abuse from both teachers and other pupils. 
However, it is the lack of child-care facilities that seems the main factor that keeps 
girls at home. 

In-school factors 

A clear finding to emerge from the study was that both teachers and male pupils 
harass girls. Teachers seek sexual favours from girls and are sometimes in 
competition with male pupils. Teachers were said to use girls to run errands, fetch 
water and cook for them. 

Lack of female teachers emerged as a key in-school factor affecting girls' 
education. In Tharaka, a semi-arid district, female teachers are rare. Girls 
expressed the need for female teachers in schools so that they could confide in 
them and see them as role models. Most girls refused to discuss their problems 
with male teachers in the absence of female teachers. In Muslim communities, 
lack of single-sex schools may constitute a barrier to female education. 

Late enrolment is another factor affecting girls' drop-out. Teachers force children 
who do not perform well to repeat a year, a practice which takes a higher toll on girls 
than boys because it widens the disparity between age and grade. Girls are exposed 
to ridicule, early sex, pregnancy, and eventual drop-out before completion. 

Lack of guidance and counselling in schools accelerates the rate at which girls 
drop out. In interviews with pupils, girls revealed that they had not been 
prepared by either parents or teachers to deal with changes in their bodies. Some 
reported having been taught about menstruation by their home-science teacher, 
but this subject has now been removed from the syllabus. 

Some teachers interviewed had a low opinion of girls' performance. They 
believed that science and technical subjects should be left for boys. Student 
interviewees reported that such teachers undermined and discouraged girls from 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

In all three areas - Tharaka, Kajiado, and Nairobi - pupils reported having 
insufficient learning materials. In Tharaka, each textbook was shared between as 
many as five pupils. The situation was similar in Kajiado and Nairobi. In City 
Council schools in Nairobi, pupils are required to buy a desk on admission, and 
there are up to 1 15 pupils in each class. The situation was reported to be bad also 
in those non-State schools which had no NGO or church sponsorship. On top of 
paying 500 Kshs. a month, students have to provide their own books, pencils, 
uniform, and bags despite the existence of the government's Free Primary 
Education programme. 

Whereas some schools have adequate sanitary facilities, some are in very poor 
condition. In Tharaka, water was lacking in most of the schools. The pit latrines 
were almost full and in very poor condition, thus posing a danger to the pupils. 
In Kibera, some of the girls' toilets had no doors. The facilities were dirty and 
faced the front of the school. Girls felt embarrassed to use these toilets. 

The study found drug and alcohol abuse to be a major problem in urban areas 
such as Nairobi. In Kibera both boys and girls were said to be involved in drug 
and alcohol abuse, and some girls reportedly assist their mothers in selling beer. 

Interventions in girls' education 

Although educational opportunities have indeed expanded for all children in 
Kenya, girls in marginal and urban poor areas still face many obstacles to 
education. Government and civil-society organisations recognise the need for 
gender equality and have responded in a range of different ways. The next section 
draws on the research data to present some of the key responses from 
government in terms of policy development and new legislation. It goes on to 
describe some of the practical responses from NGOs working with small-scale 
innovative projects to increase the participation of girls in education in Kenya. 

Government strategies 

The Ominde report (1964), produced by a commission that was set up 
immediately following independence, and all other education reports, such as 
Gachathi report (1976), Mackay report (1981), Kamunge report (1988), Master 
Plan on Education and Training (1998), and the Koech report (2000), all made 
reference to the need to accelerate improvements in the education of girls. 2 The 
Koech report, which proposed a new structure to the education system but was 
later shelved, also recognised the efforts already made by the government to 
improve girls' education, including affirmative action in the expansion of 
facilities to enable girls to study science and technical subjects, and a policy of 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

allowing girls who drop out due to pregnancy to continue with education. These 
and other factors have yielded benefits, demonstrated by the increase of girls' 
participation in schooling (Republic of Kenya 2002). 

Kenya's commitment to redressing problems concerning girls' education is 
evidenced through participation in international forums on gender and girls' 
education. The country is a signatory to nearly all international conventions on 
education and has ratified several international instruments relating to gender 
equality, thus joining the global community's commitment to redressing 
imbalances related to gender, learning, and underdevelopment. Progress has 
been made towards institutionalisation of the strategies but, as the previous 
section illustrates, there are still gaps to be closed and challenges to be met in 
terms of translating the policies into good practice. 

Local efforts and strategies by the Kenya government to meet the goal of 
Education For All (EFA) at the primary level include the following. 

Operating multi-shift systems to ease congestion. 

Permitting a flexible timetable in areas where school competes with the 
economic and social activities of the community. 

Establishing a disaggregated system of unit costs for essential 
teaching/learning and other activities, as when the government introduced 
Free Primary Education (FPE), under which funds were allocated to specific 
school activities. 

Regularly monitoring and auditing primary-school performance. 

Operating re-entry policies for girls who leave school due to pregnancies, 
child labour, and other factors. 

Enacting (in 200 1 ) the Children's Act, which recognises that education is the 
basic human right of every child. The Act combines into one law several 
pieces of legislation affecting children, including the Children and Young 
Persons Act, the Guardianship of Infants Act, and the Adoption Act. There is 
now a Children's Court, which is subordinate to the High Court of Kenya, 
with a presiding magistrate. 

In January 2003 the newly elected government of Kenya introduced Free Primary 
Education and appointed the FPE Task Force to assist with the development of 
appropriate responses for implementing FPE. Although FPE opened doors to 
both boys and girls, regional disparities and cultural factors still affect girls' 
access, retention, and outcomes in marginal communities. 

At the time when this research was conducted in 2003, the Kenyan government 
had a range of policies to promote girls' education, but they were not brought 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

together to form one piece of legislation or plan. They are scattered across policy 
documents, such as the reports of different commissions and committees on 
education, development plans, and sessional papers. The Ministry of Education 
was at that time in the process of developing a Gender Education Policy Paper 
with aims that included the elimination of gender disparities in access, transition, 
retention, and performance in education. It includes measures designed to 
achieve the following. 

Address specific problems of access, retention, transition, and performance 
of the boy and girl child in the education system. 

Promote and support alternative systems of basic education, in 
collaboration with other stakeholders. 

Improve participation of children with disability, especially the girl child, in 
both special and vocational training. 

Ensure that literacy and post-literacy materials are gender- responsive and 
easily available to all learners (MOEST, draft 2003). 

Some of the strategies to achieve these aims have already been put into action. 
For example, the government introduced a policy of expanding existing facilities 
in order to take care of the needs of disabled children; some of the schools visited 
in the course of the research had a unit for children with special needs. Units 
catering for children with hearing impairments or physical disabilities greatly 
improve the opportunities for girls, as it is mainly the girl child that suffers 
neglect. But the piecemeal nature of the changes and lack of a coherent legislative 
framework mean that Kenya has missed part of the MDG 3 target (eliminate 
gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005). 

There is an on-going review of the Education Act to provide an adequate legal 
framework to improve management, co-ordination, and quality control in 
education and consolidation of the national action plan on EFA which will 
identify strategies for improving girls' education over the next ten years. There 
are also budget reviews and cost analysis, including tracking expenditure 
patterns in the education sector with a view to making the national budget 
gender-fair, and establishing an allocation for girls. However, these actions are 
being undertaken at a very slow pace, and at the time of going to press they are 
still awaiting finalisation. They are therefore key components of the Elimu Yetu 
Campaign for 2005 (see the following section). 

NGO initiatives 

This section presents some of the activities being undertaken by the NGO sector 
to improve education for girls. 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Girls' re-entry programmes 

In the recent past, the government introduced the Re-Entry Programme, which 
allows girls who have given birth to be re-admitted into schools. The Lutheran 
World Federation (LWF) established a project, funded by UNHCR, to cater for 
girls who had dropped out of the mainstream primary-education system and 
wished to return to school. The Western Kenya Girl Child Network chapter has 
helped teenage mothers to return to formal education after delivery. 

Box 3: Re-entering primary school after giving birth 

We are about 20 children in my family. My father has four wives, and my mother is the last 
wife. I am the fifth born in my mother's family of seven children. We are three daughters 
and four sons. They have all been to school. My elder siblings are educated up to Form 4, 
although one of my sisters, the one that I come after, only went up to Class 8. 

I joined this school in 1 991 in Nursery. Last year when I was in Standard 7, 1 got pregnant. I 
took a break in the month of October 2002 to go and give birth. I delivered a baby girl in 
January this year and then resumed school in May. I am currently in Class 8, but I will not 
sit for examinations, because I have missed many lessons. 

Although it was a young single man who impregnated me, I did not want to get married to 
him and so I opted to come back to school. My parents suggested that I come back to 
school too, and I agreed. I am happy with my classmates and teachers, who treat me with 
respect. My mother takes care of the baby as I come to school. But I go home to 
breastfeed during lunchtime and after school. The baby does not affect my schooling at all. 
At home I have time to do my homework. 

I am interested in learning even up to secondary level and beyond, but my parents cannot 
afford school fees for higher learning; that is why one of my sisters is at home. She helps 
Mother to take care of the baby. 

(Girl, 16 years old, Moipei Primary School, Class 8) 

Financing initiatives to support girls in education 

It emerged from the study that poverty was one of the strongest factors affecting 
girls' education. To address the poverty issue, some civil-society organisations - 
for instance, the Basic Education Fund (BEF) - have encouraged school- 
management committees to be involved in income-generating activities. The 
Kenyan chapter of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWEK), 
which partners BEF in Mbeere and Meru districts, provides seed money (initial 
financial assistance) to school managers, and the money is used to support 
gender- sensitisation clubs. Club members are encouraged to establish income- 
generating activities to sustain them. The money generated from the activities is 
used for meeting club needs. Club members are engaged in creative arts as a form 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

of communicating about the rights of the girl child and the need to educate girls. 
They also generate income from such performances. 

Another anti-poverty strategy is the financing of small businesses, a process 
funded by BEF and Oxfam GB to empower poor parents economically and give 
them an economic base from which they can pay for the education of girls. 
Oxfam GB works in partnership with Wema Center in Mombasa and Pendekezo 
Letu to provide educational and other basic needs for girls retrieved from the 
streets. Parents of these girls are given financial support for a period of three years 
to start income-generating activities. 

In Kajiado, which is predominantly a pastoral area, chiefs try to reduce poverty 
by encouraging the community to supplement animal supervision with farming, 
thus earning extra money which can then be used for food and school fees for 
children. Dupoto E Maa is also working in this district to address the problem of 
poverty by encouraging head-teachers to register an association for lobbying the 
Ministry of Education. They are encouraged to act collectively to present the 
problems facing children in their schools, such as the need for school meals and 
lower fees for boarding schools. 

ActionAid Kenya (AAK) established school resource bases in which levy- saving 
strategies are set up. Before the introduction of FPE, this fund helped poor 
households to pay school levies. But since the establishment of the new FPE 
programme, the fund is used to supply other school needs not met by the 
government. Under this project, AAK and the community each raise half the 
necessary funds; schools draw on the overall fund and develop budgets for 
purchasing teaching and learning materials and paying watchmen's salaries. The 
aim of the project is to encourage the schooling of girls from poor households. 
The project also encourages the spirit of working together. 

In-school feeding programmes 

A further intervention is the introduction of in-school feeding programmes. The 
Arid and Semi-Arid Areas have a particular problem with girls' access to 
schooling, because of the long distances between villages and schools. One of the 
primary reasons why girls in this position are not allowed to go to school is that 
they cannot afford to go back home for lunch. Special interventions have been 
implemented in some of these areas to improve enrolment, including an in- 
school feeding scheme in Kajiado, funded by the World Food Programme. 
However, at the time of writing this project was due to end in a few months, and 
already some of the schools visited under the study were no longer receiving 
food. In Kibera slum, Oxfam GB has a feeding programme for girls from poor 
backgrounds. In both situations, girls are prioritised because they are most likely 
to be withdrawn from school in cases of long distances and poverty. 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Bursaries and sponsorship 

Sponsorship is used as another intervention in girls' education. The GCN (Girl 
Child Network - a network bringing together all actors on girls' education in the 
country) and Christian Children Fund (CCF) sponsor girls from poor back- 
grounds. With the introduction of FPE, GCN turned its attention to sponsoring 
girls in secondary schools, while the CCF now buys uniforms, books, and other 
school needs for children from needy backgrounds. In an interview with pupils 
from Moipei and Oloosuyan primary schools in Kajiado, it was revealed that 
some of the participants were beneficiaries of the CCF. 

The Young Muslim Association gives preference to girls in its bursary awards, 
while Oxfam GB supports a partner in Wajir which provides uniforms for school 
girls and builds separate toilets for girls in schools. Pupils of Mashimoni Squatters 
Primary School in Kibera reported that they receive clothes, uniforms, bags, and 
food from the Calvary Evangelistic group. This group offers breakfast, lunch, and 
supper to orphans. All sponsored children have their meals in the school. 

Sinaga Center in Nairobi rescues children employed as domestic workers and 
sponsors bright pupils in the ABC (basic literacy) class to benefit from formal 
education in boarding schools. The centre has a withdrawal and counselling 
programme whereby girls are withdrawn from work as house girls. After 
counselling they are taught basic literacy before they are sponsored to join formal 
schooling. The Education Officer in Tharaka confirmed that the government has 
established bursary funds in the district in order to reduce the rates at which girls 
from poor backgrounds drop out of school. 

Girls' clubs 

The Girls' Education Movement (GEM) is an intervention implemented by 
Women Educational Researchers of Kenya ( WERK) in order to improve the 
participation of girls in schooling. It is a movement led by young people, aiming 
to transform negative attitudes towards girls' education in Africa. A participatory 
movement, it is designed to give children and young girls maximum opportunity 
to develop and express their own ideas without adult interference. GEM emerged 
from a meeting of professionals in Kampala in 2000. WERK is working towards 
a partnership with UNHCR which will establish GEM clubs in primary schools 
and refugee camps. Three young Kenyan girls, who are members of WERK, 
participated in the workshop in Uganda. During this workshop they undertook 
a training course, and as a result they are training other girls in the country. 

Flexible models of schooling 

In promoting girls' education, ActionAid Kenya (AAK) arrived at an alternative 

approach to education, known as non-formal education (NFE), in Samburu, 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

which is predominantly a pastoralist region. AAK conducts evening and after- 
work classes. Initially, the project targeted older children of both sexes, but it 
emerged that 65 per cent of the pupils were girls of school-going age who were 
left at home to milk and to take care of the weaker animals during times of 
drought, while boys took animals far from home in search of pasture. 

In collaboration with the government, AAK has assisted in the establishment of 
out-of-school centres in Samburu next to the manyattas (the traditional houses 
of the Samburu). The Ministry of Education runs these centres, enrolling 
disadvantaged girls. Most teachers in these centres are formal professionals, 
employed by the government. They are motivated by incentives such as training 
courses in multi-grade teaching and exposure visits to other regions of Kenya. 

The Mobile School Project in North Eastern province is another example of a 
successful intervention. The government has worked jointly with Oxfam GB to 
support mobile schools for the children of nomadic pastoralists in the province. 
Oxfam GB supports the Nomadic Primary Health Care and Mobile School in 

Head-teachers of schools participating in the research concurred that they 
engaged in several activities within their schools to promote girls' education. 
They include the following. 

Discouraging FGM and early marriage for girls. 

Inviting role models into school to address girls. 
Holding seminars with parents on girls' education. 

Providing guidance and counselling to girls. 

Giving awards to girls who perform well, to promote their morale and to 
encourage others. 

Involving girls in income-generating clubs, such as the 4K clubs, with the aim of 
enabling them to earn money to meet their needs. 

Promoting positive images of girls 

Using positive role models has also proved an effective intervention to encourage 
out-of-school girls to attend school. The Girl Child Network operating in Coast 
Province, Kwale district, has introduced a programme similar to one run by the 
HEP (Integrated Islamic Education Programme), whereby mentors act as role 
models to girls in schools. However, unlike the Aga Khan Foundation, which uses 
government teachers as mentors, GCN identifies role models through the 
provincial and district education officers. Formation of gender-sensitisation 
clubs in schools has further improved girls' participation in schooling. The Child 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Welfare Society of Kenya and the Basic Education Fund, together with pupils in 
AIC girls' boarding school in Kajiado, also practise this approach. The clubs play 
a key role in creating awareness of the rights of the girl child. Some clubs, 
especially those sponsored by the Basic Education Fund in Mbeere, have enabled 
orphaned children - both boys and girls - to acquire education, by paying for 
their school needs. Through the Mbeere Club, members sensitise parents about 
the importance of girls' education. 

Centres of excellence 

Four chapters of FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists) in Kenya, 
Rwanda, Tanzania, and Senegal have been involved in another type of 
intervention: the establishment of centres of excellence. These model schools are 
designed to provide an environment conducive to high-quality learning and 
teaching. The schools demonstrate how accumulated information, knowledge, 
and experience can be used to formulate, implement, and monitor policies and 
practices that promote girls' education ( FA WE News, April-June 2001). 

Several Centres of Excellence have been established in Kajiado District, where 
parents, especially fathers, commonly marry off young girls to older men. All the 
civil-society organisations, government officials, community members, and 
leaders who participated in the Elimu Yetu study confided that they were engaged 
in rescuing girls from early marriages. The district has special schools which are 
used as 'rescue' centres, or centres of excellence. The first school to be used as a 
rescue centre has saved many girls from early marriage and at the time of writing 
has approximately 60 rescue cases. The schools emphasise holistic, high-quality 
education, achieved through use of regular in-service training of teachers. The 
teachers are trained in gender sensitivity, with emphasis on the creation of girl- 
friendly teaching environments, the use of counselling skills, and the up-dating 
of teaching methods. The school committee is trained in management skills, and 
the girls are trained to understand their rights. The school provides a girl- 
friendly teaching and learning environment, which produces girls who are 
empowered and full of confidence in themselves. FAWE has identified a gap 
between rescued girls and their parents and has now started reconciling girls with 
their parents, through consultations between chiefs and parents. Some girls now 
feel able to approach chiefs for assistance. In a focus-group discussion, three 
chiefs in Kajiado District commented: 'On the problem of early/forced marriages, 
we have one organisation that helps us: FAWE. When we hear of a girl getting 
married off, we retrieve her and enrol her at AIC Girls, a FAWE- sponsored school' 

FAWE-Kenya takes a holistic approach to enhancing girls' education. Right from 
the inception of a project, it involves the community in all activities. 
Communities act as agents and are involved throughout the life of the project, 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

providing locally available materials. FAWE uses research findings to identify 
areas of intervention. This research may be an initiative of its own, or it may be 
conducted by other organisations. After identifying the problem, FAWE 
researchers study it and propose suitable interventions. For example, the centres 
of excellence alluded to above were introduced as a result of the finding that girls 
are forced into marriage in exchange for cows. In response, rescue centres for 
such girls, such as AIC Girls' School which is described above, were established. 

Teaching methodologies 

The Aga Khan Foundation has initiated a programme in public schools that 
targets the improvement of teaching methodologies in primary schools. The 
programme focuses on re-adjusting methodologies to be gender-sensitive. Each 
teacher in these schools is allocated to a mentor. The Foundation has a technical 
team of five qualified persons who provide mentoring to the teachers and address 
monitoring, evaluation, documentation, and mobilisation. The mobilisation 
mentor deals with issues pertaining to school management. The Aga Khan 
Foundation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Teachers' 
Service Commission to train their teachers as mentors. The training takes place 
at the Shanzu Teachers' College in Mombasa during school holidays. 

Following the introduction of FPE, the Aga Khan Foundation had to refocus its 
approach to the school-improvement programme. The numbers of children in 
school rose and rose, yet teachers were not trained to deal with the large numbers, 
differing levels of ability, and widely varying ages of the pupils admitted during 
the introduction of FPE. As a consequence, schools started to lose some enrolled 
children: 'In one school, we lost 60 pupils within a month as the older pupils failed 
to cope with ridicule from younger ones. The most affected were big girls' 
(interviewee, Aga Khan Foundation, Nairobi). 

The Aga Khan Foundation initiates programmes as a response to community 
requests. For example, the organisation introduced the HEP to the Muslim 
community in Kwale District, aiming to integrate academic learning with the 
values of the community. Prior to this, community members took their children 
to the mosque and madrassa classes, where education was limited to reciting the 
Quran. Girls in this community often married as young as ten years of age. On 
realising this, the Aga Khan Foundation devised an integrated curriculum, 
combining both Islamic and secular teachings, as a way of encouraging parents 
to delay their daughters' marriages and send their girls to school, since their 
religion was now part of the curriculum. To promote the retention and transition 
of girls to secondary level in schools in this area (Kwale), the Aga Khan 
Foundation trained most of the girls as teachers after primary or secondary 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Advocacy and local sensitisation 

Sensitisation on the rights of girls 

Both the government and civil-society organisations are engaged in advocacy and 
sensitisation work to improve girls' access and retention. Several advocacy 
activities mounted by diverse interest groups can be singled out in this regard. For 
example, ActionAid Kenya (AAK) organises training on the Children's Act and 
harmful practices. In Narok District, AAK focuses its training on early marriages, 
to counter the cultural practice of marrying off young girls immediately after 
circumcision. During these training courses, local chiefs are mandated with 
responsibility for safeguarding the interests of the girl child. Surprisingly, most 
parents are not aware of children's rights: 'The communities were shocked to hear 
that they could go to jail for marrying off their daughters' (interviewee, AAK 

In Kajiado, Dupoto E Maa collaborates with the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) 
and the provincial administration to fight for the rights of the children. Forums 
are organised to address the education of the girl child in the rural areas. Such 
forums enlighten girls about their rights. As a result, many girls have rejected 
forced marriages and have been enrolled in schools. Box 4 typifies the testimony 
of girls saved from early/forced marriages by the provincial administration. 

Box 4: Escape from forced marriage 

It was in the year 2000 and I was 1 1 years old when a friend of my grandfather came to him, 
wanting to be given a girl. Grandfather notified my father about the request, and my father 
did not say a word. Among the Maasai, first-born children belong to the grandparents, and 
that is why my father did not object to he request. My grandfather then arranged to 'give me 
away'. My wedding was to be on Saturday, but, two days before, a friend of mine from 
school advised me to refuse the marriage. Then on the Thursday before the wedding I 
asked for permission to visit my maternal grandmother. I used the chance to come to school 
in Kajiado, where I was advised to go to the District Commissioner's office to report the 
case. The DC wrote down my story and took me back to school. 

(Girl, 16 years old, AIC Kajiado Primary School) 

The Basic Education Fund supports women's lobby groups, composed of 
professionals, throughout Kajiado district. The lobby groups campaign against 
retrogressive cultural practices such as FGM and early marriage. Government 
officials who are not from the Maasai community support this strategy. They 
argue that communities are more likely to listen to their own people. Lobbying has 
led to changes in the circumcision calendar. Circumcision used to be conducted at 
any time of the year, but after sensitisation the ceremony is now performed during 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

the December school holidays, which are long enough for wounds to heal. It is 
culturally accepted practice for the female circumcision term to last three months, 
but this has been reduced to one month, to enable girls to go back to school. 
However, members of the lobby groups revealed that sensitisation in some regions 
of the district requires the involvement of men, since they are the decision makers 
within society. Professional women are sometimes dismissed as 'educated or town 
women' who do not uphold traditional culture. 

Ntanira Na Mugambo, meaning 'circumcise with a word of mouth', is a 
community-based organisation (CBO) operating in Tharaka District. It was 
started in 1996 by a group of women on realising that FGM was widespread in the 
community and was the cause of early marriages and girls' high rates of school 
drop-out. The CBO focused on raising awareness about FGM by means of an 
adapted curriculum which covers harmful traditional practices, personal hygiene, 
boy/men/girl relationships, self-esteem, drug abuse, decision making, peer 
pressure, reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS. 
Through this programme many girls have been saved from FGM. 

Organisation of forums at which girls can discuss their experiences has also been 
used as a strategy to improve their schooling. ActionAid Kenya organised a series 
of meetings in Western Kenya in 2003, at which girls had an opportunity to 
express their problems, among which were sexual harassment, rape and 
molestation, physical punishment in schools, domestic chores at home, and the 
requirement to work for teachers. The girls wrote letters to their Members of 
Parliament and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, appealing 
for changes to the gender policy. Currently, ActionAid Kenya is planning 
appropriate strategies to counter the problems mentioned. 

Mainstreaming gender across organisations 

Civil-society organisations are working to ensure that their own practices are 
gender-sensitive. BEF led the development of a CARE Kenya gender-relations 
manual, used by managers, and a manual on gender equality in education for 

Advocacy for the implementation of national legislation 

Although legislation exists which recognises the rights and responsibilities of 
government and schools, it is quite another issue to have these recognised and 
enforced. Many strong cultural and social norms perpetuate the practice of early 
marriage, and girls may not know of the legislation - or, even if they do, they may 
not be in a position to demand that their rights be recognised. NGOs and CBOs 
are working at the local and national levels to raise awareness and break down the 
barriers that hinder girls from achieving their right to an education. 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

The Women Educational Researchers of Kenya ( WERK) work to bridge the gap 
between the re-entry policy for girl mothers and the continued stigma of being a 
school-age mother and securing child care. ANPPCAN has been involved in 
collective lobbying for girls' education with specific networks like GCN, and has 
promoted the importance of education of the girl child in the media. It was also 
involved in lobbying for the passing of the Children's Bill, when members 
sensitised parliamentarians on the importance of that legislation. 

One of FAWE's strategic objectives is to influence policy formulation by working 
closely with the Ministry of Education. The government has also taken 
affirmative action on bursary allocation in response to FAWE's lobbying. Two 
million Kenyan shillings have been allocated for girls in every province, and this 
money is channelled through FAWEK. Another affirmative action under 
consideration by the government, thanks to FAWE's lobbying, is the admission of 
girls to university education: it is proposed that they should be accepted with 
slightly lower qualifications than boys. 

The Kibera Slum Education Programme (KISEP), an umbrella group of three 
community-based organisations supported by Oxfam GB, has been lobbying 
and campaigning for government recognition of the Kibera informal settlement 
and the inhabitants' rights to education. 

This section has provided an overview of some of the main initiatives on girls' 
education that have been taking place in Kenya. The challenges, however, are 
great, and government needs to push forward with its review of the Education 
Act and its policy paper for Gender and Education. The NGO sector, under the 
umbrella of the Elimu Yetu Coalition, is becoming a well co-ordinated and 
effective lobbying force to hold the government accountable to its commitments 
to EFA and the MDGs, as the next section illustrates. 

Campaigning to influence policies and plans 

The Elimu Yetu Coalition (EYC) was formed in 1999 as part of the efforts to make the 
Jomtien Declaration real and relevant for Kenyans, and to take part in related global 
campaigns for the attainment of good-quality basic education for all. EYC is a 
coalition of some 40 civil-society organisations, professional groupings, educa- 
tion/research institutions, and other practitioners in the education sector. The 
coalition is inspired by a vision of a literate society which values and practises 
democratic ideals and promotes cohesion in diversity. Its way of working towards 
achieving this vision is through campaigning for an education that is sustainable and 
responsive to the developmental and material needs of Kenyans. EYC believes that its 
mission is to influence and facilitate policy change and promote best practices that 
will ensure quality basic education for all that is free, relevant, and compulsory. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Box 5: Elimu Yetu's approach to campaigning and advocacy 

Engaging in critical awareness-raising to highlight problems facing the Kenyan 
education sector, to convince public opinion of the importance of education. 

Lobbying and working closely with the government, policy makers, development 
partners, and other educational institutions in various areas of education, to fulfil the 
commitment to provide basic education for all by 201 5. 

Building a strong constituency, by strengthening the advocacy capacities of members 
and other key actors in education, with very clear goals and targets, to influence policy 
shift towards the attainment of EFA goals. 

Campaigning/advocating for, and where possible facilitating access to, education by 
special-interest groups such as girls and women, children and people with disabilities, 
and young people in difficult circumstances, especially those from 
marginal/disadvantaged communities. 

Championing the cause of education from a rights-based perspective, and mobilising 
resources to ensure its accessibility to all citizens in the most affordable way. 

Working with and through established networks and forums to achieve targeted goals 
in education. 

Conducting research on various aspects of education, with a view to providing 
empirical data to inform policy formulation and decision making. 

The study on which this chapter is based is an example of the research that EYC 
has commissioned for the purpose of advocacy and lobbying. The research 
report was launched in 2003 by the Ministry of Education Science and Training 
(MOEST) and disseminated broadly to other stakeholders. It has provided 
background information to enable EYC to be an active member of the on-going 
Gender Education Policy Document review, and its findings are influencing the 
content of the policy. EYC is now working to establish key groups in Parliament, 
such as the 'Women Parliamentarians' Forum', which will debate and utilise this 
and other research to ensure that the Gender Education Policy Document 
achieves parliamentary approval and passes into law. 

The EYC is also closely networked with key alliances and actors in Africa and 
elsewhere who are working for EFA and gender equality. EYC is a key contact and 
partner of ANCEFA (the African National Network for EFA) in Kenya, and the 
organisations are working jointly on a 'Global Call For Action Against Poverty'. 
EYC is also an active member of the Global Campaign for Education, with which 
it works on global issues relating to the attainment of EFA goals. A key cam 
paigning opportunity for the EYC is its engagement with the Global Week of 
Action, which in 2005 adopted a strong focus on the importance of girls' 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

education and campaigned for commitments from the government of Kenya to 
work towards gender parity and gender equality. Free Primary Education (FPE) 
was a big step forward for Kenya, but it is only a first step and much remains to be 
done to make free, good-quality education a reality for all boys and girls. EYC is 
one of the key partners of the Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF), a UK 
government fund which supports the strengthening of national coalitions, such 
as EYC, to build the capacity of its member organisations to engage with 
government on policy and practice change, and especially to work with 
government to achieve the MDGs, beginning with MDG 3. 


The research that the Elimu Yetu Coalition commissioned illustrates how, despite 
a range of interventions and policy changes aimed at improving the education of 
girls, there are still many obstacles to further progress. It also demonstrates that 
these challenges need to be confronted and tackled by a wide range of 
stakeholders: government at all levels, civil society and its organisations, and the 
private sector. The research illustrates the need for persistent attention not only to 
the development of a national gender policy, but also to an action plan for its 
implementation. The Kenyan government has not yet submitted the long-awaited 
Gender Education Policy to Parliament, which is only a first step towards ensuring 
positive changes in girls' lives and girls' experience of education. This process 
needs to take place within the wider context of the review of the Education Act 
and the effective implementation of the provisions of the Children's Act, so that 
gender equality and girls' education are mainstreamed through these wider 
processes. Even though the government introduced Free Primary Education in 
early 2003, it is clear that affirmative action is needed to ensure that girls are not 
deterred from schooling by hidden costs and opportunity costs, and to ensure that 
the implementation of initiatives for girls' education is adequately budgeted, and 
that funding is available to ensure training in management and teaching to 
encourage more women into teaching. EYC and civil society have an important 
role to play in the development of strong strategies to ensure the implementation 
of such important education legislation. In 2004 a joint education survey was 
carried out by all actors in education - donors, civil-society organisations such as 
EYC, and the Ministry of Education, MOEST - to enrich the sector-wide 
approach and status of FPE in 2004. EYC is lobbying hard for the enactment of the 
Gender Education Policy. 

Alongside these policy measures, the research indicates that government and 
civil society have much work to do together to continue to raise the awareness at 
community and local levels of the importance of education for girls, and for the 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

imposition of harsher penalties for sexual abuse and harassment. The legislation 
on re-entry for girls who have dropped out of school because of pregnancy needs 
to be reinforced, and innovative programmes addressing the threat posed by 
HIV/AIDS must be supported. 

For girls to attend school and achieve well in school, there is a need for adequate 
and appropriate physical facilities, and gender- sensitive learning materials and 
teaching practices. This chapter has documented some examples of good 
practice that are already being implemented by government and civil society. 
Good practices need to be documented and replicated in other areas, so that 
education is gender-equitable throughout the country and in all aspects of the 
system, rather than in patches. 

The Elimu Yetu Coalition will continue to work with government at national, 
provincial, and local levels and to build a strong network of civil-society 
organisations to meet the challenge of educating girls in Kenya. Community 
sensitisation on cultural beliefs and practices will be critical in ensuring that 
parents send girls to school. There is a pressing need for female role models and 
representation at policy-making and managerial levels. Women in power need to 
take the bull by the horns and demand a strategy from the government that will 
ensure that every girl in Kenya gets a good-quality education. 

Elimu Yetu Coalition, formed in 1999, comprises approximately 40 civil-society 
organisations, professional groupings, education/research institutions, and other 
practitioners in the education sector in Kenya. It is dedicated to the vision of a literate 
society that values and practises democratic ideals and promotes cohesion in 
diversity. The Coalition proposes to pursue a rights-based campaign towards 
achievement of Education For All, with a major emphasis on universal primary 
education that is free, relevant, and compulsory. 


1 Elimu Yetu Coalition (2003) 'Gender and Education: The Challenge of Educating Girls in 
Kenya', Elimu Yetu Coalition and Oxfam GB. 

2 .html 


Chege (1995) 'Strategic gender needs: a challenge to education in Kenya', Basic Education Forum, 6 

Human Rights Watch (2001) 'In the shadow of death: HIV/AIDS and children's rights in Kenya', 
Human Rights Watch 13/4(A) 

Government of Kenya (1998) Master Plan on Education and Training, 1997-2010 


The challenge of educating girls in Kenya 

Ministry of Education (2000) Report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Education System of 
Kenya (Koech Report), Ministry of Education and Training, Kenya 

Ministry of Education and Training (2003) Gender Education Policy Paper (draft), Ministry of 
Education and Training, Kenya 

Republic of Kenya (2002) National Report for the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on 
follow up to the World Summit for Children 


6 Learning to improve education policy 
for pastoralists in Kenya 

Ian Leggett 

In Kenya, as in much of Africa, primary-education provision and participation 
expanded dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s. The number of primary 
schools doubled from approximately 5000 in 1965 to 10,000 in 1980; enrolment 
increased even more dramatically, from just over one million pupils in 1965 to 
nearly four million in 1980 (Eshiwani 1993). This expansion reflected policy 
changes which collectively represented major advances in Kenya's educational 
development and the strategic use of public expenditure in support of 
educational policy goals (Abagi and Olweya 1999; Makau 1995). 

But the growth in provision and participation increasingly left behind the 
pastoral districts of Northern and Eastern Kenya (Nkinyangi 1982; Narman 
1990). For although the policies that underpinned primary education expansion 
were responsive to the needs and interests of the majority, they proved to be 
inappropriate to the circumstances in Kenya's pastoral districts, and neglectful of 
the rights of children, especially girls, who lived there. The consequences are 
chronically low levels of educational participation among pastoralist commu- 
nities, and marked disparities in provision and participation between pastoralist 
and other communities in Kenya. 

This examination 1 of education policy focuses on primary-education provision 
and participation in Wajir District, North Eastern Province. It is in North Eastern 
Province that the lowest primary-school participation rates in Kenya are found. 
If education policy is to be an effective instrument of change, it will be in North 
Eastern Kenya that it is likely to be most rigorously tested. This study does not 
seek to dwell on the deficiencies and inequalities of the past - which are 
increasingly being acknowledged (Republic of Kenya/UNICEF 1999). For our 
purposes, learning to improve policy means identifying ways, based on a critical 
analysis of past policies and a consultative approach to pastoralist communities, 
in which education policy can be changed so as to enable Kenya to achieve the 
goal of Education For All. This goal is preferred to the more narrowly defined 
targets of the Millennium Development Goals. 

The factors influencing provision and participation in Wajir are sometimes 
rooted directly in government policy and practice. Cost-sharing, for example, 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

was the policy that underpinned the financing of primary education for the 
entire period of the first decade of Education For All. Although the effects of 
cost-sharing were profoundly negative and inequitable (Makau et al 2000), that 
policy may yet prove to have been a relatively transient problem, one that could 
be directly overcome by the implementation of a new financing policy. A decisive 
step in this direction was taken in January 2003, when the government of Kenya 
implemented its pledge to provide free primary education. 

Other factors, however, are more durable and complex, because they are rooted in 
cultural values, social norms, and economic systems. Unequal gender relations - 
reflected in the marked differences in access between girls and boys illustrate the 
power and resilience of obstacles to increasing access to education that are rooted 
in beliefs and practice. For in Wajir, as in N.E. Province generally, there is only a 
limited acceptance of the notion that girls have an equal right to education, and 
this attitude leads to a persistent and widespread reluctance to send girls to school. 

The pastoralist context 

Pastoralism has long been the dominant feature of the regional economy, and it 
will remain so for the foreseeable future. The relationship between pastoralism and 
education is widely acknowledged to be problematic (Tahir 1991; Kratli 2000), 
leading some commentators (Alkali 1991 ) to assume that the continued pursuit of 
pastoralism is inconsistent with the provision of education. This way of thinking 
continues to exert a profound influence on governments and development 
agencies; its implication is that the attainment of education for all and gender 
equity in education provision is not possible among pastoralist communities. This 
line of argument underpins a policy approach which starts from the premise that 
pastoralists must settle down and stop being pastoralists. But it is a model that is 
fundamentally at odds with the demographic reality of Wajir and the other 
districts of N.E. Province, where more than 70 per cent of the population continue 
to live on, and move across, the rangelands. A different approach is needed, and this 
investigation into the factors that influence participation in education is intended 
to inform the policy choices that need to be made if Kenya is to make significant 
moves towards achieving education for all. Alternative models exist or can be 
developed. This investigation starts from the premise that a way needs to be found 
to reconcile the provision of education with the pursuit of pastoralism: an 
alternative approach which seeks to be responsive to pastoralists' needs and 
priorities, rather than seeking to transform pastoralism itself. 

The World Declaration on Education For All (1990) drew attention to the need 
to remove educational disparities within countries. In addition to emphasising 
the importance of girls' education, the needs of particular groups - nomads are 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

specifically mentioned - was highlighted (ibid.: Article 3). The World 
Declaration also encouraged 'learning through a variety of delivery systems' and 
the adoption of 'supplementary alternative programmes' (ibid.: Article 5). In the 
light of the World Declaration, the government of Kenya had the opportunity to 
revise its policies and practices to tackle chronic gender-based and geographical 

My research in Wajir investigated the changes that have occurred in terms of 
provision and participation since 1990 and sought to identify the role of public 
policy in explaining those changes. If more far-reaching changes are to be 
achieved, this study argues that educational policy will need to go beyond the 
conventional responses of the past. The challenge is to address in a coherent and 
comprehensive way specific issues - poverty, gender bias, and mobility - which 
are identified as being the principal influences on participation. 

Provision and participation: the national context 

Geographical inequalities in school participation 

Acting on a pre- Independence pledge to provide every child with a minimum of 
seven years' free education, successive governments harnessed popular support 
to expand primary education (Makau 1995). Communities provided labour or 
cash to construct or expand schools, and the State accepted responsibility for 
most of the recurrent costs. Such a division of responsibilities encouraged 
community initiatives to set up primary schools and became the expression of a 
public policy that led to significant and sustained growth in provision and 
enrolment (Eshiwani 1993). 

This expansion, however, soon reflected significant geographical inequalities 
(Nkinyangi 1982). By 1977 just six districts in the whole country were enrolling 
less than 50 per cent of their estimated school-age population. All of them were 
pastoral districts: Marsabit, Samburu, Turkana, and the three districts (Mandera, 
Wajir, and Garissa) of North Eastern Province. Twenty years later, in 1998, almost 
nothing had changed, and the six lowest-achieving districts were the same, with 
the exception of Tana River, which replaced Turkana (Republic of Kenya/FAWE 
2000). In Wajir District, 75 per cent of children still do not attend school. The gulf 
between enrolment in N.E. Province and the rest of the country (Table 1) 
remains enormous. The disparity in provision and participation between the 
pastoral areas of Kenya and the rest of the country represents the biggest obstacle 
that will need to be overcome if Kenya is to make significant progress towards 
achieving Education For All. 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

Table 1 : Primary-school gross enrolment rates by sex and province, 1998 








































Source: Republic of Kenya/Fawe (2000:9) 

Gender inequalities in primary- school participation 

In 1963 just over 300,000 girls were attending primary school in Kenya. Twenty 
years later, in 1983, there were well over two million. Perhaps even more 
impressive than the growth in the absolute numbers of girls attending primary 
school has been the growth in the proportion attending school. In 1963 girls 
represented just 34 per cent of the total number of students enrolled. That 
percentage increased steadily throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until by 1998 
girls' participation had reached 49.4 per cent, leading the government to assert in 
its report to the World Education Forum (Republic of Kenya 1999) 'as a result of 
the general public awareness created on [sic] the importance of education for 
both boys and girls over the years, there has been parity between boys and girls at 
primary and secondary levels'. 

National data may accurately reflect mainstream trends, but they are open to 
criticism when they inadvertently hide significant disparities at the margins. 
Contrary to the impression of equality that such figures give, profound levels of 
inequality are exposed when the data are disaggregated. In North Eastern 
Province, the female gross enrolment rate is half that of boys (see Table 1), and 
more than 80 per cent of girls do not attend primary school (Republic of 
Kenya/Fawe 2000). 

High rates of non-participation may be tolerated, partly because they are more 
or less invisible at the national level, and partly because they can be explained by 
reference to 'traditional cultural values' (rather than shortcomings in policy and 
practice). That there is a deep-seated reluctance in many parts of Africa to 
provide girls with the opportunity to go to school is not in doubt. But by 
describing the problem principally in relation to cultural values, the temptation 
is merely to blame pastoralist communities for those disparities, and to absolve 
those charged with addressing those disparities from any responsibility for their 
perpetuation. Yet if the educational inequality of Kenya's pastoral districts is to be 
reduced, public policy is one tool that can help to transform social norms by 
introducing specific and sensitive initiatives (Stromquist 1997). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Provision and participation: the extent and limits of 


The first primary school in Wajir was built in 1948 (Turton 1974). The number 
grew only slowly over the next 30 years, and by 1979 Wajir District had just 18 
schools with approximately 4000 pupils (Eshiwani 1993). By 1998, however, 
there were 62 primary schools in the district, with a total of 14,000 pupils 
(Republic of Kenya/FAWE 2000). The rate of growth during the 1990s stands in 
marked contrast to that of earlier decades. Between 1993 and 1998 the number of 
schools increased by 38 per cent, from 45 to 62. The rate of increase was the 
highest in the country over the period (ibid.) and contrasts sharply with trends in 
provision before the 1990s. 

The unprecedented expansion in primary provision in the 1990s is, on the face of 
it, remarkable and prompts the question whether it was a response to policy 
changes in the wake of the Jomtien Declaration. Any expansion of provision 
clearly needs the support of the government, particularly with regard to the 
appointment and payment of staff. But this is not the same as attributing the 
expansion to the adoption of new policies. At best, what seems to have happened 
is that government responded positively to an increased demand for schools. 
There is no evidence to suggest that it re-directed resources to the pastoral 
districts in a determined effort to reduce disparities. Nor does the government 
appear to have taken any steps to develop new 'delivery systems', as encouraged by 
the World Declaration (1990), or to have used the opportunity of schools 
expansion to increase the number of girls-only schools as a culturally acceptable 
and gender-sensitive response. By doing little more than approving the 
construction of schools in settlements, the government was content to 
perpetuate a decades-old, demand-driven approach that simply expanded the 
provision of formal schools. It reflected a view that if pastoralists wanted their 
children to go to school, they would have to make the necessary adaptations. 
Despite the rhetoric of the Jomtien Declaration, no effort was made to change the 
way in which education was made available. 

It is notable that almost all of the schools that have been built during the past 
decade are day schools. This form of provision marks something of a contrast 
with the past, when primary boarding schools were built in a deliberate attempt 
to provide opportunities for children - almost always boys, it should be noted - 
from nomadic backgrounds. This policy of boarding provision goes back to 
colonial times (Turton 1974), but was actively promoted by the government 
during the 1970s and early 1980s as a way of catering for the children of nomadic 
parents (Abdi 1999). By making a specific effort to provide education for 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

children of pastoralist communities, policy was being used to address a key 
problem and to promote equitable educational development. 

Commendable as such an initiative was in principle, it was a policy that has 
proved to be deeply flawed in practice. Drawing on research from other pastoral 
districts, Ponsi (1988) questioned whether boarding schools cater for the 
children for whom they were nominally set up to serve. More recently Abdi 
(2001) has demonstrated that boarding primary schools in North Eastern 
Province are severely under-utilised, while Obura (2002) suggests that, on 
grounds of cost and social acceptability, boarding schools are unlikely to make 
more than a marginal contribution to extending provision. Rather than simply 
condemning the policy as a failure (Nkinyangi 1981), one might use the 
unpopularity and inefficiencies of the boarding-schools approach to define the 
limits of mainstream responses and identify areas where less formal and more 
responsive approaches may be both necessary and more acceptable. 


Table 1 on page 13 1 is a presentation of provincial gross enrolment rates for 1998 
for the country. The rate for N.E. Province is very low, both absolutely and 
comparatively. Fewer than one third of boys attend primary school. Four out of 
five girls do not go to school. These statistics are remarkable for a country in 
which, since Independence, the demand for education has in general exceeded 
the places available, and increases in participation were achieved simply by 
increasing provision. Relevant and appropriate as such a strategy may have been 
for most parts of Kenya, there is a growing acceptance that it has not been 
effective in making basic education accessible to 'vulnerable groups' (Republic of 
Kenya/ UNICEF 1999). Nor has it been effective in reducing disparities between 
the pastoral districts and the rest of the country (Abdi 1999; Obura 2002). To 
continue to rely on the same strategy as a way of reducing disparities in the future 
is almost certainly doomed to failure. What is needed are policies that go beyond 
the boundaries of current practice and complement existing provision by 
adopting innovative, targeted, and specific measures to promote participation 
and to increase girls' participation in particular. 


In keeping children at school so that they complete the full cycle of primary 
education, Kenya has performed much less effectively than in providing access in 
the first place. In a detailed analysis of the period between 1981 and 1998 Makau 
(2000: 35) concludes that 'the completion rate remained below 50% of the intake 
in Standard 1'. There is an absence of such longitudinal data for Wajir District, 
but Makau's conclusion is supported by an analysis of the 1991-98 cohort. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Table 2: Primary-school completion rate for 1991-98 cohort: a comparison of 
Wajir District data and national data 


1 enrolment 
F Total 

Std. 8 enrolment 
M F Total 

% completing 
M F Total 



447 924 

221 215 436 

46 48 47 



588 1544 

518 242 760 

54 41 49 

Sources: Makau (2000: 35) for national data; Oxfam (1999:10) for district data 

While the overall level of completion for both boys and girls is low, it is notable 
that retention in Wajir District is slightly higher than nationally. The very wide 
gap between Wajir and much of the rest of the country in terms of enrolment is 
not repeated, suggesting that those parents in Wajir who send their children to 
school are as interested in keeping them there, and able to do so, as parents 
elsewhere in the country. There is however one major difference between the 
national and district data - and that difference is based on gender. Nationally, 
girls are more likely than boys to stay at school; but in Wajir, girls are more likely 
to leave school early. 

Factors influencing participation 

Urbanisation, sedentarisation, and mobility 

Wajir is the largest district in N.E. Province and one of the most sparsely populated 
in Kenya. In 1979 its population was approximately 140,000, of whom 13,000, less 
than 10 per cent, lived in Wajir town (Republic of Kenya/Oxfam 1996). Twenty 
years later, the population of the district was estimated to be 325,000 and that of 
Wajir town 50,000. 2 Other urban centres have developed; their combined 
populations are approximately 25,000. With a total urban population of not less 
than 75,000, the demography of Wajir District has changed markedly in just 20 
years, with at least 25 per cent of the population now being town -dwellers. This 
change in population distribution has had a direct impact on the demand for 
primary education, and on the potential for access to school. The increase in the 
number and size of towns and settlements is closely related to the growth in the 
number of schools which has been such a distinctive feature of the 1990s. 

Table 3 demonstrates the relationship between participation and urbanisation. 
In 2000, two thirds of the children enrolled in primary schools in Wajir district 
lived in Central and Habaswein educational divisions. 3 Though not exclusively 
urban, these divisions include the two largest urban concentrations. 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

Table 3: Wajir District primary enrolment by gender and division, 2000 





% Girls 































Source: District Education Office, Wajir 

On the question of who goes to school, urbanisation seems to exert a positive 
influence on girls' access, although the evidence here is more equivocal. Within 
Central Division, which includes Wajir town, there is a notable narrowing of the 
differential between boys' and girls' enrolment. On the other hand, Habaswein 
has the second-lowest proportion of girls in school, suggesting that there are 
tensions between what might be called the 'pro-school' influence of urbanisation 
and 'the anti-school' influence of gender bias. 

The relationship between settlements in pastoral areas and the provision of 
education has been a contentious policy issue. The crux of the debate is whether 
education facilities (and other economic and social facilities, such as water 
supplies and health centres) are used to attract pastoralists as part of an overall, if 
not explicit, policy of sedentarisation. There is no doubt that such objectives have 
informed policy and practice in countries as diverse as Iran and Nigeria. From 
this perspective, the provision of education was not so much a right of 
citizenship but a way of weakening and transforming pastoralism, part of a 
strategy to modernise it and convert pastoralists into farmers, labourers, or 
watchmen (Kratli 2000). 

An alternative approach seeks to understand pastoralist responses to educational 
policy and provision within a broader context of economic and social change 
(Dyer and Choksi 1997) and of pastoralists' adaptation to changing circumstances 
(Frantz 1990). From this perspective, education may be adopted as a way to 
diversify the pastoralist economy, even if it involves the settlement of some family 
members on a temporary or permanent basis. 

The place that education occupies within a long-term pastoralist livelihood 
strategy will vary between households and from place to place. In Wajir, and in 
N.E. Province generally, individual decisions are shaped by a context in which 
pastoralism is under pressure because of population growth, insecurity, 
limitations on herd movements (RoK/Oxfam 1996), and a market system that is 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

both inadequate and distorted (O'Leary and Wakesa 2000). In these 
circumstances the possible benefits of education become more attractive, even to 
those still within the pastoral sector. Having an education may not yet be as 
prestigious as 'having herds' (Dahl and Hjort 1976); but both are increasingly 
recognised as being important as it becomes harder to survive by pastoral means 
alone (Salzman and Galaty 1990). 

In judging how best to strengthen the household economy in the medium-to- 
long term, parents increasingly appear to divide the family labour force. Some 
children are sent to school, while others are kept at home to look after the animals 
and/or to be responsible for looking after the house. 'The role of the town 
employee has become part of the division of labour' (Kratli 2000: 41), providing 
a source of income which is not subject to the same vulnerabilities as herding. In 
return, family members who remain on the range will look after the animals of 
those in town. In effect, investing in education for some children represents a 
livelihoods-diversification strategy (Republic of Kenya/Oxfam 1996) which is 
designed to strengthen the household economy within the context of a 
continuing engagement - as a family - with pastoralism. 

In considering the expansion of primary-school provision in Wajir in the 
previous decade, this study suggests that the relationship between formal 
education and pastoralism has not been wholly antagonistic, nor has it been part 
of a dominant strategy designed to settle and transform pastoralists. There has 
been a significant growth in the urban population - but poverty, not public 
policy, is widely acknowledged to be the most powerful driving force behind that 
growth. Those who move to towns are, by and large, pastoralism's 'forgotten 
people' (Broch-Due 1999), driven to the point of destitution and possessing few 
alternatives. For such people settlement is not a threat to an otherwise viable 
pastoralist existence: it is a refuge to which they have moved in the hope that it 
will offer them a better future. And education, many of them believe, may open 
the door to employment opportunities that will help to secure that better future. 
From this perspective, education is not so much 'instrumental to sedentarisation' 
(Kratli 2000: 9), an inducement with which to attract pastoralists into towns, as 
it is a tool by which families can re-build their livelihoods and social networks. 4 

While education policy may not be primarily responsible for enrolment trends 
over the past decade or so, a fundamental policy goal - that attendance at primary 
school should be made compulsory - is challenged by these conclusions. 
Decisions about the education of pastoralist children, girls and boys, are based on 
their parents' judgement of what is in the best interests of the family. Contrary to 
an approach that is based solely on the rights of individuals, these judgements are 
made by weighing up the wishes and abilities of individuals on one hand against 
the collective interests of the family as a whole on the other. These parental 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

decisions inevitably reflect the socio-cultural context in which they are taken - 
and in Wajir that means two things. First, it means placing an emphasis on 
strengthening the capacity of the family to preserve and build up its herds, social 
networks, and other economic safety nets. Second, and specifically in the context 
of gender relations, it reflects the importance that is attached to protecting what is 
perceived to be the honour and reputation of girls and to preparing them for their 
future roles as wives and mothers. The outcome is that some children - usually 
boys - will attend school for as long as is practicable. Others - some boys, but most 
girls - will remain at home to look after the animals and other members of the 
family who need to be cared for, and to do domestic duties. 

These observations on parental decisions about access to schooling challenge the 
assumption that the population of Wajir can be neatly divided into families who 
have access to education and, on the other hand, those who are excluded or 
display a 'negative' attitude towards school. In reality the situation is more 
complex, and within any given family there are likely to be some children who 
are, or have been, attending school and others who are not. The extent of this 
relative engagement with education is reflected in the fact that only 30 per cent of 
the parents interviewed for this study had sent all of their school-aged children to 
school for at least part of the primary cycle. The others had decided to keep at 
least some of their children at home. 

If Education For All is to be made meaningful, it surely requires policy makers to 
take steps - as they were encouraged to do by the Jomtien Declaration - to make 
available 'alternative programmes' and a 'variety of delivery systems'. When 
provision means, in effect, attendance at a school in a settlement, it is inevitable 
that many parents who are practising pastoralists may choose not to exercise the 
right of their children to education. Expansion of just one form of provision 
effectively excludes pastoralist children and is consistent with neither the spirit 
nor the letter of the commitments made in Thailand and Senegal. 

Abdi (2002) highlights the need for flexibility in the way in which education is 
made available. But in Kenya efforts to provide pastoralist children with an 
education on terms that are consistent with their lifestyle have been confined to 
small-scale, innovative projects that are often run by community groups, funded 
by external NGOs. These projects reflect the absence of government policy- not 
its expression. In essence, they are recent attempts to fill a policy vacuum. 

The Mobile School project in Wajir (Hussein 1999) is an example of a small-scale 
initiative to develop practicable alternatives to mainstream education. It is 
modelled on the indigenous and widespread Koranic schools, or dugsi, which are 
specifically adapted to provide teaching in the context of mobility. The teacher 
lives and moves as part of a herding group and provides instruction at times that 
are consistent with herding and labour responsibilities. This model is based on a 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

fundamentally different premise from that which has informed formal 
'schooling', in that it accepts the primary responsibility of children, both girls and 
boys, to look after the family's herd. Enrolment figures for the project indicate 
both a quick take-up of the programme and an approximate equivalence 
between girls and boys. Irrespective of a number of shortcomings in the imple- 
mentation of the project (identified by Hussein, op. c/Y.), it provides evidence to 
suggest that there is a latent demand for education among pastoralists. It 
suggests, too, that non-formal types of provision maybe particularly effective in 
addressing deeply rooted gender inequalities, by offering a way to reduce 
obstacles to girls' access. 

This possibility is supported by the experiences of the Alternative Basic 
Education in Karamoja initiative in Uganda (Odada and Olega 1999). What is 
especially notable about this project is that many more girls than boys enrolled in 
the learner centres. This fact may be explained by reference to the division of 
labour between girls and boys in Karamojong society - where homesteads are 
much more fixed, cultivation is more common, and girls spend less time on the 
rangelands. But its significance is that it provides compelling evidence that rapid 
progress can be made to increase girls' participation in contexts where female 
enrolment has been chronically low. Mobile schools and similar innovative 
projects have tended to be justified on the grounds of making education more 
accessible to pastoralists as a group, rather than in terms of a gendered analysis of 
accessibility. Yet both the Wajir Mobile School project and the Karamoja 
programme suggest that 'supplementary alternative programmes' can be 
especially effective in terms of increasing girls' participation. To that extent, such 
initiatives may not only be of general benefit in terms of increasing enrolment, 
but may also be a good example of a gender-sensitive approach with enhanced 
benefits for girls. 

Gender inequality 

Gender inequality, rooted in individual and social bias against girls, operates in 
association with other factors. Three were mentioned time and again in this 
study in Wajir and are remarkably consistent with analysis based on research in 
other pastoral districts of Kenya (Makau et al 2000). The three factors were 
poverty, gender bias, and the mobility of pastoralist families. 

Given that attendance at school for almost all of the past 25 years has required 
payment of school fees and a variety of other charges and levies, the depth and 
extent of poverty means that few households can afford to educate all their 
children. Choices have to be made, and dominant values mean that parents are 
less likely to send their daughters to school. 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

Another explanation that is invariably offered to explain why girls are not in 
school is the contribution that they make to the running of the household. In a 
social context in which girls have been ascribed the role of providing domestic 
labour and child care, the contribution of girls to the household economy is often 
deemed to be too valuable to lose. The stage of economic development in Kenya is 
such that households depend on children's labour as a contribution to the 
production and consumption needs of the household. Unlike productive labour, 
which is a shared responsibility, domestic labour continues to be characterised by 
a sharp gender-based division, with men and boys making a minor contribution. 
From a very early age, girls are socialised into roles in which they prepare and cook 
food, collect water, and look after the young and the sick. The dependency of the 
household on girls' labour thus represents an opportunity cost of their attendance 
at school (Colclough etal 2000). This cost lowers the enrolment of girls in school 
or, at the least, contributes to weaker performance and earlier drop-out. 

Nevertheless, the argument that domestic labour responsibilities are a critical 
obstacle that prevents girls from attending or completing primary school in 
Wajir is not entirely persuasive. Girls who live in the district's towns and 
settlements are living within an urban or semi-pastoral context, rather than one 
typical of the rangelands, and their domestic duties are likely to be similar to 
those of girls in other parts of Kenya. In such circumstances the 'domestic labour' 
argument does not explain the gap between girls' enrolment in most of the 
country, with a national female gross enrolment rate (GER) of 88 per cent, and 
that in Wajir and N.E. Province, with a female GER of less than 20 per cent. The 
contribution of girls to herding, rather than to domestic labour, is likely to 
explain some of the difference, but the implication is that there is something else, 
another factor, that is critical. 

That factor is summed up by the term 'status', a term designed to capture the 
ambiguous but powerful nature of gender inequality. It is the subordinate status 
of girls and women that explains why, to paraphrase the head-teacher of Wajir 
Girls Primary School, 'in all aspects of education, girls are left behind'. The notion 
that girls have a right to education, a right that is equal to that of boys, is not 
consistent with prevailing values and beliefs in Wajir or more widely among 
pastoralist communities in Kenya (Makau 2000) and elsewhere in Africa (Niles 
1989; Csapo 1981; Wynd 1999). Schooling is thus either irrelevant or, in a context 
in which the separation of girls from boys is desirable as soon as a girl shows signs 
of maturity, a risk which leads parents to remove their daughters from school 
before she 'is spoilt' or 'develops immoral habits'. 

While change will not happen until individuals modify their opinions and 
behaviour, public policy has an important role to play in stimulating and 
rewarding change. It is patently clear that the policies of the past have failed to 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

convince parents, and society at large, of the advantages of educating girls. Unless 
public policy is used in a more targeted and effective way to influence attitudes 
and norms of behaviour, the extent to which girls are excluded from access to 
basic education is unlikely to be significantly reduced in the foreseeable future. 
The inescapable conclusion is that initiatives designed to increase the 
participation of girls, rather than to increase participation generally, are needed 
if Kenya is to achieve gender parity in education provision in pastoralist 

During the 1990s there was a notable absence of such initiatives. The most 
significant measure that has been taken in Wajir in recent years goes back to the 
1980s, i.e. even before the Jomtien Declaration. It was then that the decision was 
taken to build a primary school specifically for girls in Wajir town. It remains the 
sole girls-only primary school in the entire district. Opened as a way of reducing 
the dangers of road travel for girls, rather than as a deliberate attempt to increase 
access, the school has proved to be an outstanding success. The Girls Primary 
School increased its enrolment from 122 girls at its inception in 1988 to 469 in 
2000. But this success has never been replicated. It is an example that demonstrates 
that public policy, by providing the kind of school most likely to be acceptable to 
the community at large and enjoyable for the girls who attend, can positively 
influence change. That nothing else like it has been provided is a measure of the 
failure of public policy that allows a pronounced gender inequality to persist 

Poverty and the financing of education 

There has been a long tradition of cost-sharing in education in Kenya, 
epitomised by the phenomenon of harambee (or self-help) schools. During the 
1970s the nominal commitment to providing free primary education sat 
uncomfortably with the practice of harambee collections, but in 1988 this 
contradiction was resolved when cost-sharing was formally made the basis of 
education financing. If access to education is conditional on the payment of fees 
of various kinds, it ceases to be a right, an entitlement of citizenship, but becomes 
instead a commodity that is available only to those with the money to buy it. And 
in a country as poor as Kenya, a policy that made parents responsible for 
maintaining the nation's primary education infrastructure as well as meeting the 
costs of school attendance was bound to lead to 'falling enrolments and failing 
schools' (Republic of Kenya/UNICEF 1999). Adopted two years before the 
Jomtien Declaration, cost-sharing was designed to address problems with the 
management of the national economy. It was not adopted as a policy designed to 
help Kenya to achieve education for all. 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

The vast majority of people interviewed during this study described cost- 
sharing, in all its manifestations, as the biggest single problem that limited 
children's participation in education. Teachers and parents alike argued that the 
removal of all fees and all charges would be essential if participation were to be 
significantly increased. There can be little doubt that the depth and extent of 
these feelings was a key factor in persuading the new government that its first 
policy initiative in education in 2003 should be the abolition of primary-school 
fees. It is important to acknowledge that the abolition of cost-sharing represents 
a fundamental policy shift on the part of the government. For the first time since 
the Jomtien Declaration was passed, Kenya has put in place a financing policy 
that addresses one of the most acute obstacles to the achievement of Education 
For All. It is equally important to bear in mind, however, that this policy change 
is national in scope and may prove to be of relatively tangential significance to the 
broader issues of pastoralists' participation in education. 

Kenya's educational history shows that the abolition of fees has an immediate 
and positive impact on participation. Analysing enrolment data for the 1970s, 
when fees were formally abolished for a short while, Sibabi-Nyukuri (1989) 
demonstrates that increases in enrolment may be temporary, especially if fees 
are, in effect, re-introduced under another name. It is a little early to make 
judgements on the impact in pastoralist districts of the abolition of school fees 
and other levies in January 2003. Preliminary research (Sifuna 2003:7) concludes 
that in pastoralist districts throughout the country 'the free primary education 
programme seems to have (led to) a remarkable increase on overall enrolments'. 
There are, however, significant variations between districts, and in Wajir the 
increase was much lower than in all other sampled districts. 

What is even more striking is the differential impact on the basis of gender. The 
enrolment of boys has increased far more dramatically than that of girls. In every 
district, without exception, the increase in enrolment of girls is lower than that of 
boys; and in Wajir a 19 per cent increase in boys' enrolment in 2003 should be 
compared with a 6 per cent increase for girls. If this trend continues, the outcome 
will be to increase the disparity in educational participation on the grounds of 
gender. It is a consequence that is directly at odds with the commitment to attain 
gender parity. This is not an argument for reversing or diluting the new financing 
policy; but it is a compelling argument to complement the policy of providing free 
primary education by introducing additional and specific policies which address 
the other obstacles to increasing access to education in pastoralist societies. 

This study has argued that three factors are the principal cause of low rates of 
participation. These are poverty, gender bias, and the mobility of pastoralist 
families. The removal of school fees addresses the first of these obstacles and is a 
big step in the right direction. But, in isolation, it is an insufficient response. It 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

will not achieve maximum impact unless it is part of a comprehensive and 
imaginative set of initiatives. What are needed now are similarly bold policy 
initiatives that will address the other two problems. This means re-thinking 
provision in order to make education available to boys and girls who live on the 
rangelands, far away from any school. And it means recognising the depth and 
breadth of gender bias and finding ways to dilute its potency. 

Policies for effective change 

The principal official reports generated during the first decade of Education For 
All (Republic of Kenya 1997; Republic of Kenya 1998; Republic of 
Kenya/UNICEF 1999) have little to offer in terms of policy changes specifically 
formulated for Kenya's pastoral communities, let alone to girls in those 
communities. The inevitable conclusion is that it is insufficiently recognised that 
these areas have distinct and chronic problems, over and above those faced by the 
sector as a whole. Treating the pastoral districts of Kenya and its peoples as if they 
were the same as the rest of the country is not an effective way of addressing 
decades-old disparities. Policy and practice changes are essential - and need to be 
targeted and consistent with a vision based on responsiveness, diversity, and 

The Jomtien Declaration provided an opportunity to reflect on the 
shortcomings of previous practice and to support initiatives that are compatible 
with pastoral livelihood strategies and priorities. This study found little evidence 
to suggest that the opportunity had been grasped. Wajir, and most of the pastoral 
districts of Kenya, are as firmly fixed at the bottom of the table of primary 
participation as they were before Jomtien and Dakar. Although there has been a 
significant growth in provision in Wajir (compared with the past), it is a growth 
that reflects changes in population distribution and settlement patterns, not 
more imaginative ways of providing access to learning. Doing nothing more than 
building schools in settlements represents the continuation of a policy that has 
failed to acknowledge the diversity of cultural and physical contexts to which 
education has to adapt if it is to be accessible and meaningful. 

If the inadequacies of current policies are to be effectively overcome, the 
particular needs of the pastoral districts - and of girls within them - will need to 
be accorded more visibility and significance. The recent publication of a draft 
policy on Gender and Education (Republic of Kenya 2003) suggests that there is 
a growing recognition that gender parity in education in terms of performance 
as well as enrolment - will not be attained unless specific objectives are set and 
strategies defined. Like the new policy on financing, the production of a gender 
policy is a step in the right direction. But given that it is in Kenya's pastoralist 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

districts that the most glaring gender-based educational disparities in the 
country are to be found, the failure of this draft policy to highlight the particular 
needs of pastoralist girls is more than disappointing. Unless this omission is 
corrected, the gender and education policy is in danger of reinforcing their 
'invisibility' and of being irrelevant to those who suffer the most profound levels 
of discrimination. 

In addition to the need for a more pastoralist-aware gender strategy, there is an 
increasing demand for a national and comprehensive strategy for pastoralist 
education. Its substantive elements have begun to be debated (Karani 2002). 
A critical element - and one that distinguishes this debate from earlier attempts 
to provide education to pastoralists in Kenya - is that new modes of provision 
must be designed. For too long 'strategies have been biased towards supporting 
the expansion of conventional schooling, with few results' (Obura 2002: 6). It 
is a form of provision that is neither practicable nor cost-effective for mobile 
communities in areas where population density is very low. It needs to be 
supplemented by a range of alternatives that are responsive to the lifestyles of 
pastoralists. As we have seen, evidence from projects such as Alternative Basic 
Education in Karamoja (ABEK) suggests that the development of non-formal 
types of provision is not only effective in changing attitudes towards education 
but also effective in terms of learning (Hestad and Focas Licht, 2002). 

The development of an education system that integrates both formal and non- 
formal provision will necessitate not merely expansion of provision - the 
underlying concept that has dominated thinking in the past - but a measure of 
education reform. Such an approach is consistent with the thinking that informed 
the Jomtien Declaration. The outstanding success of the Escuela Nueva in 
Colombia (Colbert and Arboleda 1990; Torres 1992) - admittedly conceived in 
quite different circumstances - may be a source of inspiration, though not 
necessarily a model to be imitated. 5 

One of the lessons to be learned from the Escuela Nueva programme is the value 
of having a dedicated unit within the central ministry. Perhaps reflecting the fact 
that the relationship between pastoralism and education has been fraught with 
problems for decades, there is currently no institution in Kenya specifically 
responsible for addressing those problems or for developing a policy to do so. 

A second lesson to be learned is that the use of non-formal methods should not 
be undertaken in the expectation that it will provide education 'on the cheap'. 
Given that such an approach would be introducing new ideas and practices in 
Kenya, and given that it will be operating in areas of weak infrastructure and low 
population densities, there will inevitably be high investment and on-going 
costs. Similarly, non-formal education has too often been under- valued, offering 
a limited and second-rate service to those who have fallen through the net of 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

formal education. If non-formal education is to be established as an essential 
element of an integrated education strategy, those perceptions will need to be 
challenged. And one way to do so is to ensure that the quality of non-formal 
education is not an inferior imitation of 'the real thing'. At the least this will mean 
working to the principle that non-formal education should be expected to 
provide good-quality learning outcomes in its own right, and not merely to 
function as a gateway to the formal sector. Transition to the formal sector should 
be possible as part of an integrated system. But it should not be seen as a failure - 
either of the system or of individuals in it - if this does not happen, provided that 
other and arguably more relevant learning outcomes are achieved. 


The relationship between education and pastoralism has been problematic for a 
long time. But this study did not confirm the common belief that pastoralism is 
inherently inconsistent with participation in education and is, by extension, an 
obstacle to education for all. There is a wide variety of reasons why pastoralists 
have not engaged with the education system in the past. Some are economic and 
financial; others are culturally defined or the product of historical experience. 
But as pastoralism adapts to new pressures, as well as to new opportunities, this 
study suggests that that it is untrue that pastoralists have a distrustful and 
negative attitude to education. 

Instead of being adverse or irrelevant to the production system, education can 
have a complementary relationship to pastoralism. This complementarity 
reveals itself in the way that the household labour force is increasingly being 
divided so that some children are sent to school as a way of improving the well- 
being of the family in the short and long terms. It reveals itself too in the way that 
poor pastoralists, especially those who have been forced into the peri-urban 
quarters of Wajir's towns, will try to use education as a way of re-building assets 
and social capital. 

Limited participation in education is a consequence not only of pastoralism but 
also of the education system itself. And in contrast to the flexibility of 
pastoralism, the education system has shown a marked lack of adaptation. Few 
concessions have been made to adapt the form and content, the procedures and 
practices of primary education to make it more compatible with the particular 
circumstances of pastoral communities. Current policy represents a 'take-it-or 
leave- it' approach to education, with communities having to adapt to the needs 
and demands of the education system, rather than planners working to make the 
system responsive to diverse contexts. 


Learning to improve education policy for pastoralists in Kenya 

Despite the rhetoric of the Jomtien Declaration, little has changed in terms of 
Kenya's education policy in the past decade or more. The introduction of a new 
financing policy for primary education in 2003 may mark the beginning of a 
period when policy will be used more constructively. But if significant progress is 
to be made in the decade leading up to 2015, the Kenyan government will have to 
move decisively to overcome the remaining obstacles to participation. This will 
mean devising a policy framework that specifically recognises the extent of the 
bias against educating girls in North Eastern Province and other pastoralist 
districts, and supporting initiatives designed to increase access by changing 
dominant attitudes and behaviour. 

But it is not only at the community level that change is needed. Just as important, 
policy makers need to listen to the concerns and opinions of pastoralists so as to 
develop policies and practices that will make education accessible to nomadic 
people. In ways that it has never done before, the education system in Kenya 
needs to learn to adapt. For too long the onus has been on pastoralists to adapt 
their way of life as the price for gaining access to education. It is a price that most 
pastoralists have not been prepared to pay. If pastoralists' right to education is to 
be fully realised, the education system will have to become more responsive and 

Ian Leggett, formerly Regional Manager of the Oxfam GB East Africa programme, 
has a particular interest in development in pastoralist areas. He is currently Director 
of People & Planet, a student-led campaigning organisation working on global 
poverty, environmental, and human-rights issues. 


1 This paper is based primarily on research conducted in 200 1 as part of an MA course at the 
Institute of Education, University of London, reported in my dissertation 'Continuity and 
Change in Primary Education in the Pastoral Districts of Kenya: a Study of Wajir'. That work was 
supplemented in 2002 by a further visit to advise Oxfam GB on the development of its education 
programme for pastoralists and by participation in a workshop to stimulate policy debate. 

2 Interview with Oxfam staff, Wajir, May 200 1 . 

3 There are five educational divisions in the district, but 13 administrative divisions. 

4 Interviews with Hashim Musa and Omar Jibril Hussein. 

5 The origins and objectives of the Escuela Nueva programme are rooted in educational 
inequalities in Colombia. They reflected a creative tension between quantitative expansion and 
qualitative reform. They incorporated a belief that relevance and quality had to be addressed at 
the same time as considering how to increase access. This debate was applied to areas, similar to 
the rangelands of Kenya, in which population density was low and schooling did not easily fit 
with prevailing livelihoods and lifestyles. 


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Ponsi, F.T. ( 1988) Sex- and Birth-order: Selective underenrolment in the primary schools of Kenya's 
arid and semi-arid districts and the 'kepyiong' phenomenon, Working Paper 462, Institute for 
Development Studies, University of Nairobi 

Republic of Kenya (1997) Master Plan on Education and Training 1997 - 2010, draft version, 
August 1997, Nairobi: Ministry of Education 

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Republic of Kenya (1999) Education for All: Assessment of Progress: Kenya Country Report, draft 
version, August 1999, Nairobi: Ministry of Education 

Republic of Kenya (2003) Draft Policy on Gender and Education, Nairobi: Ministry of Education, 
Science and Technology 

Republic of Kenya/ FAWE (2000) Education Statistical Booklet 1990-98, Nairobi: Ministry of 
Education, Science and Technology/ Forum for African Women Educationalists 

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sources and settlements on nomadic pastoralism in Wajir District', Department of Livestock 
Production/Oxfam, Wajir 

Republic of Kenya/UNICEF (1999) Comprehensive Education Sector Analysis Report 1994, 
Nairobi: Ministry of Education and Human Resources/UNICEF 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

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Bureau of Educational Research, Kenyatta University 

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Preliminary Survey', Nairobi: ActionAid Kenya 

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Torres, R.M. (1992) 'Alternatives in formal education: Colombia's Escuela Nueva Programme', 
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Development: Beyond Access to Empowerment, eds. C. Heward and S. Bunwaree, London: Zed 


7 When access is not enough: educational 
exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

Patricia Ames 

This chapter examines a study conducted in the late 1990s to investigate the 
causes and dimensions of educational exclusion of rural girls in Andean areas of 
Peru. It considers the continuing problem of access to schooling for particular 
social groups. With reference to those who do attend school, it considers the ways 
in which gender inequities persist, and the multiple factors that work against 
girls' completion of primary education. 1 

During the 1990s, most Latin American countries achieved almost universal 
enrolment, showing an average net primary enrolment ratio of 96.6 per cent. 
Although many countries have achieved gender parity, in Brazil, Guatemala, 
Antilles, and Saint Lucia fewer girls have access than boys, and 56 per cent of the 
children who are out of school in the region are girls (EFA 2004). 

Peru follows this regional trend. Statistics for 2000 show a gross enrolment ratio 
of 96.9 per cent in primary education and 85.9 per cent in secondary education 
(Guadalupe et al. 2002). Gender parity has been achieved in primary education, 
but fewer girls than boys are enrolled in secondary education (Gender Parity 
Index: 0.93 2 ), a feature that contrasts with the general characteristics of the 
region (Guadalupe et al 2002; EFA 2004). 

Despite these achievements, the problem of inequity has not been solved. Twelve 
per cent of the adult population are illiterate, but this figure comprises 17.6 per 
cent of women, in contrast with 6 per cent of men. 3 This pattern is amplified 
when the differences between urban and rural areas are considered: 36 per cent 
of women in rural areas are illiterate, 4 and their average number of years of 
schooling is 3.7, in contrast with the statistics for rural men (5.1 years), urban 
women (8.3), and urban men (9.2). 5 

These features are partly remnants of a past situation when fewer women had 
access to education than men. But among the younger population (15-24 years 
old), 56 per cent of those without schooling or incomplete primary education are 
women, 6 and 13.5 per cent of rural girls between 5 and 17 years old do not have 
access to school (Montero and Tovar 1999). Thus, despite relatively high levels of 
enrolment, some segments of the female population still suffer from educational 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

This chapter takes a close look at four Andean villages where more boys than girls 
attend school, and where more girls than boys have dropped out. For those 
attending, more boys than girls were promoted beyond Grade 6 exams, which are 
the final exams of primary school. The results of this study in rural Andean areas 
showed that there were multiple factors influencing girls' schooling, but that 
overall there was a fragile relationship between students and the school, due to the 
precarious economic conditions in which the students live. Differential social and 
cultural expectations of girls and boys had a bearing on their school attendance, 
and certain school practices strengthened rather than counteracted drop-out and 
school failure among girls. 

Research sites and methodology 

The study was conducted in four Andean villages over one school year, with a 
follow-up visit in the subsequent academic year. Two villages (Las Chulpas and 
Abracancha) are in the Department of Cusco in the Southern Andes, where the 
population is mostly Quechua-speaking; and two villages (Las Lomas and San 
Juan 7 ) are in the Department of Cajamarca in the northern Andes, with a 
Spanish-speaking population. 8 The selection of villages reflected different 
situations which might affect girls' schooling. These included not only language 
but also productive activities, ecological location, and pattern of settlement, as 
well as size, location, and type of school. 

Abracancha is a small village at 4000 metres above sea level, with a single-teacher 
school offering the first three grades (of a total of six) of primary schooling. This 
Quechua-speaking population subsists through the cultivation of potatoes and 
some cereals, and the raising of llamas and alpacas. There is no electricity or water 
supply to the households, which follow a semi-dispersed pattern of settlement. 
Las Chulpas, located in another province of the Department of Cusco, also lacks 
electricity and running water; but the pattern of settlement is more concentrated. 
However, the settlement has two sectors, one closer to the school than the other. 
This village is slightly bigger than Abracancha and has a bigger school, which has 
two teachers covering the complete six grades of primary education, plus a pre- 
school run by another teacher. The villagers raise sheep and cultivate cereals. 

San Juan is the smallest community in the sample, with only 22 families and a 
single-teacher school, covering primary grades 14. Las Lomas, by contrast, is a 
bigger village, with 132 households and a primary school with five teachers. Only 
one teacher has two grades in the same classroom, and the others work in mono- 
grade classrooms (that is, one teacher to each grade). Las Lomas is not located far 
from San Juan some two hours by foot - but it is not so high, and so the 
agricultural production is more varied. Neither community has electricity, but 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

clean water is available at outdoor stand-pipes and, unlike Abracancha and Las 
Chulpas, each household has a latrine. The four villages have a very restricted 
public transport service, but San Juan is the most isolated, since no cars reach the 
village. A summary of the main features of each village is presented in Table 1. 

Table 1: General information about selected villages 

Las Chulpas 


Las Lomas 

San Juan 

The school 

# Teachers 





# Students 





# Grades 

Ho 6 




The village 






(m. above sea 





# Families 





Pattern of 











(cereals and 

(potatoes and 


(potatoes and 

Water supply 

From a stream 

From the river 

In the house 

In the house 











The research team consisted of a general co-ordinator (Carmen Montero), a 
research co-ordinator (Patricia Oliart), and a fieldwork co-ordinator (Patricia 
Ames). There were also three regional research assistants (Fritz Villasante, Willy 
Lezama, and Jose Luis Arteaga). 

The regional research assistants made four visits during the school year to each of 
the villages. As a fieldwork co-ordinator, I visited the four villages on at least three of 
the four visits to carry out the research activities. The same set of research 
instruments was applied in all schools. On the first visit, we carried out a census of 
the whole population, noting whether school-age children were attending school 
or not. We also registered all children enrolled at school at the beginning of the year 
and investigated the reasons why some children did not attend school. We asked 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

teachers about patterns of attendance among girls, and we identified those with 
poor attendance rates. During the second visit, we approached those girls not 
attending school and those attending infrequently and conducted interviews with 
them and their families. We also carried out classroom observation at schools, 
focusing on trying to determine whether the school could be possibly promoting 
exclusion. We conducted interviews with teachers and observed their interactions 
with the children and their families in and out of school. The third visit, after the 
main school holiday and the harvest, aimed to evaluate the impact of agricultural 
work on children's attendance. We continued classroom observations and 
conducted interviews with students and with young women who had dropped out 
of school in second or third grade. We also continued monitoring girls with good 
attendance and their families. The fourth visit, at the end of school year, allowed 
another look at the school register to check promotion, repetition, and drop-out of 
students attending that year. At the beginning of the following school year we did a 
final visit and checked enrolment and attendance again. Through these detailed sets 
of observation and data collection, we identified those students who attended 
regularly, those who attended irregularly, those who dropped out, and those who 
did not graduate to the next grade at the end of the school year, and we inquired 
about the reasons for this behaviour. 

Daily life, work, and poverty: the fragile relation with 
the school 

The poverty that affects rural areas in Peru is widely documented. Extreme 
poverty 9 is concentrated in rural areas: 76 of every 100 people in extreme poverty 
in Peru live in rural areas, and 49 live in Andean rural areas (Montero etal 2001). 
Conditions of poverty in rural villages require that all members of the household 
contribute to economic survival, assuming tasks and duties that sometimes 
compete with the time demanded by the school. Looking at national features (see 
Table 2), it seems that this competition does not have such a strong influence on 
the attendance of the age group between 6 and 1 1, but it does in the age group of 
12 to 16, particularly among girls in rural areas. 

Table 2: School attendance ratios - percentage of age groups in school 

Age group Total 





3-5 68 





6-11 97.6 





12-16 83.4 





Source: ENAHO 2001 -IV 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

During the studies in the Andean villages, we observed in detail the daily routine 
of girls at different ages. Children were usually involved progressively in domestic 
and productive work from an early age (5 or 6 years old). Between the ages of 6 
and 1 1 , girls were mostly involved in domestic activities such as fetching water, 
collecting firewood for cooking, cutting grass to feed domestic animals, cleaning 
the house and the dishes, washing clothes, shopping, taking care of animals and 
grazing them, taking care of younger siblings, and helping to cook. However, they 
also helped in agricultural activities away from the house, such as hoeing, 
planting seeds, distributing fertiliser, and harvesting, collecting, selecting, and 
storing agricultural products. 

Although at a young age the tasks assigned to boys and girls were very similar, 
they were differentiated according to gender as they grew older, until they 
resembled the expected roles assigned to men and women in their society. Girls 
tended to assume most of the domestic work, with some agricultural work, while 
boys increased their participation in agricultural activities. Between the ages of 
1 1 and 15 years, in addition to their domestic tasks girls also engaged in spinning 
and knitting and sewing - making not only their own clothes but those of other 
family members. They also cooked for the family, helped in sowing and 
harvesting, and took major responsibility for grazing the animals. As their tasks 
grew in complexity and intensity, they demanded more time (see Box 1). In the 
light of these responsibilities, the fall in the school-attendance ratio for this age 
group is understandable (see Table 2 opposite). 

Box 1: Life in Las Chulpas 

Winter mornings are cold in Las Chulpas, situated at 3700 metres above sea level. 
Teachers usually start the lessons one hour late because of the cold. However, boys and 
girls such as ten-year-old Anita wake up every morning at 5 a.m. She helps around the 
home, carrying water, feeding animals, taking care of her younger sister, Luzmila, who is 
six, or the baby Marlith, who is one, and doing some cooking with her mother. Her parents 
have to leave early for the fields, or chacras. They have no sheep, but in families that do 
own sheep, the mother or an older sister leads the flock to the grazing area. They can be 
seen each day, winding through the paths crossing the wheat fields surrounding the 
community. School children such as Anita and her sister will stay behind in the village to 
attend school, while the youngest children go with their mothers. In the afternoon, after 
school, the children go to the chacras to help their parents, bringing them some lunch and 
gathering some natural fuel on their way back home. Girls also wash clothes, clean the 
house, or take care of younger siblings. Around 5 p.m. the flock is herded back to the 
village, and the women and girls cook the dinner. Everyone goes to bed early, because 
there is no electricity in Las Chulpas; with the sunset everything becomes quiet and calm. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

As every family member has to contribute to family survival, we found that 
having one parent out of work due to illness or even death was one of the causes 
of drop-out for girls. In such cases, girls assume more duties in their families and 
cannot continue attending school. The situation might be temporary or 
permanent, but even when temporary it constitutes an interruption in regular 
schooling, and some girls do not return to school after dropping out for a year or 
two. In Las Chulpas, for example, 14-year-old Santusa took responsibility for 
domestic duties when her mother was sick, and she thereby lost one school year. 
But Bernardina (16 years) and her brother Pablo (17 years) in Abracancha, who 
lost their father, abandoned primary school before completing grade 6 and 
became totally absorbed into adult activities in their household. 

We found also that the poorer families (with infertile lands or few resources) in 
each community could not afford to send their children to school, because they 
were needed for work. That was the case of 18-year-old Leocadia, who, along with 
her siblings, did not attend school because of her family's poverty. Families with 
only one parent found schooling difficult to afford, because the remaining parent 
needed more help with work to provide enough food to maintain the family. 
Furthermore, the hidden costs of schooling (such as uniforms, notebooks, and 
educational materials) also influenced the prospects of children in poorer 
families. The age of a girl, her position in the family, and the number of siblings 
available to help with domestic and agricultural tasks also influenced the school 
attendance. A girl is less likely to attend school if she is the oldest sibling, or if she 
is approaching adolescence and her siblings are too young to help with the work 
demanded by the family. 

Another study in the southern Andes (Uccelli 1 999) found that some families with 
scarce resources will focus on the schooling of one selected child. Usually, a child 
is chosen because of his or her ability at school, rather than a simple preference for 
sending boys. Nevertheless, Uccelli found that school failure - that is, failing end- 
of-year exams and having to repeat the whole year again - was less tolerated by 
parents for their daughters than for their sons. School registers indicated that 
more boys than girls had repeated grades several times. Girls who repeat therefore 
are more likely to be withdrawn. We also noted that the ability to read and write 
and to speak Spanish, although valued for both girls and boys, was considered as 
especially important for boys, who will become the head of their family in the 
future and will require the skill. For example, as heads of families men participate 
in the communal assembly and may have a position on the Assembly Board, 
where they will need to read and write and manage a range of legal papers, as well 
as speak Spanish to the extent of being able to negotiate with local and regional 
authorities. Men also take charge of managing official documents and papers 
concerning their families' land, acquiring identity papers, and so on. In addition, 
men are more likely to migrate temporarily to the city for seasonal work, where 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

they will need Spanish language and literacy skills. This gives boys an advantage 
over girls - although opportunities are more equal today than they have been 

In general there is a correlation between the structure of the family, its resources, 
and the nature of children's attendance at school. However, in Las Chulpas, a 
group of out-of-school girls belonged to wealthier families who owned large 
flocks of sheep. The girls attending school were from poorer families who had no 
animals. One girl from a poorer family said: 'If I had sheep, I would not attend 
school', thus indicating the restrictions that one kind of family asset place on girls' 
attendance at school. 

Rural Andean children work not only because of economic need, but also because 
of cultural and social needs. Indeed, it is through participation in agricultural and 
domestic activities that children learn the skills and abilities to become 
economically active adults. Participation in these activities gives children a sense 
of achievement and learning that is often more elusive at school, as the next 
section discusses. Some of the girls interviewed had themselves chosen to drop 
out of school so that they could find employment or take a greater part in 
domestic activities, albeit against the will of their parents. They did so because 
they felt that they were learning more at home than at school, and they believed 
that this learning would be more useful for their future lives. Opting out was 
particularly evident among girls in the 1216 age group who, as adolescents, were 
developing new interests. In many cases girls decided to leave school without 
consulting their parents, although in a number of cases it was the parents who 
took this decision. 

Beginning secondary education was a considerable challenge for girls. 
Secondary education is not available in the villages, and so the children had to 
walk for several hours or live in the town where the school is located. Most girls 
therefore do not attend secondary education, because of the costs of 
accommodation, transport, and food that most families cannot afford. Besides, 
it was not considered appropriate for girls to live far from home or to walk alone 
on the long journey to school. These issues are also pertinent to primary-school 
attendance in cases where the school is not close to girls' homes (see Box 2). In 
two of the study villages, their dispersed pattern of settlement meant that many 
of the children had a long walk to school. The young children were most 
affected. (Table 2 shows lower attendance in this age group, in part because of 
this factor. 10 ) In two villages, schools offered primary education for the first 
four years only. To complete primary schooling, students have to walk to a 
neighbouring village, but girls are less likely to do this, so their primary 
education is incomplete. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Box 2: Distance and availability as barriers to girls' education 

Abracancha is high in the mountains, and snow peaks are clearly seen from almost every 
angle in the village. The weather is cold and dry, and only potatoes can be cultivated at this 
altitude. This used to be a very dispersed settlement, because of each family's need for 
pastures for their flocks of llamas and alpacas. Nowadays some families have moved 
closer to the small, single-teacher school, but for other families their children from the age 
of four and five years have a walk of 30, 40, or even 75 minutes to reach the school. 
Attendance at the pre-school dwindles each day as the term progresses. 

Distance is one reason why some children start their schooling late, because parents 
prefer to wait until they consider that a child is strong enough to do the walking. But for the 
children who do attend school, many do not complete their primary education. The one- 
teacher school in Abracancha offers only the first three grades, and to continue schooling 
children must go to Lares, the district capital, one hour by car from the village. But there is 
only one bus per day to Lares, so children must stay there the whole week to study. Only a 
few children do this - and of these few are girls. 

The situation is similar in San Juan in the northern Andes. There is no pre-school, because 
there is no teacher, and the primary school offers only grades 1-4. To study further, 
children have to walk some two hours to the school in Las Lomas. Secondary education is 
not available at Las Lomas and is thus an even more remote possibility for the girls of San 
Juan - even for those of Las Lomas. 

Marleni, a young girl from San Juan, was studying fourth grade for the second time in 1 997 
because there was no opportunity for her to attend the fifth grade in Las Lomas school, 
due to the distance involved. 

When access is not enough: the school experience 

At the four schools studied there were many obstacles to girls' attendance; but for 
those who overcame these obstacles and succeeded in attending school, the 
quality of education offered in rural schools was very low. Over the course of the 
school day little time was dedicated to learning; indeed, on average the time spent 
on learning hardly surpassed two hours (see Box 3). Instead, the school hours 
were swallowed up in late starting, early closing, long breaks, and activities 
focused on maintaining order in the classroom and administrative tasks. Added 
to this were national and local holidays and teachers' absence to collect their 
salaries and for administrative purposes. 11 

In all four schools, most lessons are dedicated to 'the basics', that is mathematics 
and Spanish language, with a very small amount of time allocated to social and 
natural sciences. Although a national training programme began in 1996 to train 
teachers in new methods and active pedagogy, its impact was still very limited 
during the research period. Teaching and learning approaches were characterised 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

Box 3: The school day 

The school day in Las Chulpas starts late - around 9 a.m. - with an opening ceremony 
which can take between 10 and 45 minutes. Students stand in rows while the teacher 
makes announcements, asks or designates 'volunteers' to come to the front to sing, tell a 
tale, or share an event. There are two primary-school teachers in Las Chulpas; one who 
teaches grades 1 and 2 in one classroom, and one who teaches grades 3-6 in another 
classroom. There is also a pre-school teacher. When the school is 'in', there are clusters of 
sandals (ojotas- made from old car tyres) in front of each classroom door, because 
children are asked to remove them before they enter the buildings, to keep them clean. 
(The son of the pre-school teacher, however, is allowed to keep his on, and they are not 
ojotas but trainers.) There is a break at around 10 a.m. that lasts one hour, when the 
children play and have breakfast, cooked by mothers and/or older girls. In Abracancha, 
where there is no school breakfast, children bring some food (toasted corn, potatoes, 
cheese) and sit in small groups, sharing what they have brought. After the break children 
return to classrooms and stay until 1 p.m., after which they return home. 12 

by drill, memorising by rote, and repetition, making learning a rather boring and 
mechanical task. This is a feature that characterises teaching in the vast majority 
of rural schools (Ames 2001; 2004). 

Teachers' approaches to teaching and learning were limited, not only because of 
low levels of training but also because they had few educational resources or 
teaching aids. When we started our research, educational materials for teaching 
and learning were few and outdated. One year later, textbooks, workbooks, and 
materials for mathematics started to arrive at the schools as part of a national 
programme to provide schools with libraries in an attempt to improve this 
situation. But in some schools these materials remained unused. Teachers were 
afraid that materials would become damaged or lost if children used them, or that 
they were too difficult for them to understand. In Las Chulpas, for example, the 
teachers stored the textbooks and used them occasionally to prepare a lesson; but 
they did not allow their regular use by children. This reluctance on the part of 
teachers was related to their lack of familiarity with these materials and their lack of 
training in how to use them (see also Ames 2001 ). 

The language used at school in the two Quechua communities was Spanish, 
although few children started school with any command of it. Teachers used 
Quechua to communicate with their students, but most of the lessons were given in 
Spanish. However, not all the teachers were Quechua-speaking, and at least one had 
to learn Quechua from her students in order to communicate with them. In any 
case, the methodology of second-language acquisition had not been part of these 
teachers' training, and they used both languages without a clear strategy to enhance 
the learning of Spanish, while insisting that children speak in this language. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

In general, the professional training of teachers seemed inadequate for successful 
teaching and learning. The quality of their own learning was poor. Their training 
had not equipped them for working in multi-grade classrooms: on the contrary, 
teacher training and in-service initial training for untrained teachers 
('professionalisation') is based on the assumption that teachers work in 'complete' 
schools, that is schools with one teacher for each of the six grades, and, moreover, 
that they work in 'ideal' contexts where access and resources are not a key 
challenge. It is not surprising, then, that teachers approached their multi-grade 
classes as if they were two or three distinct mono-grade classes with invisible walls 
between the clusters of children and desks. They set different lessons for each 
grade group, or at best grouped two grades together for the same lesson. 

This lack of training for the conditions in which they had to work produced 
constant dissatisfaction and frustration. In interviews the teachers, who do not 
originate from the villages where they teach, complained that the poverty of the 
schools and the village environments made their jobs difficult. They had no 
professional support, and moreover were separated from their families, who 
remained in the towns while they stayed in the village during the school week. 
Their sense of dissatisfaction, their alienation from the students and villagers, and 
the material poverty of their environments negatively affected their motivation. 
This situation is not unique to the cases studied, but has been reported in national 
surveys and other studies among rural teachers (Montero etal. 2001, Tovar 1989). 
The head teacher of the school in Las Chulpas commented: 

/ would like to work in an urban area, because I have been trained to work with 
children, to teach. Sometimes I feel bad, because, at the beginning, for example, I 
came with desires to work because I was practising with Spanish-speaking 
students; thus everything I planned I achieved, but here it is not so, sometimes the 
very fact you have to speak to them in Quechua means they fail in literacy. 
Therefore I don t feel satisfied with it. I would like that my students learn quickly, 
wouldn't I? And see the product of my work also in them. But you dont see it, and 
this is not the only place, I mean, I am not the only one that feels that way. There 
are many teachers in rural areas that want to work, but with these children they 
disappoint us... I don't feel well working here, it is different, it is another reality. 

This teacher expresses not only her dissatisfaction working in a rural area, but her 
low expectations of her students. She perceives rural, indigenous children as less 
capable than their urban, Spanish-speaking peers. Teachers' low expectations are 
also common in other rural schools and they extend to rural parents, who are 
seen as less able to support their children's education (see for example Ames, 

Another feature of school practices that adversely affected students' participation 
was physical punishment. In Las Lomas, corporal punishment by the male teacher 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

at the school was reported as one of the main causes for the drop-out of a group 
of students in grade 5. In Abracancha, a small whip hung on the wall next to 
teacher's desk as a visual reminder that misbehaviour would be punished; it was 
used sometimes during our observations. Order and obedience are highly prized 
by teachers, and a silent classroom is regarded as a sign of good control on the part 
of the teacher. This order and control were also enforced through threats, and 
mockery and humiliation of children (see also Ames 1999a; Aikman 2003). 
Children's self-esteem becomes damaged by such techniques, as Vasquez and 
Martinez (1996:74) point out: 

. . . expressions of inconvenience, gestures indicating that one is losing too much 
time with a child, telling him he [sic] is saying silly things or does not 
understood, contribute to inhibit him and lead him to build a self image 
centred on his inabilities. 1 * 

Indeed, children often lose faith in their own capacity to learn, in response to the 
continuous criticism of their mistakes and lack of feedback on their 
achievements. This is expressed in a common phrase among children to explain 
their failure: 'mi cabeza no da (my head is not good enough). 

These characteristics of schooling and teaching and learning in the study villages 
appeared to affect girls and boys equally, but there are other aspects of school life 
that affected girls particularly. Teachers' expectations of their students' ability are 
low for rural children in general, and even lower for rural girls. Although in 
formal interviews teachers recognised the importance of education for both girls 
and boys, in informal discussion they expressed the strong opinion that rural 
girls will not complete their basic education because of the constraints of poverty 
and their families' ignorance of the value of education. At best the teachers hoped 
that they might complete primary schooling before marrying and becoming 
overwhelmed in caring for a family. Therefore teachers did not see the value of 
investing their energies in stimulating girls' learning or helping them to achieve 
their full potential. 

Teachers emphasise, reproduce, and naturalise the domestic role of women among 
their students. Some teachers ask girls to perform domestic duties for them, such as 
washing their clothes or cleaning their dishes (in Abracancha and Las Chulpas 
respectively). A teacher in Las Chulpas brought her baby to the school and 
sometimes asked one girl to care for the baby while she was teaching: thus the girl 
missed part of the lesson. Girls are sometimes in charge of preparing the food for 
breakfast, bringing the firewood and the water, and then doing the cooking, which 
represents time away from the classroom. (In some schools, mothers do this job.) 

Teachers did not often interfere in conflicts between children - even inside the 
classroom and the playground - and thus left unprotected those more vulnerable 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

to abuse, such as younger children and girls. Indeed, it was observed that boys 
usually tease girls, for instance by stealing their bags for fun, occupying most of the 
playground space, and laughing about girls' mistakes in the classroom, thus 
creating an embarrassing situation for girls. Although some teasing is seen as play, 
some entails real aggression towards girls, and they feel humiliated, embarrassed, 
and uncomfortable. 

However, the schools were not a wholly negative place for girls. Girls commented 
that they liked many aspects of their school, such as the opportunities to meet 
other girls, and the chance to play together and have fun, especially when their 
domestic tasks did not allow them other space and time to do this. They enjoyed 
learning to read and write, to draw, and to speak Spanish if they did not already 
do so, and learning mathematics in order to calculate and engage in the town 
market with their families. They reported that they enjoyed being in the 
company of others and learning things to improve their lives. They also created 
their own strategies to minimise uncomfortable situations. For example, a group 
of girls who regularly attended Las Chulpas school sat together in the front of the 
classroom, as far from the boys as possible, thus constituting a cohesive group to 
defend themselves against the boys' teasing. When two new girls later joined this 
multi-grade class, they were not initially part of the group and they became the 
butt of teasing from the boys. Girls kept a low profile and were quiet as part of a 
strategy for reducing the risk of being punished by the teacher. 

The picture that the study revealed of girls' schooling experience from the four 
communities was not therefore all negative, and girls were not passive victims of 
the system. However, girls may feel that the cost of schooling is too high, and that 
drop-out is a logical choice. This may be because of violence, aggression, or 
physical punishment, and/or because the education on offer - meaningless 
exercises and a focus on knowledge and realities far removed from their lives, 
concerns, and interests - has little to offer of value for them. Girls drop out when 
they have other, more valued, spaces for learning and work in the context of their 
own households. 


As Oliart (2004) points out, many actions can be taken to counteract rural girls' 
problems of access and attendance at school. For example, an adult from the 
community might accompany girls if they have a long walk to school. This may 
reassure parents and girls, and improve attendance. Economic aid in the form of 
bursaries for poorer families to enable them to send their girls to school has been 
tried in countries such as Mexico (Oportunidades programme) and Brazil (Bolsa 
Escola programme). These programmes provide monetary compensation to 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

families (and in the case of Bolsa Escola usually to mothers) for the economic 
value of the girls' work lost through school attendance. 14 The provision of school 
breakfasts in rural schools is an incentive for poorer families to send their 
children to school on a more regular basis. Recently, some initiatives in Peru such 
as the projects Nuevos Horizontes (New Horizons/ CARE-USAID) and Abriendo 
puertaspara la education de las ninas rurales (Opening Doors for the Education 
of Rural Girls/UNICEF-USAID) have achieved agreements with parents and 
communities to guarantee the enrolment of all girls of school age, in an attempt 
to avoid children enrolling late and then dropping out because they feel too old 
to be at primary school. These projects have also worked intensively, not only at 
local level but also at regional and national levels, to raise awareness of the 
problems and disadvantages faced by rural girls. 

Although not specifically directed at girls, a general effort to improve the quality 
of education in recent years may help to make the school more attractive and 
effective for girls. In the past, some NGO-supported bilingual projects in the 
Andes, particularly the Bilingual Project in Puno (PEBI-Puno), have reported 
that the overall interventions have helped to improve learning among girls in 
general and among boys who have less exposure to Spanish (see Ames 1999a; 
Rockwell et al 1989). In the past decade, some efforts at the national level to 
introduce active pedagogy and acknowledge diversity in the curriculum have also 
helped to meet the educational needs of rural girls. Nevertheless, as many of these 
projects and efforts have not paid particular attention to the situations of rural 
girls, many indicators such as drop-out, promotion, and completion rates still 
show a gap between girls and boys (see Ames 1999b). Therefore, although the 
improvement in the quality of the education at rural schools will benefit both girls 
and boys, particular actions are still required to meet rural girls' specific problems. 

Indeed, as this study of four Andean villages shows, there are issues over and above 
the quality of schooling that affect girls' exclusion. Neither the school nor the 
community is a gender-neutral institution or agent. They both produce and 
reproduce through their practice a structure of opportunities marked by gender 
inequalities. Consciously or unconsciously, and reinforced by economic 
constraints, girls' exclusion and drop-out from school have reinforced rural 
women's subordinate status. In rural communities and at home, literacy, 
schooling, and the ability to use the Spanish language are socially valued forms of 
knowledge which determine the place of the person in the group, his or her status, 
and the social recognition that can be obtained from them (Ames 2004, 2002). 
Women who lack this knowledge and the ability to use it are often relegated to 
subordinate positions in relation to the men from their own families and social 
group. In our interviews with adult women who had little or no schooling, we 
found that their lack of qualifications had a negative impact on their status inside 
and outside their families and communities. This resulted in making them 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

dependent on male decisions and men's ability to act on a range of issues. Most of 
these women belong to a generation for whom girls' education was not considered 
necessary. In most of the homes that we visited, the expansion of the school system 
and the discourse of Education For All have strengthened the demand for 
schooling for both girls and boys, and have changed the perception that education 
for girls is unnecessary. However, we also found that despite a more equal 
discourse among parents, in practice girls' schooling is more fragile and 
fragmented than schooling for boys. This is reflected not only in the situations 
described and analysed in this study, but also in the features of drop-out, 
promotion, and attendance that each community presents. 

Although our research did not pay particular attention to textbooks (since they 
were rarely used), research has shown that textbooks and school lessons suffer 
from gender bias. Through examples that attribute domestic roles to women and 
girls, and productive roles to men and boys, or through the absence of female 
characters in history, science, and the arts, school textbooks and lessons continue 
to reinforce gender prejudices concerning female and male roles (Anderson 
1986; Espinoza 2004). 

Another point of concern relates to changes in marital preferences. In a study in 
the southern Andes, Oliart (2003) found that a growing proportion of young 
men with education migrate temporarily out of the community. When they 
return to the community, they tend to prefer more educated women for wives, 
and girls with less education are at risk of single motherhood. 

The schools included in this study face many challenges ahead if they are going to 
offer gender equity in education. It is true that many teachers have started to 
change the practices that have a negative impact on girls' attendance. In Las 
Lomas, for example, as a result of a local teacher-training programme led by 
UNICEF, female teachers stopped using physical punishment when they became 
aware of its possible effects on drop-out rates. In Las Chulpas, the head teacher 
attended the national training programme (PLANCAD) aimed at promoting 
active pedagogy. In a visit to the village two years after the end of the study, we 
found that she had started to try out new methodological strategies, such as 
group work and written tasks to produce more attractive and significant learning 
situations for her students, with positive results. In both cases, in-service training 
helped teachers to identify problems and solutions to improve their classroom 
practice. This illustrates that teachers are willing to change and improve when 
they are helped to recognise their prejudicial gendered practices, and when they 
receive support, training, and resources to enable them to overcome the 
problems that they face and the isolation that they have felt. However, there is still 
a need not only to provide such support and training on a more regular basis, but 
also to tackle more subtle problems, such as low expectations and prejudices 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

about rural children and girls in particular. Some small-scale projects have been 
started which propose educational interventions with the aim of improving the 
quality of schooling, but with the specific target also of improving the situations 
of rural girls in particular, thus working with parents, teachers, and communities 
to sustain girls' schooling (see for example the projects Warmi Warmakunapa 
Yachaynin - Girls' Knowledge - and Musuq Yachay - New Learning, and 
methodological innovations for pre-school and primary school with an 
emphasis on girls, initiated by CARE/USAID, and the Project for Gender Equity 
in the Education of Rural Girls in Quispicanchis, by Fe y Alegria 447 IPEDEPH). 

Thus, a range of factors must be taken into account to improve girls' education: 
from the school teachers in the classrooms to the educational system that trains 
and supports their teaching, to the design and distribution of textbooks, pedagogic 
strategies, and other resources. The economic condition of rural societies also 
needs attention. A deeper reflection on the gender-biased preconceptions of all 
agents involved in the education effort is needed by educators, parents, and policy 
makers. A closer examination of how these preconceptions reinforce male 
domination and exclude girls and women is urgently required if the goal of 
equality is going to be truly achieved. 

Patricia Ames, PhD in Anthropology of Education, University of London, is a 
researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Education at the Universidad Peruana 
Cayetano Heredia, and a member of the Institute of Peruvian Studies. Her writings 
have examined various issues in rural education such as gender equity, multi-grade 
schooling, literacy, use of textbooks, and political socialisation of children. 


1 The project on which this article is based was funded by the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands. 
It was carried out at the Institute de Estudios Peruanos IEP under the general co-ordination of 
Carmen Montero and the research co-ordination of Patricia Oliart. I owe a debt to them for 
their guidance, and to all the girls of the 'rural girls' educational exclusion project', for allowing 
me to be part of their lives. 

2 This measure is used by UNESCO in its annual Education For All Global Monitoring Reports. 
It is the ratio of female-to-male value of a given indicator. A GPI of 1 indicates parity between 
sexes; a GPI that varies between and 1 means a disparity in favour of boys; a GPI greater than 
1 indicates a disparity in favour of girls. However, a country can have a GPI of 1, indicating 
complete equality between boys and girls, but still have low rates of access, retention, and 
achievement for girls and boys. 

3 ENAHO Encuesta Nacional de Hogares/National Home Survey, 200 1 . 

4 ENAHO Encuesta Nacional de Hogares/National Home Survey, 1996. 

5 ENAHO Encuesta Nacional de Hogares/National Home Survey, 1 997. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

6 ENNIV: Encuesta Nacional de Niveles de Vida /National Survey on standards of living, 1997. 

7 The names of the villages have been changed to preserve confidentiality. 

8 I continued to visit Las Chulpas for two subsequent years, doing research into other aspects of 
school life. When appropriate, I draw on information from these visits. 

9 Defined as below the minimum of nutritional intake required to ensure human survival. 

1 Another factor affecting low attendance in this age group is the availability of pre-school 
education in many rural villages. 

1 1 Some time after our research indicated these features, the Ministry of Education published the 
fact that rural schools get an average of 250 school hours per year, in contrast with the 600 
hours that urban schools get, and far less than the 1000 hours stated by official norms 
(Ministerio de Education 2002). 

12 In Las Lomas and San Juan the school day is different, because children attend in the mornings 
from 9 to 12, and in the afternoons from 2 to 4. They also get school breakfast at mid-morning. 

13 My translation. 

14 See and programmes 
are aimed at children in poverty, including girls. In the case of Mexico, the programme tries to 
focus on girls, especially in the first year of secondary education, when they are more likely to 
drop out or avoid enrolment. 


Aikman, Sheila (2003) La education indigena en Sudamerica: Interculturalidad y bilinguismo en 
Madre de Dios, Lima: Institute de Estudios Peruanos 

Ames, P. ( 1999a) 'El poder en el aula: un estudio en escuelas rurales andinas' in M. Tanaka (comp) 
Elpoder visto desde abajo: education, democratia y tiudadania en espacios locales, Lima: Institute 
de Estudios Peruanos 

Ames, P. ( 1999b) Mejorando la escuela rural, tres decadas de experiencias educativas en el campo, 
Documento de trabajo No. 96, Lima: Institute de Estudios Peruanos 

Ames, P. (200 1 ) jLibros para todos? Maestros y textos escolares en el Peru rural, Consorcio de 
Investigaciones Economicas y Sociales, Lima: Institute de Estudios Peruanos 

Ames, P. (2002) Para ser iguales, para ser distintos. Education, escritura y poder en el Peru, Lima: 
Institute de Estudios Peruanos 

Ames, P. (2004) 'Multigrade Schools in Context: Literacy in the Community, the Home and the 
School in the Peruvian Amazon', PhD dissertation, University of London 

Anderson, J. (1986) 'Imagenes de la familia en los textos y vida escolares', Revista Peruana de 
CientiasSodaks,Vo\. l,No. l,Lima: FOMCIENCIAS 

EFA (2004) 'Regional overview: Latin America and the Caribbean', in EFA Global Monitoring 
Report 2003/4 ( 

Espinoza, G. (2004) 'Genero y curriculum: Resultados preliminares de investigation', presentation 
at GRADE Research seminar series, Lima, April 


When access is not enough: educational exclusion of rural girls in Peru 

Guadalupe, C. et al. (2002) La education peruana a inicios del nuevo sigh, Documento de trabajo 
No. 12, Lima: Ministerio de Educacion 

Ministerio de Educacion (2002) Education para al democracia. Lineamientos depolitica educativa 
2001-2006, Lima: Ministerio de Educacion 

Montero, C. and T. Tovar (1999) Agenda abierta para la education de las ninas rurales, Lima: CARE- 
Perii, IEP, Foro educativo 

Montero, C., P. Oliart, P. Ames, Z. Cabrera, and F. Uccelli (200 1 ) La escuela rural: estudio para 
identificar modalidades y prioridades de intervention, Documento de trabajo No. 2, Lima: 
MECEP - Ministerio de Educacion 

Oliart, P. (2003) 'Genero, sexualidad y adolescencia en la provincia de Quispicanchis', Informe de 
consultoria (unpublished) 

Oliart, P. (2004) '^Para que estudiar?: La problematica educativa de ninas y mujeres en areas rurales 
del Peru' in I. Schicra (ed.) Genero, etnicidad y education en America Latina, Madrid: Ediciones 

Rockwell, E. et al. ( 1 989) Education bilingue y realidad escolar: un estudio en escuelas primarias 
andinas, Lima: Programa de Educacion Bilingue de Puno 

Tovar, T. (1989) 'Ser maestro. Condiciones de trabajo docente en el Peru', Lima: DESCO, UNESCO 

Uccelli, F. (1999) 'Democracia en el sur andino: posibilidades y esfuerzos de las familias campesinas 
para educar a sus hijos', en Tanaka (comp) Elpoder visto desde abajo, Lima: Institute de 
Estudios Peruanos 

Vasquez B., A. Martinez, and I. Martinez (1996) La socialization en la escuela: una perspectiva 
etnogrdfica, Barcelona: Paidos 


8 Crossing boundaries and stepping out of 
purdah in India 

Mora Oommen 

This chapter describes and begins to analyse how the nation-wide Total Literacy 
Campaign (TLC) in India set in motion a process of empowerment that opened 
up space for women to cross social and geographical boundaries. I have based 
this chapter on research conducted for a larger study which sought to examine 
the link between literacy skills and empowerment in the lives of the women 
participants in the TLC. During fieldwork for this study, in response to my 
inquiries about how empowerment had manifested itself in the lives of women, I 
frequently heard the phrase 'Women are now stepping out ofpurdah.'This chapter 
explores the meaning of this response. I came to understand that to speak of 
women's empowerment required an understanding of the roles played by 
women, and the challenges that they had to overcome. 

In May 1988, the government of India launched the Total Literacy Campaign 
(TLC) under the National Literacy Mission (NLM), with the aim of imparting 
functional literacy to people in the age group of 15-35 years (Gol 1988). The TLC 
model was extraordinary, in that it took responsibility for increasing national 
literacy out of the central government's hands and made local government 
administrators responsible for its implementation, with the involvement of 
community organisations. This partnership allowed for local ownership and 
unprecedented voluntary participation. 

Literacy was imparted through innovative approaches, involving entire 
populations in a process that was area-specific and time-bound. The TLC 
mobilised and trained 10 million people throughout India as voluntary trainers 
to impart literacy skills in basic reading, writing, and numeracy to approximately 
68 million individuals (BGVS nd). Volunteers were trained in a pedagogy known 
as Improved Pace and Content of Learning (IPCL) to achieve the objective of 
imparting these skills in 200 hours (BGVS 1993). Three multi-grade primers 
containing exercises and tests were supplemented with locally developed 
material (such as short stories, plays, and songs) to increase the appeal to the 
participants. In addition, topics in the primers included functional information 
on agriculture, economics, livelihood, health, and local history. Separate classes 
in groups of 1015 men and women were held close to the homes of the 
participants. Particular emphasis was given to increasing the involvement of 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out o/purdah in India 

women. This resulted in many evaluation studies highlighting the very high 
levels of women's participation in these adult education programmes (Singh 
2000; Sundararaman 1996). 

In July 2002, ten years after the official end of the TLC, I conducted an 
ethnographic study in a cluster of villages (identified as a gram panchayai) 
located in Begusarai District in Bihar. The civil-society partner that conducted 
the literacy campaign, and my host and guide in this district, was the Bharat Cyan 
Vigyan Samiti (BGVS). 1 The study is based on data gathered through interviews 
and participant observations conducted in July 2002 in Shantipur 2 gram 
panchayat. The ethnographic style of the study was facilitated by my fluency in 
Hindi, but the insights of the study draw as much on my perspective gained from 
growing up in urban India as on my observations in Begusarai. 

Of the people who were involved in the literacy campaign in Begusarai, 80 per cent 
were women (BGVS-Begusarai official records). In a State that has strong cultural 
norms limiting women's independence and rights, the work of the BGVS was 
unprecedented: it set in motion a dynamic process of redefining women's role in 
society. As became apparent to me during my research, women played three main 
roles in the campaign: as organisers (recruited as co-ordinators and leaders to 
encourage other women to participate); as volunteers (trained to teach or carry 
out other tasks in the organisation); and as learners (the recipients of the literacy 
training). This study examines what 'stepping out ofpurdati meant to the women 
in each of these groups. 

After spending time in the community, I understood that the literacy campaign, 
although seeking to impart literacy skills, had a much richer story to tell about the 
changes in women's lives. Understanding the empowerment of women went 
beyond merely determining how formerly non-literate women were using their 
newly acquired reading and writing skills in their daily lives. Reviewing the changes 
in the lives of women who participated in the TLC as organisers and volunteers 
indicated that although they came from different starting points and had different 
levels of access to material, social, and human resources, the campaign opened 
important spaces for all of to make the most of these resources. 

For more than ten years, women's literacy has been an important proxy indicator 
for measuring women's empowerment (King and Hill 1993; Patel S 1996; Rockhill 
1993; Robinson-Pant 2000; Rowlands 1997, 1999; Athreya and Chunkath 1996). 
The concept of women's empowerment first began to take shape in 1985, at the 
United Nations Women's Conference in Nairobi, through the Development 
Alternative for Women in the New Era (DAWN). This resulted in an examination 
of women's empowerment in a patriarchal system that instituted sexual division 
of labour and controlled women's sexuality (Sen and Grown 1987). However, to 
quote Batliwala ( 1993), the means of measuring empowerment remains 'fuzzy'. By 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

the end of the 1990s, a number of writers had agreed that empowerment is a 
process (Stromquist 1997; Kabeer 1999; Ramachandran 1999; Rowlands 1997, 
1999; Oxaal and Baden 1997), although there remain differences about how to 
identify and measure tangible changes that result in empowerment. 

Stromquist looked at the process of gaining literacy and concluded that it is more 
important than the eventual use or knowledge of coding and decoding letters and 
numbers. She stressed the 'unintended outcome' of empowerment from literacy 
(Stromquist 1997:29). Writers such as Boserup (1970), Kabeer (1994), and Park 
(1996) argue that literacy should not be an end in itself, but should be linked to the 
functional part of development projects, especially those affecting income 
generation, so that women can have access to financial resources. The link 
between the process of acquiring literacy skills and gaining empowerment since 
the 1990s has clearly remained an important issue for scholars and practitioners. 
However, in this literature I did not find any analysis of the literacy process which 
takes into account not only the move from illiteracy to literacy for the women 
learners, but also the changes for women who were organisers and volunteers. In 
the context of such programmes as the TLC, developed on a mass basis, I have 
found it critical to assess the campaign process, which suggests a process of 
empowerment for women participating in different roles. An attempt to 
understand the roles that different women played, the types of struggle that they 
faced, and the measures employed by them to overcome barriers is an important 
part of understanding the process of empowerment that can result from a literacy 
campaign. Begusarai's experience is significant because it can provide insight into 
the process that enabled women to cross boundaries which previously had limited 
their participation in the public realm. 

Total Literacy Campaign in Begusarai District 

In Begusarai District, Bihar, the TLC was organised and administered from 1994 
to 1996 by the Bharat Cyan Vigyan Samithi (BGVS) in partnership with the 
government. Begusarai was the first district in the State of Bihar where the BGVS 
completed the TLC phase. Begusarai has remained actively involved in activities 
related to the Post-Literacy Phase (with activities that include publishing a local 
newspaper for neo-literates, and setting up libraries, women's self-help groups, 
and supplementary classes to increase school enrolment). During the time of my 
visiting, BGVS had begun the Continuing Education phase, intended to sustain 
the gains of the campaigns by re-introducing literacy classes and supporting 
women's participation in local government. 

Covering an area of 1918 square kilometres, Begusarai is one of the 37 
administrative districts in the northern Indian State of Bihar. It is divided into 17 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out of purdah in India 

blocks, 247 gram panchayats, and 1100 inhabited villages (CMS 1999). BGVS- 
Begusarai works in all 17 blocks of this district. According to the 2001 census, the 
population of Begusarai is 1.2 million men and 1.1 million women, of whom 87.6 
per cent profess Hinduism and 12.3 per cent Islam. The predominant language is 
Hindi, spoken by 89.6 per cent (GoB 1991a). Statistics on transportation, 
education, and health-care facilities show that Begusarai is quite well provided, 
but a more detailed study shows that there are wide economic and social 
disparities between the urban and rural populations. For example, while 14.5 per 
cent of the total population is from the Scheduled [low] Caste (SC), 94 per cent of 
the rural population belongs to the SC (GoB 199 Ib). Most public amenities, such 
as running water, schools, electricity supplies, and health centres are concentrated 
in the urban areas. 

Literacy levels in Begusarai district in 1991 were 49 per cent for men and 24 per 
cent for women; in 2001, these figures increased to 60 per cent and 36 per cent 
respectively (GoB 199 la, GoB 2002). These figures are still much lower than the 
2001 national average of 75.9 per cent and 65.4 per cent. Analysis of the literacy 
rate among SC women in rural areas reveals that in 199 1 only 5.54 per cent of this 
population was literate. As Figure 1 shows, in rural settings, where the poor, 
landless, SC women are the most marginalised social group, the opportunity to 
gain skills such as literacy has been denied to them. Thus, we see that the national 
literacy level of 65.4 per cent masks the much lower rate for rural, SC women, 
who suffer discrimination because of location, caste, and gender. Hence, the 
literacy campaign clearly needed to focus on the women in rural areas. 

According to the 1991 census, there were more than 400,000 illiterate people in 
1 100 villages in Begusarai district. The BGVS estimated that it would require more 
than 40,000 volunteers to carry out the literacy campaign. On 20 November 1994, 
BGVS conducted an extensive survey throughout the district, involving an 
innovative mass-based mobilising methodology called kalajatha (cultural 
carnivals). The survey was well co-ordinated throughout the district and created 
energy and motivation to catalyse the campaign. Through this survey, 246,000 
women and 1 88,000 men were registered for classes. As classes for women and men 
had to be organised separately at the local level, an estimated 16,400 women (one 
teacher: 15 learners) needed to be recruited as volunteers and trained to teach. 

Classes began in the district in January 1995 and were followed by intensive 
teaching, monitoring, re-training, and re-motivating sessions. A communications 
structure was set up to connect volunteer trainers (VTs) with master trainers 
(MTs) and key resource persons (KRPs). The MTs and KRPs were hired to be full- 
time co-ordinating organisers, working across the district. Volunteer trainers were 
predominantly high-school students trained to organise and hold literacy classes 
in their villages. In June 1996, a Mahapariksha Abhiyan (final exam campaign) 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Figure 1 : Literacy rates among Schedule Caste women in Begusari District in 



100 - 
80 - 
60 - 

20 H 

Total SC 

SC Women in 
Urban Areas 

SC Women in 
Rural Areas 

Source: GOB, 1991. 

completed the teaching phase of the TLC. The results of the test showed that of the 
330,000 enrolled learners who took the exam, 88 per cent completed Primer I; 61 
per cent, Primer II, and 56.1 per cent, Primer III. This translated into 52 per cent 
of the learners becoming literate according to NLM norms (Rampal and 
Manimala 2002:100). Even after this intensive, large-scale literacy campaign 
ended, BGVS continued to engage the participants in programmes related to 
education, health, and livelihood issues. 

Women's role as campaign organisers 

Women participated in the campaign as organisers, volunteers, and learners. 
Organisers were women in leadership positions in BGVS at the block and district 
level. On the whole, men dominated the leadership of the organisation, and few 
women were present at this leadership level. Most women organisers joined the 
campaign as Master Trainers (MTs), then moved up to senior co-ordinating 
positions and membership of the District Task Force (an executive team which co- 
ordinated all the activities in the district). Organisers, who were given the 
responsibility to arrange and manage events and activities for women, were 
generally 25-35 years of age when they joined BGVS. Almost all had college 
degrees (Bachelor's level) and some had a graduate degree (Master's level). They 
came from upper-caste, land-owning families which had high social standing. 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out o/purdah in India 

Many were married and had had children while they were still teenagers. Typically 
such a woman lived in her husband's village with other members of his family (the 
Hindi term for this is sasural). In field work for this study, meetings and interviews 
were held with four of the twenty organisers in the district. 

Women as campaign volunteers 

Volunteers were young women who had completed at least eight years of formal 
schooling, although some had high-school or college-level qualifications. They 
joined the campaign in two waves. More than 15,000 women were active 
volunteers during the TLC period (1994-1996) when they were 12-18 years old. 
Volunteers generally joined the organisation as kalajatha performers, Volunteer 
Trainers, and Master Trainers. The second wave of volunteers joined after the TLC 
phase (1998 onwards). The second-wave volunteers were very young when the 
literacy classes started, and they watched TLC activities in the district as they grew 
up. Volunteers from both waves took up positions in the Post-Literacy 
programmes run by BGVS. Some were given specific responsibilities; for example, 
running the children's supplementary schools called Vikalp Shiksha Kendra 
Centres, the Panchayat Libraries, and women's self-help savings groups, called 
Sambals. The organisation also supported the candidacy of many volunteers for 
roles in government programmes: nomination to serve on the Village Education 
Committees, responsibility for running the Anganwadi Centres (day-care centres 
for very young children), and election to positions such as Ward Commissioners 
and Mukhiya (village representative) in the July 2001 Panchayat elections. When 
the BGVS initiated or expanded a project, the volunteers were usually the group 
that was mobilised, given training, and eventually assigned to carry out the task. 
Volunteers were diverse in age and economic and caste backgrounds, but very few 
belonged to the Scheduled Caste. Volunteers received little or no remuneration for 
their work. Most were unmarried when the campaign started, and they lived with 
their parents in their natal village (termed maikai in Hindi). But, in time, many 
came under family pressure to get married, which reduced their participation in 
BGVS activities. During the field study, meetings were held with 80 volunteers, 
and in-depth interviews were conducted with ten. 

Women learners 

A majority of women learners were from the lower castes. They were landless or 
had small land-holdings and limited financial resources. Many had never had 
access to formal schooling, and contact with the TLC was their first opportunity 
to learn to read and write. The TLC targeted a diverse age group, between 15 and 
35 years of age. The external evaluation of the Begusarai TLC, conducted in 1999, 
pointed out that the majority of learners who achieved literacy were in the 15-24 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

age group (CMS 1999). I interviewed many of the learners who had acquired 
literacy skills during the campaign and had remained in touch with the BGVS, 
through initiatives like the savings groups. But unlike the organisers and 
volunteers, learners did not occupy formal positions in the organisational 
structure. They were encouraged to participate in BGVS programmes like the 
libraries and Sambals. Most of the learners were married and lived with their in- 
laws. During the field work, I met with approximately thirty learners and held in- 
depth interviews with eight. 

Crossing boundaries: stepping out of purdah 

Before the literacy campaign in Shantipur, tradition limited the extent of women's 
interaction outside their homes. The Hindi term used by most people for this 
physical, social, political, and economic seclusion is purdah pratha. This practice 
most commonly manifests itself with women covering their heads with the edge 
of their traditional garment: a sari. The purdah acts as a physical restriction on 
women's mobility by defining their proper space as being within the boundaries 
of the home, where they are protected from contact with men who are not 
members of their family (Parker 1995). It creates a sexually segregated world, 
which identifies men with the public/social sphere and women with the 
private/domestic sphere (Kabeer 1985). The power of the purdah lies in the way in 
which it defines the interaction that women can have with the outside world. 
Patricia Jeffery, in her book on women living in purdah in India, defines this 
practice as follows: 

For Muslims, purdah in the sense of complete veiling seems to operate after 
puberty in relation to all men, except very close kin. In north India, for Hindus, 
purdah in this sense is largely a question of veiling only after marriage and in 
relation to the husband's older male kin. Hindu women do not veil themselves 
in the place where they were born and where their own kin live, unless their 
husband or one of his male relatives is present. 
(Jeffery 1979:3) 

In this chapter I have used the term purdah as a demonstration of boundaries that 
limit women's participation in the public realm. Stepping out of purdah is not 
limited to women who question this tradition, but reflects changes in more subtle, 
tacit forms of boundaries formed around women. When the literacy campaign 
began, the BGVS women had to overcome the obstacle of purdah so that women 
could be recruited locally to teach and motivate others. The BGVS considered it 
essential that the literacy programme should reach out to both men and women 
so it made a concerted effort to provide women with space outside their homes in 
which to participate in the scheme. As some studies have already acknowledged: 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out o/purdah in India 

Large-scale social mobilisation that is elicited by literacy campaigns obtains a 
'social sanction for women s participation in literacy programmes. Various 
patriarchal considerations that hinder their participation become at least 
temporarily inoperative as women come out of their homes and take part in the 
literacy campaign with great enthusiasm. 
(Patel and Dighe, 1997:5) 

The experience of the organisers 

This form of suspension of purdah was evident in Shantipur, but was 
experienced differently by organisers, volunteers, and learners. The organisers 
spoke of purdah as a constraint on their mobility and on their ability to choose 
the kind of life that they would like to lead. Being educated, economically well- 
off, and enjoying a respectable standing in society, they had access to resources 
(material, social, and human), but strictly defined gender roles limited the extent 
to which they could exercise these resources. The BGVS, through the literacy 
campaign, opened spaces for those upper-caste women to begin a process of 
change. They achieved tangible benefits in terms of social recognition, rather 
than monetary gains. Deepa, one of the first women to join the organisation, 
recalls her initial interaction: 

I was the only woman in my area who had completed my BA. So people were 
informed that my father-in-law has a daughter-in-law who is educated and he 
is the person to talk to. So people came to speak to my father-in-law and said 
that a meeting will be taking place in the village and if he would allow me to 
come for the meeting because I was educated . . . My father-in-law is interested 
in such matters. He said, 'Okay, she will do this work". So I went to the meeting 
(and) in the meeting I didnt even know how to stand up and speak my name! 
...I covered my head and stood there. Then they told me about the kind of 
work that has to be done, that there is a huge offence against women, women 
are being burnt because they have not brought in enough dowry ...All this 
began to touch my heart slowly. What they are saying is completely right, but in 
our village there is so much purdah ...If I say yes to them maybe I will be able 
to do some work to solve their problems. 
(Deepa, interviewed on 25 July 2002) 

In this account, Deepa points out how she both possessed and was aware of the 
resources that she had: her BA qualification and her family's high standing in the 
village. She also was aware of current limitations on her life: her family had 
control over her interactions in the public realm. There were certain social 
practices that she was required to adhere to, and these were defined by her 
family's social standing. She acknowledged that 'they are saying things that are 
completely right', but she also knew that she possessed the potential to make a 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

change ('if I say yes'). The process of emerging from the constraints imposed by 
her family for the sake of other women was a process of empowerment. For her, 
BGVS provided the platform from which she was able to step out, with the 
resources that she already possessed. 

Other organisers, like Deepa, often stressed the geographical boundaries that 
they had to cross, which in turn motivated other women to step out of their 
houses. Shakti said: 

. . . Then I joined the BGVS. Until I was working at the Panchayat level there 
was no problem. I used to work all day and then in the evening I used to come 
home. As I started to work at higher levels in the organisation, it became more 
difficult. For example, I returned yesterday after an eight-day trip. When I 
started to stay out of the house for more days, two days, four days, obviously the 
problems increased. Nobody's husband would like his wife to stay outside the 
house for so many days. But then I would sit down and try to explain to him, 
what kind of work I was doing. If I did not do this work, then what would 
happen to all the other women? 
(Shakti, interviewed on 17 July 2002) 

She broke out of the purdah by stepping out of the house and extending her work 
beyond the borders of her village, block, district, and State. Shakti's view was that 
she needed to push the social and geographical boundaries for all women. She 
needed to create the opportunities for other women by being the first to come 

Stepping out of purdah for organisers like Deepa and Shakti meant that they 
drew on resources such as their education and high socio-economic status in a 
new space opened up by the literacy campaign. So for the organisers, overcoming 
geographical boundaries and travelling independently was a key form of 

The experience of the volunteers 

When I spoke to the volunteers, a majority of them stated that the significant 
change in the lives of women was that they were out of purdah. Interestingly, they 
did not necessarily identify purdah as a barrier that they needed to overcome. 
Volunteering as teachers/trainers in the campaign was accepted as an extension 
of their schoolwork. Volunteers talked about the Literacy Campaign with a 
feeling of excitement. They clearly had fond memories of activities that gave 
them recognition and responsibility in the public sphere. As long as the work was 
confined to the local level of the village, it was seen as acceptable for young 
women to participate. As Savita, a volunteer, said: 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out o/purdah in India 

I was told, any women living near you between the ages of 14 and 40 you 
should bring them to your centre and teach them. In the training we were told 
that it is likely that they will ask for things like oil, or say that we do not have 
time. So how will you explain things to them, we were given such training. 
(Savita, interviewed on 17 July 2002) 

The skills that they learned in school were relevant and useful in the campaign, 
and the volunteers were seen as vital participants in the programme by the BGVS 
leadership. Most volunteers referred to the fun and excitement of being included 
as part of a social change. They saw imparting literacy skills as a simple task, as an 
extension of their schoolwork: 

We did not find teaching difficult at all. We held their hands and showed them 
how to write letters, patiently. Like this: ma, ka, na ... 
(Participant in focus-group discussion on 22 July 2002) 

Many volunteers were not married at the time of the campaign. As they were 
living in their natal homes, they had fewer constraints on their mobility. In this 
society there were fewer restrictions on the lives of women at home than on the 
lives of married women living in their sasural. 

During my stay in Shantipur, one of the young women who had been an active 
volunteer for the past five years got married and, as is customary, had returned to 
stay with her family for a few months. This practice signified her last few days at 
home before her final move to her sasural, after which she could no longer make 
claims on her natal family. As we began to talk, other BGVS volunteers teased her, 
saying that now she was married she had become quiet and demure, unlike her 
previous assertive, activist self. I asked her once if she thought she would continue 
her work when she went to live with her in-laws. Her eyes immediately looked 
down, and she said quietly that this would depend on her husband's family. 
Although she had asked her parents to find her a husband who would be open to 
her working outside the house, she did not think that his family would allow her 
to do this. 

My interactions with the volunteers suggested that purdah was not a barrier that 
they had to confront directly. This result may perhaps be attributed to the 
successful struggles of the older women in the community, who created protected 
environments in which the younger women could step out. Another reason 
presented was that many of their activities were limited to areas close to their 
homes and did not require too much interaction beyond the protective circle of 
the community. But it suggests that the real test of volunteers' scope to move 
beyond purdah will not come until each one of them begins to leave her village, or 
starts to question social norms. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The experience of the learners 

'Coming out of purdah' had a more direct, literal meaning for the learners. The 
social and physical limitations placed on them by gender and caste were very 
overt. Strict geographical boundaries in villages physically separated the areas 
inhabited by members of the lower caste from those of higher-caste women (or 
men). For women of a lower caste to step out of their homes and go to upper- 
caste areas to learn or participate in BGVS activities was itself a crossing of a 
major social and geographical boundary. As observed by other researchers who 
have studied literacy classes in north India, Patkar (1995) notes: 'There are 
striking disparities between scheduled and non-scheduled caste female 
participation rates in the North, where the caste barriers on women's entry into 
the public sphere appear to be rigidly enforced' (Patkar 1995: 403). 

Such behaviour was emphasised when I spoke to many learners. Cheshta said: 

One day my mother-in-law asked where I was going and when I told her I was 
going to study, I got a huge beating from her. She asked me how I could step 
outside the house and go to someone else's place. So we used to secretly go for the 
classes at 12 noon when my parents-in-law would go to work in the fields. We 
would hide the slate in our box and never let them see it. 
(Chesta, interviewed on 20 July 2002) 

Chesta revealed how she was prevented from going to 'someone else's place'. Her 
mother-in-law was stopping her from leaving her side of the village to go to the 
other side; in this way she was reminding her not only of the step that she was 
taking into an unknown person's house, but also of the boundaries that she was 
crossing by stepping out of her community into the space of upper-class families. 
Even though literacy classes were being conducted throughout the district, 
making it seem like an accepted community activity, the limitations on individual 
women's scope to make the very public step of coming out of their homes to 
acquire a skill carried grave risks. Although the physical distance covered by them 
may have been small, the social distance that they bridged was significant. 

Participating in the literacy classes was not a simple matter for learners. They 
would often have to brave repeated hecklings on their way to classes. Vidya 
described this: 

People used to say a lot. They said, 'From your childhood you have not learned 
anything and now at this age you are going to learn? How do you think you will 
learn?' . . . Even listening to them, we used to go. 
(Vidya, interviewed on 21 July 2002) 

Thus coming out of purdah for her meant publicly admitting her lack of 
literacy skills and participating in a group to learn them. In one of the group 


Crossing boundaries and stepping out of purdah in India 

conversations, Kalpana referred to herself bitterly as a fool (moork in Hindi) 
prior to the literacy campaign: 

/ was a fool . . . Then one of the VTs, she came to my house and said that such 
an activity has started where we teach people to read and write. If you remain a 
moork then how will you know what is happening? It is better if you learn to 
read and write. It was on her insistence that I went. 
(Kalpana, interviewed on 21 July 2002) 

Kalpana equates her illiteracy to being foolish, and associates being literate with 
gaining skills that would maker her a better person. The VT reinforced this self- 
impression. The boundaries that the learners had to cross were more rigid and 
overt than those crossed by organisers and volunteers. As my research revealed, the 
learners were the most marginalised of the women in Shantipur. Participating in 
the literacy campaign required stepping out of their homes, which required 
crossing socio-geographic boundaries of caste, class, and gender. In addition, it also 
meant publicly coming out and admitting the lack of literacy skills, and facing the 
risk of humiliation. Therefore, coming out of purdah for the learners was a risky 
endeavour, leaving them most susceptible to criticism. 


This chapter has described the context of an unprecedented effort to increase 
literacy levels in a region that had one of the lowest literacy rates in India. The 
process of involving large numbers of people locally to administer and conduct the 
literacy classes required a high level of women's participation. The TLC in 
Begusarai offered women unprecedented space to 'come out of purdah\ But 
different women played different roles in the campaign, and coming out of purdah 
had different starting points and implications for each of the groups of women. 
The organisers in some ways took the first step out of purdah as the vanguard for 
other women in the society, by breaking traditional limits on their participation in 
the public sphere. It is important to note that the high social standing of their 
families, and their high levels of education, made things easier for them. The 
volunteers perhaps will be the measure of how far the purdah tradition has been 
overcome. As they develop from adolescence to womanhood and move away from 
their native region to participate in social change and progress, the extent to which 
the volunteers will be able to maintain the momentum built up during the TLC will 
need to be assessed. The learners perhaps took the largest personal risk, because 
they were most vulnerable when stepping out to a space created by upper-caste, 
educated women. Their own commitment to learning to read and write had to 
overcome societal restrictions on their physical, social, and economic activities. 
The process used in the TLC in Begusarai went beyond simply imparting literacy. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

It clearly questioned a number of social norms constraining women's participating 
in public life. This glimpse into a decade of development in the lives of a group of 
women indicates the sensitivity required to understand an overarching term like 
'women's empowerment' in all its complexity, rejoicing in the crossing of 
boundaries imposed by caste, gender, age, economy, and geography, but also 
cautioning the reader about the fragility of these efforts. 

Mora Oommen worked with Indian education NGOs in the late 1990s. Most recently 
she has worked as a consultant on programme and resource development with 
innovative social initiatives, such as the Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign 
and World Computer Exchange, Inc. The research for this chapter was conducted as 
part of her work for her MA at the Institute of Education, London University. 


1 BGVS is a nationwide non-government organisation, with chapters formed at the District 
Level. During the TLC, they worked across India in partnership with the government to shape, 
develop, and implement the campaign. The organisation remains in existence to this day, 
working on a variety of social issues related to basic literacy, children's education, health 
education, women's empowerment, and other livelihood issues. 

2 The names of this Panchayat and the participants have been changed, to preserve confidentiality. 


Athreya, V. B. and S.R. Chunkath (1996) Literacy and Empowerment, New Delhi: Sage 

Batliwala, S. (1993) Empowerment of Women in South Asia: Concepts and Practices, New Delhi: FAO- 

BGVS (1993) Total Literacy Campaign: A Guide Book, New Delhi: BGVS 
BGVS (nd), Bharat Cyan Vigyan Samiti, official website, 
Boserup, E. (1970) Woman's Role in Economic Development, New York: St. Martin's Press 
Bown, L. (1990) Preparing the Future: Women, Literacy and Development, London: ActionAid 

CMS (1999) A Report: External Evaluation of Total Literacy Campaign in Begusarai, July 1999, New 
Delhi: Centre for Media Studies 

GoB (199 la) Census Report 1991, Census Planning and Development Department: Directorate of 

GoB ( 199 Ib) A Portrait of Population: Bihar, New Delhi: Directorate of Census Operation 
GoB (2002) Official State website, 

Gol (1988) Government of India, National Literacy Mission, New Delhi: Ministry of Human 
Resource Development 


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Jeffery, P. ( 1979) Frogs in a Well: Indian Women in Purdah, London: Zed 

Kabeer, N. (1985) 'Do women gain from high fertility?' in H. Afshar (ed.) Women, Work, and 
Ideology in the Third World, London: Tavistock 

Kabeer, N. (1994) Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought, London: Verso 

Kabeer, N. (1999) 'Resources, agency, achievements: reflections on the measurement of women's 
empowerment', Development and Change 30: 435-64 

King, E.M., M. A. Hill, and World Bank (1993) Women's Education in Developing Countries: Barriers, 
Benefits, and Policies, Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press for the World Bank 

Lind and Johnston (1990) Adult Literacy in the Third World: A Review of Objectives and Strategies, 
Stockholm: Swedish International Development Authority 

Literacy Online (accessed 9/02) 

Oxaal and Baden (1997) 'Gender and Empowerment: Definitions, Approaches and Implications for 
Policy' (Report 40), Briefing prepared for Swedish International Development Cooperation 
Agency (SIDA) on line at 

Park, R. (1996) 'The Role of Literacy Training in NGOs' Efforts to Improve the Self-Sufficiency of 
Rural Indian Women', paper presented at World Conference on Literacy, held in March 1996 in 

Patel, I. and A. Dighe (1997) 'Gender Issues in Literacy Education', Introduction to the Working 
Paper Series (WPS), Anand: Institute of Rural Management on line at 1 1 1/htm 

Patel, S. (1996) 'From a seed to a tree: building community organisation in India's cities' in S. 
Walters and L. Manicom, Gender in Popular Education, South Africa: CAGE 

Patkar, A. (1995) 'Socio-economic status and female literacy in India', International Journal of 
Educational Development, 1 5:4: 40 1-9 

Ramachandran, V. (1999) 'Adult education: a tale of empowerment denied', Economic and Political 
Weekly, 10-16 April (877-0) 

Ramachandran, V. (2000) 'Literacy, development, and empowerment: conceptual issues' in 
R. Wazir (ed.) Gap in Basic Education: NGOs as Change Agents, London: Sage 

Ramdas, L. (1990) 'Gender issues and literacy: an analysis', Convergence, 23/4: 37-47 

Rampal, A. and Manimala (eds.) (2002) Naav Vikas Lay Sabjan Padbai: Saksharta Abhiyan per 
Sanjha Shodh, New Delhi: Books for Change and Mousoorie: NLRC 

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Development in Nepal, Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Education 

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Approaches to Literacy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 

Rowlands, J. (1999) 'Empowerment examined' in D. Rowan-Campbell (ed.) Development With 
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Perspective, London: Earthscan 


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Singh, A. (2000) 'Education for All: The Year 2000 Assessment Report: India, The EFA 2000 
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Stromquist, N. (1999) 'Gender and literacy development' in D. Wagner, R. Venezky, and B. Street 
(eds.) Literacy: an International Handbook, Oxford: Westview Press 

Sundararaman, S. (1996) 'Literacy campaigns: lessons for women's movement', Economic and 
Political Weekly, 18 May (1 193-7) 


9 Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered 
roles and curriculum realities 

Salina Sanou and Sheila Aikman 

This chapter is based on on-going work with pastoralist schools in the Gao 
region of north-east Mali, funded by Oxfam GB. It examines strategies for 
improving gender equality in education through the work of animatrices - 
female community mobilisers - who support girls' access to education and foster 
their participation through complementary developments designed to make the 
curriculum more gender-equitable. 

We argue that the work of the animatrices has been successful in increasing the 
access and retention of children, and especially of girls, in school. However, 
recent evaluations suggest that the animatrices do not challenge conventional 
assumptions about roles for women and girls and may even have increased 
women's workload. We consider ways in which the animatrice model can be 
supported to become more challenging and transformative, as part of a wider 
strategy for gender equality involving, among other things, curriculum change. 
In the wider context of decentralisation and education reform, animatrices can 
work simultaneously with other initiatives for opening up democratic spaces and 
gender equality. As this is work in progress, the chapter draws primarily on 
unpublished reviews and evaluations and interviews with key NGO staff. 


Mali is one of five West African countries where Oxfam GB has been implementing 
a pilot programme entitled 'Promoting Gender-Equitable Basic Education in West 
Africa'. Although Mali has had some of the worst figures in the world for education, 
current statistics demonstrate encouraging results as far as access is concerned, 
with a rise in the Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) in the first cycle of basic education 
from 32 per cent in 1992 to 67 per cent in 2003 (Ministry of Education 2003), and 
recent statistics indicating 70.5 per cent for 2003-4 (Ministry of Education 2005). 
However, the gender gap is still very wide, with girls' primary enrolment estimated 
at 59.9 per cent and boys' at 81.3 per cent (ibid.). 

The Gao region is an area of semi-desert, inhabited by nomadic and semi- 
nomadic pastoralists (including Touareg, Songhai, Bella, and Arab peoples). The 
communities move with their herds of sheep and camels in search of pasture in 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

the region, which is beset by drought. At the time of writing (mid-2005), they are 
experiencing severe food shortages in the aftermath of the widespread 
destruction of crops and pasture by locusts in 2004. The region is disadvantaged 
in terms of communications, infrastructure, and basic services. Its political 
marginalisation was one of the factors that prompted the Touareg rebellion of the 
early 1990s. Since Mali's independence in 1960, there have been attempts to 
provide some education for pastoralist children, starting with a policy whereby 
government officers forcibly took one child (usually a boy) from each family to 
attend boarding school. More recently some children received primary education 
at mobile schools, but the government found this initiative too costly and difficult 
to sustain. The current Oxfam programme is supporting government schools in 
communities where there has been no prior provision, and in contexts where 
parents face very real problems in sending their sons and daughters to school. 

In the pastoral communities of Gao in northern Mali, girls' school attendance is as 
low as 30 per cent, and non-completion rates for primary education are very high. 
A range of factors hinder girls' attendance, including practices such as early 
marriage; girls' excessive work load; an assumption that girls and women are 
inferior to men in intellect; and widespread economic poverty. A review 
conducted in 2002 (Terry 2002), and subsequent interviews with teachers, 
students, and parents have identified two sets of barriers to girls' education in the 
pastoralist communities of northern Mali (and northern Niger). The first set 
applies to both boys and girls, while the second applies to girls (see Table 1 ). 

Terry notes that where demand for girls' education is already low, poor provision 
tends to have a more negative impact on girls than on boys. Members of Parents' 
Associations and mothers often expressed the view that girls are weaker and 
more vulnerable than boys and are thus in need of protection. Girls and boys 
often have to walk 4-8 kilometres to and from school, which may militate against 
girls' attendance. Moreover, where feeding arrangements at school are 
inadequate or non-existent, parents who think that girls need to be especially 
well fed in order to mature may be deterred from sending their daughters to 
school (Terry 2002: 10). When girls and boys have to walk long distances, and the 
school day is itself long - from 7.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a break during the hottest 
part of the day, when temperatures can reach 45 degrees Celsius - attending 
school is onerous, and girls have limited time left to assist their mothers in 
domestic tasks. 

It was within this context that Oxfam GB, together with its three local NGO 
partners, 1 initiated an education programme in 2000 with the aim of promoting 
gender-equitable basic education for pastoralists in remote and marginalised 
areas of Gao (Sanou 2001). The nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle of the 
peoples of the north makes providing education and health services and ensuring 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

Table 1 : Barriers to education in Mali 

Factors applying to both boys and girls 

Factors applying to girls 

Distance from home to school. 

Pastoralists' need to move with their herds in 
search of water and pasture, which 
compounds the problem of distance. 

Lack of clean water at schools: a major 
problem in many schools. 

Difficulty in feeding children at school, 
compounded by general food insecurity in 
these communities. 

Communities' pessimism, based on past 
experience, about their children's chances o f 
attaining primary-school certificates. 

Traditional religious beliefs that children who 
go to school will grow up to be 'heathens'. 

High poverty levels among pastoralist 
communities in the Sahel, due to factors such 
as drought, desertification, and the legacy of 

The political marginalisation of pastoralist 
communities, compared with the sedentary 

Vulnerability during long walks to school. 

Parents' wishes for daughters to marry early 
(as young as eight years old). 

Fear that girls will become pregnant if they go to 
school: a dishonour that may reduce their 
chances of getting married. 

The higher a girl's level of education, the higher 
the dowry that the husband's family have to pay. 

The belief that keeping girls at home and 
feeding them up will lead to earlier maturity and 

The gendered division of labour, which makes 
girls and women responsible for tasks such as 
collecting water and pounding millet, in an area 
where water is in short supply. 

The idea that girls are vulnerable and 
intellectually inferior and need to be sheltered at 

Resistance to girls' education on the part of 
some local religious leaders. 

the quality and relevance of such services a big challenge, because schooling is 
developed according to a model designed for permanent, static communities. 

Gender equity in education is an issue much broader than the question of 
opportunities for girls in pastoral communities, as a recent case study of 
education services in Mali indicates (Public World 2004). This study notes that, 
with the exception of some women's NGOs, no one working to achieve greater 
access to school for girls was challenging existing gender inequalities in the 
school system or wider society- or, indeed, questioning whether increased access 
to schooling for girls could or should have any impact on the traditional role of 
Malian women as first and foremost good wives and mothers. The Oxfam GB 
programme has responded to the challenge of achieving gender equality and 
quality education for girls (and boys) by developing a flexible innovative 
approach which aims to increase significantly the number of girls who go to 
school and stay in school, and to ensure that they acquire relevant and 
sustainable basic skills in mathematics, literacy, and key aspects of health and 
nutrition. Through some basic training in health and hygiene and HIV/AIDS 
awareness for members of Women's Associations and Parents' Associations, it 
also aims to improve child mortality rates and family health in the communities. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

By encouraging positive attitudes to school attendance for girls, while 
discouraging practices that infringe the rights of girls and jeopardise their well- 
being, the programme aims to change beliefs and ideas about schooling for girls, 
using a rights-based approach. Oxfam's strategic aim is to ensure that all children 
living in poverty will achieve their right to a good-quality basic education which 
is gender-equitable (Roche and Roseveare 2001, Oxfam GB 2004). 

Before presenting a detailed examination of this programme and its work with 
animatrices and national curriculum reform, we tell the real story of a young 
Touareg girl, Fatimata, which illustrates some of issues that constrain girls' 
participation in schooling- constraints that Oxfam and its partners are attempting 
to address. 

The story of Fatimata 

Fatimata lives in Bourem town, in Bourem district in the Gao Region. 2 Bourem is 
about 96 km from Gao town, in an area inhabited by nomadic and semi-nomadic 
Touareg, Songhoi, and Arabs. It is a poor district, with very little rainfall, hence 
long droughts and poor harvests. The people eke out a living from keeping 
livestock (cattle, camels, goats, and sheep) and subsistence farming, mainly rice 
cultivation with traditional and vulnerable irrigation systems. The district was 
severely affected by the Touareg rebellion of the early 1990s, which forced many 
young men to become migrant labourers in neighbouring Libya, Gabon, Ghana, 
and Cote d'lvoire. Consequently, migrant labour is an important source of 
income in the district, and the larger the remittances the more successful is each 

The population of Bourem is conservative and predominantly non-literate. 
Women occupy a subordinate place in society, with little or no autonomy in 
decisions regarding certain aspects of their lives, such as choice of partner or age 
of marriage. 

Sidiki, a 30-year-old Touareg and migrant labourer working in Ghana, decided 
that it was time to get married. He returned to his home town of Bourem to marry 
his first cousin Aisseta, who was 15 years old and attending secondary school in 
the town of Gao. He paid a handsome dowry and gave lavish gifts to Titi, Aisseta's 
mother. Realising what was planned for her, and not wanting to marry, Aisseta fled 
from her home in the middle of the marriage preparations. Afraid of the scandal 
that Aisseta's flight might cause her family, the elderly Titi decided instead to give 
Fatimata, her 1 1 -year-old daughter, to Sidiki. Fatimata, a jovial, bright pupil in 
Standard 2 in Bourem Primary School, was not happy about this, but she was 
accustomed to doing her mother's bidding. 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

Fatimata had an aunt, Djeneba, who lived some distance from the family and 
worked as an animatrice in one of the Oxfam-supported schools. Djeneba came 
to visit Titi, and her visit coincided with Fatimata's marriage preparations. On 
hearing of the intention to marry off the 1 1 -year-old, Djeneba threatened to have 
Sidiki and Fatimata's father imprisoned. She quickly mobilised members of the 
local women's association, and together they went to see the headmaster of 
Fatimata's school and the school inspector to try to prevent this marriage. 
Djeneba had herself been a victim of an early forced marriage 20 years previously 
and she did not want the same fate to befall her niece. 

Sidiki, seeing the trouble that this marriage was going to cause, and seized by 
fear, announced to the family that he would allow Fatimata to continue her 
education. But he did not renounce the marriage altogether. Titi reluctantly 
accepted this turn of events, but complained that 'the best school for a woman is 
getting married and having children . Fatimata was able to continue her studies 
in Bourem Primary School, and her aunt Djeneba continues to keep a close 
watch over her. 

Fatimata's story 3 is typical of the situation in which many schoolgirls find 
themselves, although not all are able to continue their education. It is not known 
how many girls have been forced into early marriage, nor how many have been 
able to escape. How long will Sidiki wait for Fatimata while she continues her 
education or will he try to prise her away? Experiences like that of Fatimata 
provided the motivation for Oxfam and its partners to work with parents and the 
wider community to promote acceptance of girls' right to education, and to raise 
issues of gender equality. This led to the development of the 'animatrice model' 
of working, an approach based on understanding the reasons why girls do not 
participate in formal schooling, and the expectations of the parents and the girl 
themselves. From this understanding, animatrices talk with and listen to parents 
and students and work together to find ways of encouraging parents to send their 
daughters to school. 

This approach aims to link pastoralist women and girls and their schools with 
wider concerns and demands for girls' education. For example, the schools and 
animatrices were involved in activities during the Global Week of Action in April 
2003, which provided the opportunity for developing broader understandings of 
the importance of girls' education. The activities of the Global Week of Action 
also brought an awareness that other communities in Mali were asking for better 
access and quality of education for their daughters. And not only in Mali but 
across West Africa and around the globe: parents, communities, and NGOs were 
demanding that their governments provide basic education for girls. This 
involvement raised many questions about why girls were not attending school, 
and eventually it led to the annulment of the marriages of three schoolgirls by 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

their parents in Menaka district. The three girls were re-integrated into the 
school system and were allowed to continue their education. 

The animatrice model 

In order to develop models of schooling which meet the lifestyle needs of nomadic 
and semi-nomadic pastoralist peoples, Oxfam and its partners decided to work 
with animatrices (female community mobilisers). An animatrice is appointed to 
each school to work with parents, telling them about the importance and value of 
schooling for both girls and boys. They monitor girls' attendance, and they work 
with the teacher to ensure safe and girl-friendly school environments, so parents 
are more likely to allow their daughters to make the long daily walk to school or stay 
in the school itself during their families' long treks in search of pasture. When girls 
drop out of school, the animatrices follow up with families to find out the reasons 
and try to encourage the girls to return. 

The animatrices are local women, most of whom, but not all, have completed Grade 
6 of primary education. Most of them have previously been social workers or 
community mobilisers for health projects, cereal banks, micro-credit schemes, or 
other projects. The programme has given them some training in community 
mobilisation and, most recently, in gender awareness. One of the first successes of the 
programme was to find and contract animatrices for the schools in a region where 
women's education rates are very low, and few have the skills or capacity to perform 
this role. This success was in large part due to the commitment and expertise of the 
local partner organisations, which have been working with these communities for 
many years, themselves pastoralists and engaged with the communities in a range of 
interrelated activities and programmes, including livelihood support, food-security 
planning, and conflict reduction. 4 With a minimum of training, the animatrices 
have quickly created strong links between school and parents and communities. 

The animatrices lobby for changes in attitudes towards girls' abilities and their right 
to attend school, both in the community, with parents and community members, 
and in the school, with teachers and head teachers. As relatively well-educated 
women in paid employment, promoting schooling, the animatrices serve as 
positive role models for local girls (Sanou 2003). Another important dimension of 
their work is with the Parents' Associations. In the recently decentralised Malian 
education system, Parents' Associations provide a great deal of support to the 
School Management Committees which run the schools. The animatrices carry out 
training with members of the Parents' Associations to develop their capacity to take 
on this role. Their work includes supporting literacy and numeracy classes, 
organised for parents and for the women's associations which are engaged in small- 
scale income-generation activities. 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 


A peer review of the Mali Education Programme, conducted in 2003 by Plan 
International, confirmed that there have been important changes in the 
communities' attitudes to girls' education, and the changes can be attributed to 
the work of the animatrices. The review drew attention to a greater awareness of 
girls' right to attend school and the fact that, contrary to widely held beliefs, girls 
and women are not less intellectually able than boys and men (Alainchar 2003). 
Recent discussions with mothers and young women indicated that they highly 
value the literacy and numeracy training, and the opportunity to socialise and 
discuss issues important to them. They also stressed that their daughters were 
learning valuable skills at school which they could later put to use for generating 
their own sources of income. 

Constant dialogue between the animatrices and the members of the 
communities has also influenced attitudes and had an impact on early marriage 
practices. One animatrice told of how an old man and 20 young girls walked for 
miles, determined to find a school which they could attend. She reported also 
that in the district of Menaka three girls have completed primary school. They 
are the first girls in their community to do so, encouraged not to drop out by the 
sensitisation work of the animatrice. Animatrices have also managed to 
reintegrate five girls into the school system after they were forced into marriage 
by their parents (Oxfam GB 2003). Anecdotal evidence suggests that the average 
age of marriage is rising from 10-12 years old to 14-16 years of age. 

Despite their obvious successes, animatrices are also confronted with challenges, 
including tensions with school directors (all men), who feel that the animatrices 
are encroaching on their own rightful responsibilities, such as the supervision of 
supplies for the school canteen (Terry 2002: 13). Similarly, parent-teacher 
associations are predominantly male, and some animatrices have reported 
difficulties in working with them; even where women are members, they do not 
participate to the same degree as the men (ibid.: 16). Animatrices often have to 
travel very long distances to reach parents and girls, especially in the season when 
pastoralists move with their herds. One animatrice in Gao had to walk for 16 km 
with a baby on her back to catch up with a moving community (ibid.: 14). 

Animatrices work closely with communities and have had great success in 
increasing the numbers of girls attending school. Within the first two years of the 
pilot phase, the number of girls in schools in the Gao programme had increased 
from 749 in 1999-2001 to 1260 in 2001-02, and 1423 in 2002-03. However, the 
programme has not been long established, and the sustainability of these gains is 
still to be tested. In addition, animatrices have had limited training in gender 
issues and analysis. Some held attitudes which actually compounded gender 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

inequalities, and their promotion of girl-friendly classrooms in some cases led to 
increased work loads for women, such as keeping the school clean; targeting only 
women and girls with messages about hygiene and sanitation, the animatrices 
have reinforced the traditional gendered division of labour. In schools, girls carry 
out more of the tasks such as cleaning, fetching water, and washing dishes that are 
traditionally seen as 'women's work' (Terry 2002). 

More research is needed to improve understanding of the messages used by 
animatrices in their sensitisation work, and to ensure that these communicate the 
need for equity and the right to education, rather than emphasising purely 
instrumental arguments that may be unsustainable and inequitable in the long 
term. Training conducted with local government officials in Mali indicated a 
familiarity with the 'instrumental' arguments for girls' education, where it is seen 
as a contribution to the well-being of the girls' future family and children. 
However, Terry (2002) found that the 'equity/rights' rationale was less likely to be 
accepted, and that, moreover, animatrices did not mention gender-equity 
arguments during the review interviews. 

Earlier initiatives in the region to promote schooling for pastoralists have 
included the provision of mobile schools. These were short-lived, however, 
because few teachers came from nomadic backgrounds, owing to the lack of 
formal education requirements among pastoralists. The teachers, finding the 
challenge of moving with pastoralist communities difficult, dropped out in order 
to work in towns and in settled, permanent schools. The government 
discontinued the mobile schools programme, because it was too expensive: 
teachers had to be paid incentives over and above their salaries. 5 In-school 
feeding programmes have been implemented and have proved successful in 
attracting pastoralist children to schools. However, they are often short-lived and 
dependent on external funding, so that when a donor withdraws its support, the 
supply of foodstuffs - and the programme - comes to an end. 

These experiences suggest that, rather than the government imposing one model 
of schooling for the whole country, there is a need for flexibility and a diversity of 
approaches to cater for and support the fragile demand for schooling in different 
contexts (see also Leggett's chapter in this volume). The animatrice model is one 
approach which appears to be achieving success with Touareg communities in 
the Gao region. But it is not a panacea for all the problems involved in providing 
a good-quality basic education for girls. There are other models, other initiatives, 
that should complement the work of the animatrices in order to ensure that, for 
the increasing numbers of girls attending school, their experience of schooling 
and their learning is of value for them. 

Animatrices are lobbyists within the local communities and schools in which they 
work. The Oxfam project is concerned to make an impact at several levels, so that 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

change can be sustainable. Therefore the programme needs to be working and 
lobbying for change at other levels simultaneously. For the animatrices to succeed 
in making schools 'girl- friendly', there need to be changes in other areas of 
education, including the curriculum. Curriculum reform is strongly influenced 
by processes at the national level. A new curriculum is being trialled by the Centre 
for National Education in some select schools throughout the country, though 
not yet in the Gao area. The Oxfam programme has been working to influence the 
national curriculum-reform process. The next section of this chapter examines 
the complementary and parallel work being carried out to influence gender 
equity and quality in the design of curriculum materials. 

Curriculum reform in Mali 

Mali is one of the countries in the sub-region to have embarked on a process to 
reform the 'classical' French-derived curriculum. (Niger is another, more recent, 
example.) This reform challenges the current status quo whereby all children 
throughout the country are taught in French as the exclusive medium of 
instruction. The fact is that only 10 per cent of Malians speak French (Public 
World 2004). As a Malian NGO commented: 'Children go to school and are taught 
in a language that they do not think in'. 6 There are two reform processes currently 
taking place: bilingual education (pedagogique conver genie] and curriculum 
reform. A new competency-based curriculum has been developed, based on the 
principle that children need a less theoretical way of learning and a more practical 
curriculum, and that they should develop skills to equip them to live and work in 
their communities and in Malian society. The curriculum recognises the cultural, 
geographical, and linguistic diversity of the country. 

The curriculum-development process started in 2000 with a series of consul- 
tations throughout the country. The government then opted for a competency- 
based and skills-based curriculum, aiming to cater for academically inclined 
students whose aim is to pursue higher studies and, at the same time, offer 
relevant skills to children who wish to or are obliged to terminate their education 
at the end of the primary-school cycle and find work. Hence the result is a 
curriculum which offers a 'common core' of subjects for all students - including 
academic subjects - as well as practical subjects which are designed to cater for 
people living in different contexts and with different needs. These practical 
subjects are intended to be flexible, so that teachers themselves can design lessons 
in their own schools to suit the cultural and geographical realities. 7 

A practical module known as 'familial economy' (home economics) includes topics 
related to environment, health, and sewing, which are taught to all pupils and are 
intended to be 'gender- sensitive'. But the Forum for African Women's Education 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Mali (FAWE/Mali) challenges the extent to which the module and curriculum 
materials are indeed gender-sensitive. FAWE insists that both the module and the 
representation of women in textbooks 'fail[s] to empower girls and will in the long 
run contribute to gender inequalities' (quoted in Public World 2004). The Public 
World research also indicates that the quality or quantity of gender training for 
teachers is not sufficient to challenge conventional assumptions, and teachers are 
unable to apply the principles of gender equality to their teaching to create an 
environment more conducive to girls' participation (ibid.). 

Women's and girls' roles 

In order to address these weaknesses and the gender-blindness of the new 
curriculum, Oxfam and the Institute for Popular Education (IEP: Institut pour 
1'Education Populaire) launched a study in 2002 to analyse community attitudes 
towards change, and the images (visibility and roles) of women and girls, and 
boys and men, contained in school textbooks. The study examined 18 textbooks 
used in Malian schools, and draft learning units being produced by the National 
Centre for Education. The project also collected data on attitudes towards 
change and gender equity among Oxfam GB programme personnel, community 
groups, community stakeholders, and NGOs in the Gao Region and Menaka 
District. The research was carried out to survey the extent to which the 
curriculum reform was contributing to a larger project of social change, moving 
Malian society from dictatorship to democracy. Because gender equity is a 
fundamental dimension of a democratic society, Malian schools and curriculum 
have a role to play in orienting young people towards a democratic, gender- 
equitable society, built on respect for human rights (IEP 2002). 

Data were collected by means of a range of survey tools and questions, and 
structured and semi-structured interviews with parents, NGOs fieldworkers, 
educators, and local government officials. A survey based on attitudes to the roles 
and relationships of women and men and girls and boys was used to form a 
picture of the kind of world that participants would like to live in. Participants 
fell into one of three categories: 

those who maintain present realities (the current role and status quo and 
parameters of possibility for women and girls) 

those who seek to reform present realities (institute modest changes which 
would make current realities more 'liveable', or would change individuals 
without changing the system that keeps the present realities in place) 

those who seek to transform present realities (make systematic change that 
reconfigures the roles, status, and parameters of possibility for women and 
girls) (IEP 2002: 12). 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

One such survey question presented three representational drawings, and 
participants were asked to choose the world that they would like to live in. One 
drawing showed a man standing on two women, the second showed a woman 
standing on two men, and a third a man and woman standing side by side. In a 
society where many men have several wives, the majority of respondents chose 
the first picture, which most closely represented the status quo. The few who 
chose the second picture were interpreted as indicating a willingness for reform 
of a situation where men dominated women. However, this choice - a woman 
standing on two men was not an elimination of domination, but a transfer of 
domination from the man to the woman. Only one participant (a local 
government official) out of 75 participants chose the man and women standing 
side by side, a 'transformist' position, where domination was not present (IEP 

The overall analysis of attitudes towards change concluded that most 
participants had firmly held views that did not challenge existing conditions. The 
women field workers (animatrices) were not concerned with transformation, a 
fact which raised important questions about the extent to which they are able to 
change attitudes and beliefs about girls' education and girls' and women's roles. 
It was reasoned that if the animatrices promote girls' access to education but do 
not fundamentally challenge the status quo - when their role is intended to be 
that of 'change agent' - then it is unlikely that parents, teachers, and school head 
teachers would support reform (IEP 2002: 6-7). However, the study notes: 'The 
very presence of the animatrices is motivating to parents who see that these 
women who have not even completed high school have jobs and are receiving 
training. Parents look to them and think that possibly their daughters could have 
such a chance with schooling' (ibid. 18). 

Women's and girls' representation in the school curriculum 

The analysis of education materials indicated that while women and girls are 
visible in school textbooks, the images offered overwhelmingly portray current 
gender realities. That is, women are visible when they appear in traditional roles, 
but the teaching materials do not offer images of behaviour or attitudes which 
could break the routine patterns of gender inequality that characterise these roles 
and activities (such as cleaning, cooking, and maintenance tasks). An example in 
the textbook Flamboyant depicts a sick mother with her daughter, pounding 
millet while her brother stands by, looking on with his hands in his pockets (IEP 
2002: 21). The study concluded that the materials are at best gender-blind, 
reflecting images which keep Mali women locked into inequalities. 

In addition, the visibility of women and girls in text and illustrations varies. In 
several instances, women are visible in the illustrations but absent from the text 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

that accompanies the illustrations. Similarly, any egalitarian messages are 
submerged in structurally sexist language. 8 Pastoralist women are always 
pictured 'behind' their men, and their destiny as wives and mothers appears 

In conclusion, the study showed that the attitudes of teachers, parents, and policy 
makers and the textbooks currently available for schools in Mali reinforce the 
gender inequalities present in Malian society today. The challenge for those 
seeking change in both school and society is to use the environment created by 
Mali's Ten-Year Plan for Transforming Education and the curriculum-reform 
process as an opportunity to enable children - girls and boys - to begin to 
experience a different reality (in terms of gender relations) from the day they 
enter school. The IEP study concludes that legally mandated processes - 
particularly government decentralisation and the education reform - are causing 
significant social change in all sectors of Malian society. 'In the same way that 
decentralisation is taking over traditional structures of governance, public 
discourse and community control, education reform is threatening to replace 
classic colonial-model schooling with the classroom as a more democratic and 
relevant to life space' (IEP 2002: 19). However, it remains to be seen whether the 
national plans and reforms will be implemented on a scale that will ensure 
impact, and with a strong enough commitment to gender equality, which will 
not only promote reform of present education inequalities but transform both 
educational and societal realities. The work of NGOs and animatrices at the 
grassroots level needs to take place within a broader context of dialogue, 
discussion, and debate about gender equality in relation to citizenship, 
democracy, and cultural and geographical diversity. For this to begin to happen, 
there needs to be a greater level of awareness of gender inequalities and ways of 
addressing them through training for teachers and education officials, with 
sufficient resources committed to ensure that transformative change happens. 

Conclusion: a joined-up sustainable approach 

The overall conclusion from the work of Oxfam's programme for Gender 
Equitable Education in West Africa is that more girls are attending school - a fact 
which suggests improvements in terms of gender parity in basic education. 
However, this chapter has raised questions about the need for more fundamental 
change in terms of the nature of education that girls are offered, their experience 
of education, and their academic achievements. It also raises the question of 
what girls can do with their learning and skills in the wider social environment in 
which they live. 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

Animatriceshave a strong focus on increasing access and retention in schools, but 
they are not sufficiently engaged with questions about the quality of the 
education that girls are receiving. This is also true of teachers. The IEP study 
demonstrated that teachers prioritise access/retention without questioning their 
own practices within the classroom. Any changes introduced into the school 
system that may affect relevance or quality (for example, replacing French with 
mother tongue as the medium of instruction in classrooms) were resisted by 
schoolteachers for both boys and girls (IEP 2002:1 1). It would seem, therefore, 
that a recurring effect of the decade-old movement in Mali for girls' education is 
little more than an appropriation of slogans - Education For All and Girls' 
Education. Education for girls is still about gender parity - equal numbers of 
girls and boys - and falls short of being about equality and quality education for 
all. It does not ask what this means in terms of classroom relations, learning and 
teaching practices, and curriculum content. To move beyond access, the 
animatrices need to promote understanding and commitment to girls' rights to a 
good-quality education which challenges pastoralists' patriarchal gender 
relations and those of the wider Malian society. 

Great steps have been taken in Mali at the national level to develop a skills-based 
curriculum, but the reformers do not propose specific measures that target girls' 
needs. Moreover, the locally developed practical subjects do not question 
gender inequalities in the pastoralist context. For pastoralist girls in the Gao 
region, the teaching continues in French under the 'classic' system, which is 
gender-blind and instrumental, reinforcing rather than challenging gender 

The Oxfam programme, with its partners, Adessah, Tassaght, and GARI, is 
nevertheless attempting to unravel the web of inequalities and discrimination 
that girls experience, by working through animatrices to achieve increased 
enrolment, through working with teachers, parents, and policy makers to 
provide more girl-friendly schools, and through influencing change in the 
education system through curriculum reform. This analysis of the animatrice 
model illustrates that gender inequalities need to be tackled through several 
different interventions and a diversity of approaches simultaneously: inside and 
outside the school, at both the local and national levels. It illustrates that change 
can and does take place, and that girls are now attending school in greater 
numbers than before. However, we need to understand why this is so, in order to 
sustain the trend. It illustrates furthermore that the changes in national legal 
frameworks and institutional organisation - such as decentralisation and 
education reforms - also need to be part of gendered processes. The active 
engagement of girls and women in their own schooling, promoted by the 
animatrices, is an important starting point. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Salina Sanou is the Education and Gender Specialist for the UN Millennium 
Project, based at The MDG Centre in Nairobi Previously she was Regional 
Education Co-ordinator for Oxfam GB in West Africa. She is currently studying for 
a doctorate in Comparative Education atMcGill University (Canada). 

Sheila Aikman is the Global Education Policy Adviser with Oxfam GB, and co- 
ordinator of the DFID- funded 'Beyond Access: Gender, Education and Development' 


1 In the Gao Region, Oxfam supports partner schools in three districts: Bourem, Gao Central, 
and Menaka. The NGO partners in these districts are Adessah, Tassaght and GARI respectively. 

2 Fatimata's story is part of a series of stories documented by Adessah, Oxfam's partner in 

3 Story documented in Oxfam's impact report, 2003. All names have been changed to preserve 

4 The Gao programme has a total number of 20 schools. Each school is supposed to have an 
animatricc, but, given these difficult conditions, partners were able to recruit only 18 
animatrices and two animators. 

5 Interview with Abou Diarra, the Director of the National Center for Education, Ministry of 
Education. For discussion of mobility and pastoralist schooling see for example, Aikman and El 
Haj forthcoming; Carr-Hill and Peart 2002. 

6 Interview with Debra Fredo, IEP, Kati. 

7 Interview with Abou Diarra, the Director of the National Center for Education, Ministry of 

8 The school textbooks analysed in the IEP study include Flamboyant, Mamadou and Bineta, 
Horizons d'Afrique, Djoliba Collection, and La Pedagogic Convergente Rencontre 4&5. All these 
texts illustrate the point that women are less visible in textbooks than men, but the visibility 
that they are given reinforces roles that conform to current gender realities. 


Aikman, S. and H. El Haj (forthcoming) 'EFA for pastoralists in North Sudan: a mobile multigrade 
model of schooling' in A. Little (ed.) Education For All: The Challenges of Multigrade Teaching, 
Kluwer Academic Publishing 

Alainchar, F. (2003) 'Peer Review of Oxfam GB Education Programme in Mali', Oxfam GB Peer 
Review of Gender Equitable Education Programme in West Africa, unpublished 

Carr-Hill, R. and E. Peart (2002) 'Study on Education for Nomads and Pastoralists of Eastern 
Africa: review of the literature', HEP, UNESCO/IICBA, UNICEF/ESARO 


Pastoralist schools in Mali: gendered roles and curriculum realities 

Institut pour PEducation Populaire (IEP) (2002) 'Working Through Change in Education to 
Change Gender Realities in Mali: Recommendations for Action by Oxfam GB', Oxfam GB 
unpublished research report 

Ministry of Education (2003) Mali National Statistics for Primary Education (First Cycle) 
Ministry of Education (2005) Mali National Statistics for Primary Education (First Cycle) 
Oxfam GB (2003) 'West Africa Impact Report', Oxfam GB, unpublished 
Oxfam GB (2004) Oxfam GB Strategic Plan 2004/2005 - 2006/2007, Oxfam GB unpublished 

Public World (2004) 'Mali Case Study: Education Services in Mali', unpublished draft report, 
Oxfam GB 

Roche, C. and C. Roseveare (200 1 ) 'Social and Economic Rights', unpublished paper, Oxfam GB 

Sanou, S. (2001 ) 'Breaking the chains: girls' education in Mali' in Links, Oxfam Newsletter on 
Gender, June 2001 

Sanou, S. (2003) 'Pastoralist education in Mali and Niger', in Links, Oxfam Newsletter on Gender, 
October 2003 

Terry, G. (2002) 'Gender Review of Oxfam GB Gender Equitable Education Programme in Niger 
and Mali', unpublished report, Oxfam GB 


Part Three 

The Challenge of Local Practices - Doing 

Policy Differently? 


10 Learning about HIV/ AIDS in schools: 
does a gender-equality approach make a 

Mark Thorpe 

Is HIV education based on the principles of gender equality possible in practice? 
If so, can it make a difference to gender relations in a society? This chapter 
considers these questions through reflection on two gender-based HIV- 
education interventions in South Africa and Mozambique, which took place 
between 2001 and 2003. 

In my recent experience of working in Africa for five years, I have spoken to many 
teachers about HIV messages in school. Teachers are concerned with HIV 
education both as part of a formal curriculum and as a topic brought to the 
students through the actions of an external body. The question of how to 
mobilise teachers in the fight against HIV with their own students is one of the 
greatest challenges to HIV education in the developing world. But HIV 
education should also be a professional activity in which those who have proven 
skills and adequate training in this area work side by side with class teachers and 
are supported, rewarded, and mobilised to help young people to face the 
enormous challenges ahead of them in the wake of the HIV pandemic. If 
teaching about HIV in school were the responsibility of trained staff who were 
fully aware of the gendered elements of HIV education, we could ensure that 
young people in school were given the space to explore, reflect, debate, and ask 
questions. Offering such an opportunity to young people is just as important as 
verifying that everyone knows the facts about HIV transmission and how to 
prevent it. 

There is a need for HIV to be mainstreamed into school subjects such as 
Geography, History, Religious Studies, and Science. This would help to address 
the problems created by a state of denial or the provision of misinformation. But 
mainstreaming does not necessarily address the issue of gender equity, which 
requires facilitative approaches that go beyond the training generally given to 
teachers. The widespread application of a process approach which focuses on the 
identity of individual teachers and learners, and develops their motivation and 
skills with regard to HIV prevention and gender dynamics, may be difficult but is 
not impossible, as the work done in South Africa and Mozambique, and 
discussed in this chapter, indicates. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

I worked with gender- focused HIV workshops in Southern Africa for three years. 
Firstly, I took the dual role of participant and evaluator in a one-month 
intervention in 2001 in two former township secondary schools in greater 
Durban. I assisted an intervention by Dramaide, a South African NGO 
specialising in life skills and HIV education, using drama and participation. The 
workshops were adapted from a pilot programme called 'Mobilizing Young Men 
to Care', which was based on an understanding of the importance of engaging 
men and boys in the fight against HIV. The project with the Durban schools took 
a gender- focused approach, using participatory methods to challenge and work 
towards gender equity with students and staff. The Dramaide facilitator and I led 
the same sequence of 12 workshops, spread over one month, in two different 
schools, with a group of 30 girls and boys aged 13-15 in each. 

At the time, South Africa had initiated a response to HIV in schools through a 
life-orientation syllabus as part of the new curriculum, and interventions such as 
this one were part of a multi-sector prevention response. Critiques of some of 
these initiatives identified problems in assumptions about behaviour change, 
dissonance between policy at national level and educational materials available 
locally, and an underestimation of the cultural strength of unsafe practices. 
Nevertheless, large sums of money were invested in HIV prevention from the late 
1990s (Campbell 2004; Unterhalter 2002). Dramaide advocated the use of 
interactive approaches to HIV and life skills regarded as relevant for young 
people. In the Durban schools, children were not merely given information and 
told what to do. They were given opportunities to explore the issues raised by the 
HIV epidemic for themselves in order to develop an understanding that would 
be deep enough to affect their behaviour (Moletsane et al. 2002). 

The second intervention was the training of a university-based HIV-education 
group, 'Juventude Alerta' (Youth Alert), in Beira, Mozambique, between 2001 and 
2003 as part of my placement with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). Building 
on my experiences in South Africa in 2001, 1 invited university students to form an 
HIV-education group at the University of Beira. In the teacher-training college, 
there was an opportunity to carry out this training alongside core courses. It was 
even possible to do this on a very low budget. Over ten weeks I trained facilitators 
to use participatory techniques and activities to engage teenage students in 
discussion on HIV- related issues, including complex issues of gender relations. 

In the next term we undertook interventions in five secondary schools in rural 
areas of Sofala province. These usually lasted half a day. We had a general format 
for school interventions: six workshops running concurrently in different parts 
of a given premises, using three facilitators in each group. Sometimes sessions 
took place within the time periods allotted for the main curriculum; at other 
times sessions were an extra-curricular event. Classes (usually consisting of 60 or 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender-equality approach make a difference? 

more students) were generally split into two. In 2003, the first group of 
facilitators trained a second group of facilitators and undertook more workshops 
in schools in the urban setting of Beira. 

Although the objectives and general approach of the workshops were consistent, 
there were many variations, because we did not necessarily know in advance 
what we would encounter. Sessions took place in classrooms or outdoors; 
teachers were sometimes absent and sometimes present; equipment such as a 
flipchart was sometimes available; students were of similar or varied ages. Some 
of these factors had an impact on the workshops themselves, including gendered 
aspects; for example, girls would often sit at the back or not sit on the chairs 
unless encouraged to do so; or groups, particularly those with higher numbers of 
boys, were sometimes dominated by older boys, and girls were consequently not 
able to speak. All these aspects had to be monitored by facilitators. 

Gender in HIV education 

The work with Dramaide and Juventude Alerta raised some key issues about 
gender equality and work on HIV/ AIDS. In both contexts, issues about gender 
identities arose as a common concern, often centred on adolescent assumptions 
about femininity and masculinity, including the attitude among boys that it was 
desirable to have several sexual partners. Young men expected to be told in detail 
about their girlfriends' movements, but were very secretive about their own 
affairs. They regarded violence as an appropriate 'punishment' for the 'bad 
behaviour' of their girlfriends, and this attitude had been internalised by many 
girls too. There was a sense of risk inherent in male lifestyles, and an expectation 
that women could and should accept or tolerate this kind of behaviour. 

An internalised sense of conflict between the boys' and the girls' interests was 
thus displayed. One consequence of this was the 'trading' of sexual intercourse 
(often seen as conquest) for goods or lifestyle benefits, and an unspoken contract 
which defined what each partner expected from the other. This conflict was 
played out many times in heated discussion during workshops. HIV-education 
sessions gave space for this conflict to be expressed, and for approaches to dealing 
with these views to be developed. For example, the trainers encouraged the 
students to develop mutual respect for each other's views, and they asserted 
ground rules such as the avoidance of personalising opposing views, and 
ensuring that everyone's views were heard. 

As in the Durban workshops, very strong expectations of appropriate 
masculinity and femininity were expressed in sessions organised by the Youth 
Alert project in Mozambique. In one discussion, concerning the use of condoms, 
gendered reasons dominated the list of reasons expressed for not using one: 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

To be a man it must be 'flesh to flesh' [a reference to unprotected sex] 

He will say I am a prostitute. 

She will not accept them. 

He will not let me. 

We cannot talk about it. 

The first and second statements listed above imply that the masculine or 
feminine identity is threatened by condom use. In the third and fourth 
statements, participants' views reflect power dynamics at play. The use of 'not let' 
vs l not accept' is evidence of the imbalance of that dynamic. In the fifth statement, 
the problem of communication about condom use within a relationship is 
evident, and the notion of trust becomes central. These very firm assumptions 
about masculinity and femininity in connection with the crucial issue of 
condom use indicate that gender cannot be left out of the equation when 
designing or implementing HIV education. In fact, gender relations are often at 
the heart of the problems that a project in this area tries to confront. 

In both South Africa and Mozambique, we believed that if a gender-equity 
approach was having any effect, it would not be surprising to find that there was 
tension or resistance to the ideas being explored. In Mozambique, a fellow 
volunteer set up a group for the older girls in her classes for the discussion of 
issues important to them as young women. The idea was well received by the 
girls, and the volunteer provided a good model of an independent, thinking 
woman, able to encourage the girls to assert their sexual rights. After three weeks, 
the Principal said to the volunteer teacher: 'We like what you are doing, 
encouraging these girls to work harder and be good, but please be careful, we don't 
want them having these ideas that they are not to be cooks and cleaners of the 
house. . . they must still know their place! It is obviously unrealistic to expect that 
an approach that actively seeks to challenge male power in heterosexual 
relationships will always be popular. 

In a school in Beira, we sat down for our customary Coke and cake after finishing 
the workshops. The group looked pleased with the morning's sessions, a little tired 
in the growing summer heat, but satisfied - except that in one corner sat a 
seemingly deflated member of the team. When I asked him what was wrong, he 
replied: 'We start getting the kids all enthusiastic and they take what we're 
saying. ..but he just undoes everything we say.' ' Who?' I asked, aware that sometimes 
students get a bit 'showy' and start trying to be controversial. 'The teacher!' he 
continued. 'He just contradicted everything. . . he didn't want them to learn about 
this stuff at all, just made out it was all rubbish.' On further discussion, it emerged 
that this male teacher had been expounding a common male response to HIV: not 
taking it seriously, and using the debates as a chance to reaffirm male dominance. 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender- equality approach make a difference? 

This was a moment of realisation for me. I had had the notion that if a teacher 
was willing to stay in the classroom and join in the interaction, then at least he or 
she would tacitly support the aims of the workshop, and we welcomed this as a 
way of encouraging more 'ownership' of HIV education among teachers. There 
was always room within our workshops for debate, but for a teacher to contradict 
the aims at each stage of the workshop made me realise that HIV/ AIDS as a topic 
was still contested ground. Some teachers wanted to deny its importance; others 
opposed the teaching of the topic, or preferred to make light of it. 

In a Durban staffroom I watched a female teacher attempt to chastise a male 
colleague. He had passed her class - whose students he knew on fairly familiar 
terms - and commented: 'O/z, / am sorry for you all... you will not know the 
pleasures of "flesh to flesh" like our generation!' He intended it as a humorous 
comment, but the female teacher tried to point out that his remark undermined 
HIV education and set a very bad model for youth. Both examples illustrate the 
fact that adult teachers can reverse the effects of important HIV- awareness work. 

Many of these examples raise questions about whether school is an appropriate 
place to teach about HIV. Alex Kent's study of a Durban school (where Dramaide 
had worked) described it as a place 'where sexualities were schooled and also 
performed' (Kent 2004). She drew on ideas of Epstein and Johnson (1998), who 
looked at the way in which the informal curriculum has a far-reaching influence 
on the sexualities developed through schooling. She also drew on the writing of 
Karlsson (2002), who has illustrated how school space - that is, the organisation 
of spatial practices in South African schools, linked to racial inequalities - has 
changed much more slowly than the enrolment statistics. Kent draws attention 
to several ways in which masculinities and femininities are reinforced, 
maintained, and policed, reproducing gender inequalities in school. Male groups 
or female groups congregate in different places, with different meanings of 
power. Women teachers are generally given nurturing responsibilities within the 
school, while power in the hierarchical school structure is given to men. Men 
(and some women) believe that it is a girl's responsibility to avoid pregnancy, and 
they see risk as a normalised part of male behaviour (Kent 2002). At the extreme 
end of the gender-power dynamic, teachers regularly have sexual relations with 
young girls (according to some female students), thus adding to the risk 
associated with girls' attendance at school. All of these elements combine to make 
the school a problematic place to be talking of gender equity in the course of 
work on HIV. 

Nonetheless, although a school may be a problematic domain for a form of HIV 
education that engages with gender-equity issues, schools can be enormously 
important places for the development of young people's perspectives on HIV. 
Boler, in a study of HIV education in schools in India and Kenya, found that 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

school was the place that most students, parents, and teachers believed was 
appropriate for young people to learn about HIV (Boler 2003). A national study 
in South Africa revealed that 'some 85.9% of children (aged 12 to 14) and 75.7% 
of youth (aged 15 to 24) reported that their main source of HIV/ AIDS education 
was their school' (Shisana 2002). 

Unterhalter, while acknowledging the dangers of school as a space for gender 
inequality, also acknowledges its transformative power (Unterhalter 2002). 
Mannah, noting that, despite its problems, the school is a crucial setting in the 
fight against HIV/ AIDS, presents six concrete reasons for this in the South African 
context: learners' daily contact with the school; the availability of skilled staff and 
personnel; the extreme vulnerability of young people in an area of high HIV- 
infection rates; the fact that schools are best located to establish good practice; and 
the influential position of a teacher in the community (Mannah 2002: 14). School 
is thus seen to be a place of importance in learning about HIV and related issues, 
and is highly influential in the orientation of young people towards the problem 
(Boler 2003: 5). Young people's schooling does have an impact (and will continue 
to do so) on their emerging beliefs and practices in relation to HIV: hence the 
importance of ensuring that the HIV education that is offered in schools, in both 
the formal and informal curricula, is positive and helpful in the fight against HIV 
and gender inequality. 

Working for change 

Given the significant barriers imposed by the attitudes of learners and teachers, 
and the problems of introducing a gender-equitable approach to HIV education 
in schools, what lessons were learned through the work in South Africa and 

Using drama 

One successful approach was to use drama and role-play, inspired by the work of 
the Brazilian drama practitioner, Augusto Boal. Boal used drama as a tool for 
empowerment in the 1960 and 1970s in poor Brazilian communities (Boal 1979). 
In his form of community theatre, 'Forum Theatre', roles could be played by any 
member of the audience, stopping the scene with a clap at any point where he or 
she thought that a 'turning point' in a sequence of events had been reached, and 
substituting himself or herself in a role within the drama, to play the part again - 
differently. This method offers the chance to see scenarios unfold differently and 
to 'rehearse for life'. 'The joker' is the name that Boal gave to the facilitator who 
helps the group to draw out conclusions from what they see and experience. 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender-equality approach make a difference? 

The Mozambique project, which lasted longer than the South Africa project, gave 
us time to develop this technique. The facilitators became accustomed to using 
Boal's techniques as a tool. In the workshops in schools, as students saw alternatives 
in each scene, discussion grew. When gender stereotypes emerged, they could be 
challenged. The 'sugar daddy' arriving at a school gate in a new car could be 
ignored, or different attempts at effective responses could be offered by girls. A 
school teacher, after flirting with a female student, could affirm clearly his duties as 
a teacher, rather than just later plead later on that it had not been 'his fault'. 

Team work 

The 'Youth Alert' project drew on a wide range of people. A local dramatist from 
the cultural centre in the city helped to develop the dramatic skills of the group. 
An HIV trainer gave key insights into the issues and their context. A few women 
had worked in HIV education before, and we were able to incorporate their 
knowledge into the training sessions. One member of the group, who was 
particularly gifted in public speaking, began to give the short introductory speech 
that many schools requested. Another member had experience in theatre and took 
on the role of drama director. Yet another was effective at translating from English 
(a language in which there tends to be more material) into Portuguese. One of the 
young women, recently out of school, led workshops with a large number of girls. 
She encouraged them to express their resentment of the fact that if they showed 
knowledge about sex they were immediately seen as morally inferior to boys (who 
were speaking about the same issues). 

We took part in HIV festivals and marches and made strong links with students 
at the university. After a year, the group was represented by a woman member on 
the provincial government's HIV body. By making this a project with the support 
and involvement of others, we were able to strengthen its capacity to work on 
gender issues in a multi-faceted way with schools, the university, and civil society. 

The workshop approach 

A 'workshop approach' was very useful. As gender relations need to be raised, 
considered, challenged, discussed, and analysed, the subject does not lend itself 
to examination through didactic teaching methods. Participants had to be 
encouraged to think for themselves and to respond to each other and the 
facilitator's prompts. The skill of the facilitator lay in moving from awareness of 
the gender dynamics within the group to challenging them. In South Africa an 
example of this occurred when the facilitator asked a boy who was advocating an 
oppressive form of masculinity: ' What would you say if your own sister was in this 
kind of situation?' 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Our approach was to weave a gender- equality theme through all sessions. To keep 
moving forward on the theme of gender relations meant considering a wide range 
of issues. In South Africa, for example, there were sessions on 'risk' and on 'social 
assumptions'. A game was played to illustrate the ease with which HIV can be 
spread through unprotected sexual intercourse. The activity concluded that if one 
is not aware of the dangers or does not heed them and carries on without any 
change to behaviour, then one is at high risk. The facilitator, however, did not stop 
here, but continued with questions such as 'Do boys take risks less seriously than 
girls? Who is responsible in a relationship for making sure you dont take risks: a boy 
or a girl?' The gender- related dimensions of risk were thus highlighted. Similarly, 
in the session on 'Messages of society', participants explored conflicting messages 
offered by different members of their community - doctors, teachers, brothers, 
and the media. The facilitator questioned what different community members say 
about the roles of boys and girls, whether there are positive images and 
expectations of boys and girls, and where these come from. The theme of gender 
equality was brought out in sessions that were not overtly about gender. 

Involvement in the sessions varied, but most girls were initially reluctant to expose 
themselves by offering detailed responses, challenging boys, or being the first to 
improvise in dramas or respond to questions. As a result, when sessions took place 
in short 'school periods' it was sometimes difficult for facilitators to encourage 
equal engagement when working with mixed-sex groups. However, when an 
intervention lasted several weeks, as was the case in South Africa, there was time 
for relationships to be formed. By the mid-point of the series of sessions in South 
Africa, the girls were able to voice their concerns with equal conviction and greater 
clarity of argument than the boys. This illustrates the importance of structuring 
interventions over periods of at least a month, to allow those who may have been 
silent initially to develop confidence and take the opportunity to speak about 
issues like sexuality and gender equality. 

Our pedagogic approach was concerned with developing a climate of gender 
equality. As facilitators we encouraged girls and asked mixed groups to allow them 
to finish off the points they were making if boys tried to block them. We asked boys 
to answer with their own argued responses, rather than merely expressing shock or 
disdain. For example, boys often assumed that they were justified in being angry if 
a girl in any way 'showed them up', but at the same time they did not hesitate to 
humiliate their girlfriends by their own sexually promiscuous behaviour. They 
found this contradiction hard to 'argue for'. A workshop approach created spaces 
for important debate and discussion about gendered power dynamics, which in 
turn allowed boys to be challenged, and created opportunities where girls could 
speak directly to boys about their attitudes and behaviour, an outcome that could 
not have been achieved through a didactic approach. 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender-equality approach make a difference? 

In mixed-sex groups, girls were often more articulate than boys when given the 
opportunity. They were able to challenge some of the boys to think again about 
the way they perceived and treated girls. ( We listened to her in the end... her 
arguments were good, even if we don't always agree', commented one boy at the 
end of a workshop in South Africa, as participants were evaluating what they had 
learned. The workshop format had allowed stereotypes to be examined. 

Attention to the space created within a group was important. Sometimes, 
particularly in Mozambique, an outdoor group would increase in size, and there 
would be some on the outside (often girls) who could not see or be seen very well. 
When this happened, the outsiders were asked to come forward, and girls were 
sometimes asked individually for their offerings in the dramas, if they seemed to 
be inhibited by the gender dynamics. 

Gender and power 

Issues of gender and power were evident not only among the students, but within 
our own group also. In time the members became more aware of gender issues 
within the group, in the workshops that they ran, and in schools more generally. 
We tried to address those dynamics and explore them as a group, so as to be more 
aware of them and incorporate them into the work. We aimed to integrate the 
issue of gender relations into our approach to HIV education, and this aim was 
enhanced by relating gender issues to ourselves. Through discussion, activities, 
and role-play among ourselves, we examined stereotypical images of men and 
women, and the power dynamics present in everyday situations. In one 
improvised scene, a young woman was allowed to travel in a minibus taxi 
although she could not pay the fare; this was followed by scene in which a man 
who couldn't pay was thrown off. Rather than dismiss this as a scene showing 
gender issues the 'wrong way round', we considered who was exploiting the 
situation and ultimately benefiting from it, and we were able to frame that within 
other aspects of gender in wider society. We contrasted it with other scenarios, 
such as a man talking to a woman in a bar and expecting sex at the end of an 

To provoke thought about power within society, we used 'The great game of 
power', devised by Augusto Boal, which illustrated the gender dynamics that 
influence men's and women's perceptions of power. In this activity, we asked 
participants to arrange five chairs, a bottle, and a table so that one item held 
power. Participants then entered the frame set by this furniture, each acting as a 
'more powerful' character than the previous person. The group thus created a 
collective frozen image of many elements expressing 'power'. Through discussion 
this tableau can be used to illuminate various types of power, such as 
economic/resource power, oppressive power, responsible power, physical power, 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

personal power, and sexualised power. Male participants often adopted the most 
overtly dominating stances, such as a man looking over a woman, or they 
expressed physical power, for example by miming violent gestures. Women, on 
the other hand, expressed themselves through facial expressions of defiance or 
postures of independence. The facilitator aimed not to identify particular forms 
of power as gender-specific, but to encourage discussion of the term 
'empowerment'. This entailed finding ways to overcome, resist, or challenge the 
dominating or oppressive power. For example, a woman stepping in after a man 
had assumed a 'mighty' position of total control over other members stood aside, 
laughing at him, thus demonstrating the man's position as ridiculous. 

For equal representation and facilitation, we aimed to assemble a group with 
equal numbers of men and women; but as women constituted barely 15 per cent 
of the students at the university, this posed considerable problems for us. This 
obstacle could thus never completely be overcome in a voluntary project, but in 
public appeals for volunteers we emphasised the need for women. There were 
always more men than women, but we ensured that no workshop was facilitated 
without a woman being present. 

Much of the material that we used was adapted from resources previously used in 
similar contexts. Some of the material used in South Africa in the Dramaide 
intervention was adapted, through discussion with group members, for the 
Mozambique context. In South Africa, the manual that the facilitator used was 
entitled 'Mobilizing Young Men to Care'. It challenged certain assumptions 
common among South African men, such as their assertion of a need for several 
partners, and beliefs about the Tightness of 'following in a father's footsteps'. 
The activities in the workshops, however, developed a concern for gender 
equality, rather than simply aiming to provoke thought about male identities. In 
Mozambique, this focus developed to include relationships between boys' and 
girls' identities. Although a handbook was used, we quickly learned the advantages 
of knowing the material and being able to adapt it to different situations. 

Helping adolescents to make sense of their culture 

'Culture' relates to personal identity and thus one's sense of well-being, and it is a 
crucial determinant of views about gender and equity. Mozambican culture has 
been undergoing change in the past 15 years, after a communist government 
which sought to resist alien Western cultural influences was replaced by one that 
embraced the Western economy, and the cultural elements that are linked to it. 
The changes create new frictions in daily life, expressed in forums of debate from 
bus-stop queues to television talk shows. The ways in which ideas about 'culture' 
are contested often relate directly to issues of gender and sexuality. Topics such as 
'bride price', responsibility for safe sex, the role of the extended family in teaching 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender- equality approach make a difference? 

and initiating sexual activity, the desire for multiple partners as a biological need 
or cultural right, and the role of women in modern Mozambican society all 
provoke much debate and make gender equality a topical issue, even when such 
a term itself is not often used. 

Students trying to make sense of their cultural worlds need a forum in which to 
work through such issues, with the help of the skilled facilitation of older people 
who have had the chance to consider these issues for themselves in the light of the 
HIV epidemic. In Mozambique one member of our group had encountered 
negative family responses to her commitment to higher education, and she 
feared that studying at this level would make her less desirable as a marriage 
partner for Mozambican men. However, she was adamant that she wanted this 
level of education and she assured girls in groups that this was their right too. 
One of the male members of the group, who was seen as a stylish and 'cool' kind 
of personality, was enabled in workshops to reconcile this image of himself with 
the concept of 'being safe' and using condoms. 

University students are generally highly respected as having succeeded in society, 
and they already have a voice that is likely to be taken seriously. Girl pupils heard 
strong testimony from a woman who had been able to make her own decisions 
about sexual activity and use condoms without losing her attractiveness. Teenage 
boys welcomed accounts of someone able to assert himself as an 'African man' 
without the need for 'flesh to flesh' or multiple partners. These are key issues for 
many young people in trying to move beyond the theory that safe sex is in their 
long-term interests. The confusing impulses and half-made resolutions that are 
often the realities of youth, and the need to work through their identity and 
lifestyle choices, mean that issues of sexuality and gender are sometimes complex 
or confusing for teenagers. We wanted them to be discussed by young people in 
ways that emphasised the development of critical thinking that is often lacking in 
those who completely neglect the threat of HIV. University-level students had 
this capacity. 

The need for training 

Training of facilitators for this type of work is no easy task, but is perhaps the 
most crucial aspect of attempts to implement HIV education in Southern Africa. 
Techniques and methodology used in projects such as Reflect, Stepping Stones, 
and 'My Future is My Choice' all emphasise the importance of providing 
appropriate training in order to facilitate the participation of young people. 
Training must highlight the importance of helping young people to move from 
awareness to behaviour change, and to challenge the gender relations in society 
that exacerbate the spread of the virus. Such work needs an approach that is 
skills-based rather than content-oriented; the training should focus on the 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

process and not only the product, so that trainee facilitators reflect on their own 
changes of perspective and on difficult questions relating to identity, culture, and 
sexuality, and learn to develop through critical self-analysis. Appropriate 
selection techniques are essential. Good training is a long-term, on-going process 
which needs to be adequately planned and managed, because there are no short 
cuts to high-quality outcomes. 


In this chapter I have used my experiences in two HIV-education interventions 
to demonstrate the gendered nature of HIV education and the sexuality issues 
embedded within it. These gender relations are often unequal and can be 
reinforced during HIV education if they are not challenged in an adequate way. 
A gender-equity approach, as attempted in both interventions described, seeks to 
do this through its focus on gender in the various different aspects of the 
intervention, such as training, workshop methodology, and the development of 
a gender-equity 'culture' within the group. Thus, despite many difficulties 
encountered in attempting such an approach in schools, the projects were able to 
make a difference to the participants, and they formed part of a response to HIV 
that regarded the gendered nature of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic as central. 

Mark Thorpe has been working for several years on HIV, education, youth, and 
participation. Most recently he has worked with the International HIV/AIDS 
Alliance on participatory assessment; for Save the Children on stigma, HIV, and 
child participation in OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) projects; and in 
2005 on a participatory study of adolescents and youth in Mozambique for UNICEF 
to inform programming there. 


Boal, A. ( 1979) Theatre of the Oppressed, London: Pluto 

Boler, T. et al. (2003) 'The Sound of Silence: Difficulties in Communicating on HIV/AIDS in 
Schools', London: ActionAid 

Campbell, C. (2004) 'The role of collective action in the prevention of HIV/ AIDS in South Africa' in 
D. Hook, N. Mkhize, P. Kiguwa and A. Collins (eds.) Critical Psychology in South Africa, Cape 
Town: Juta/ University of Cape Town Press 

Epstein, D. and R. Johnson (1998) Schooling Sexualities, Buckingham: Open University Press 

Karlsson, J. (2002) 'Redesigning schools and the problem of school space in South Africa', in S. 
Marks (ed.) Education In South Africa - 1994 and Beyond, Siyafunda Education Conference 
Report, Canon Collins Educational Trust Southern Africa 


Learning about HIV/AIDS in schools: does a gender- equality approach make a difference? 

Kent, A. (2002) 'Let's Talk About Sex, Baby! Negotiating Space, Performance and Sexualities within 
a Compulsory Heterosexual School Regime in South Africa, in the Context of the HIV/ AIDS 
Epidemic', unpublished dissertation, MA in Education and International Development, 
Institute of Education, University of London 

Kent, A. (2004) 'Living life on the edge: Examining space and sexualities within a township high 
school in greater Durban, in the context of the HIV epidemic', Transformation: Critical 
Perspectives on Southern Africa, 54: 59-75 

Mannah, S. (2002) 'South Africa: the complex role of teaching about HIV/ AIDS in schools', Prospect 
32/2, June 2002 

Moletsane, R., R. Morrell, E. Unterhalter, and D. Epstein (2002) 'Instituting gender equality in 
schools: working in a HIV environment', Perspectives in Education 20/2: 37-53 

Shisana, O. (2002) 'Nelson Mandela/HSRC Study on HIV/ AIDS in South Africa', commissioned by 
the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, conducted by the 
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in collaboration with the Medical Research 
Council (MRC) and the Centre for AIDS Development, Research and Evaluation (CADRE) 

Unterhalter, E. (2002) 'Gender, schooling, HIV and violence in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa', BID 
Review 6 (7-8), Institute of Education, University of London 

Unterhalter, E. (2003)'The capabilities approach and gendered education. An examination of South 
African complexities', Theory and Research in Education 1/1:7-22. 


1 1 Gender, education, and Pentecostalism: 
the women's movement within the 
Assemblies of God in Burkina Faso 

Alicia Zents 

Among the technological advances, intellectual and economic trends, and social 
movements of the twentieth century, few would have predicted the emergence and 
subsequent growth of Pentecostalism. From its small beginnings in the early 1900s, 
the movement has grown enormously. Accounting for a quarter of all the world's 
nearly two billion Christians, comprising 14,000 denominations, spanning 8,000 
ethno-linguistic cultures and some 7,000 languages, and growing at a rate of 54,000 
new members per day, or 19 million per year, the Pentecostals now represent a 
significant social and religious force (Barrett in McClung 1993: 35). Whether it is 
because of their emphasis on personal redemption through the 'born-again' 
experience, their reliance on faith healing, their dynamic communities, their well- 
oiled organisational machinery, or the fact that Pentecostals offer a comprehensive 
system of coping with life, given the enormous burdens of poverty, their culturally 
adaptable message is having its effect. People, especially in developing countries, 
are flocking to Pentecostal churches. And women are doing so in greater numbers 
than men. 

From the beginning, Pentecostalism was marked by a high degree of 
participation by women, and still today women are generally acknowledged as its 
most dedicated and committed adherents. However, in terms of confronting 
gender hierarchies and transforming gender roles, the movement is noted for 
reinforcing the subordinate position of women and confining them to 
traditional gender roles in the household. What, then, accounts for this large, 
voluntary movement of women in developing countries within these rapidly 
expanding, conservative, evangelical churches? 

To seek answers to this question, I travelled to Burkina Faso, to hear how women 
defined themselves and their church involvement, and to try to understand the 
space in which their lives, work, and faith merge. During the field research in 
Burkina, I met with the leadership, conducted individual interviews with women 
involved in the movement, held focus-group discussions, and attended a variety 
of meetings and seminars in different parts of the country in an effort to gain a 
contextual perspective on their organisation, I 'Association des Servantes de Christ. 
Specifically, I wondered if, in context of the women's movement, education, 
literacy, and training were encouraged and, if so, what was the impact on women. 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

And more broadly I asked: is the Pentecostal movement reinforcing traditional 
gender roles, or transforming them? In the context of women in the church in 
Burkina Faso, are women acting as agents of social change? 1 In other words, does 
this movement have anything to offer those in the development community who 
are committed to improving the lives of women by increasing their access to 
education and redressing vast gender disparities? 

This chapter, then, examines the role and activity of African women in an 
emerging branch of Christianity. At the intersection of gender and religion, it 
investigates how women experience their Pentecostal faith, and explores the 
impact of their activities and organisation in the context of education, gender 
relations, and development of women. I begin by providing an overview of my 
research motivations and limitations, considering some aspects of faith in the 
African context, educational trends in Burkina Faso, and the Pentecostal church's 
presence there. Following this introductory sequence, I discuss the promotion of 
education and learning in the Pentecostal context; the Church's encouragement 
of women's self-development (within certain parameters); and the extent to 
which gender relations can change. 

Background information 

A personal perspective 

My interest in exploring Pentecostalism arises out of my own history. I am the 
daughter and granddaughter of former Assemblies of God missionaries to 
Burkina Faso. The memory of six childhood years spent living in Burkina can still 
evoke the smell of the early mango rains in my nose, the taste of sorghum porridge 
in my mouth, the sound of its language on my lips, and the lingering impression 
in my heart of a rich culture that I only vaguely comprehended. In the course of 
researching the life of my grandmother, who worked for 36 years as a missionary 
in Burkina, I encountered the literature that documents the Pentecostal 
movement and its emergence in its African context. When I realised how little was 
written about women's experience within the movement, it proved to be too 
tempting an area for me not to explore further. Thus I returned to Burkina as an 
outsider, wishing to critically assess the impact of work in which her family played 
a role. But I was welcomed as a daughter. My status afforded me access to the local 
church and its leadership, as well as the international missionary community. 
Everywhere I travelled, I met Christians who had worked with or been affected by 
the ministry of my parents and my grandparents. My reception by the women was 
warm, and my quest for information was energetically accommodated. I was 
being honoured for the work of my family a fact that I found both disconcerting 
and humbling. Grateful though I was for the access provided, underlying my open 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

reception and the women's willingness to divulge information was a tacit 
assumption that this trust would not be abused. I am unsure what exactly an abuse 
might entail, but the pressure that it brought to bear on the interpretation and 
analysis of my data must be acknowledged. Although I had considerable access to 
women in the Assemblies of God during my time in Burkina, the limitations of the 
study must be acknowledged. These include a relatively short field-work period 
and no discussion with development workers outside the Church. 

Faith and gender in Africa 

The inter- relationships of gender, spirituality, and development in the African 
context represent a fascinating and intriguing area of research, for several reasons. 
Too often, scant attention is paid by the development community to the way in 
which faith and spirituality affect the development process and the people in it. 
Faith is an all-pervasive force in societies around the world and it can serve as a 
significant factor in promoting change, and a filter for individual decisions about 
whether or not to engage in risky social action (see Ver Beek 2000). Only recently 
have international development institutions come to acknowledge this fact. One 
illustration is the publication of Faith in Development: Partnership between the 
World Bank and the Churches of Africa (Belshaw and Calderisi 2002 ) . The reality in 
Africa is that Christianity continues to play a crucial and dynamic role. Africa 
registers around 4000 new converts daily, and out of a total population of 450 
million roughly 200 million are recognised as Christian (Barrett in Niringiye 
1996: 115). This has led historian Adrian Hastings to comment that ' [b] lack Africa 
today is totally inconceivable apart from the presence of Christianity' ( 1990: 208). 

If Christianity has become a permanent feature of the African landscape, then so 
too has Pentecostalism, a term used to define those Christian churches or groups 
who hold 'the distinctive teaching that all Christians should seek a post- 
conversion religious experience called the Baptism in the Holy Spirit' (Barrett 
1982: 838). Pentecostalism, in Africa and elsewhere, focuses on encouraging what 
is described as an individual and direct experience of God, a spiritual rebirth, and 
the expression of that experience of being 'born again' in oral testimony. For 
Pentecostals, their ultimate authority on life is the Bible, and they are noted for 
their evangelistic zeal and missionary fervour. They practise what has been 
termed a 'seven-days-a-week' form of Christianity, and their church services are 
marked by expressive and exuberant forms of worship, energetic singing, hand- 
clapping, raising of hands, and the practice of what are termed 'the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit', such as speaking in tongues and prophecy. Their growth in Africa is 
attributed to a willingness to acknowledge the force of the supernatural and to 
confront the world in terms of demons and spirits; to their strong organisational 
structures; and to a social and economic network that has flourished in conditions 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

of poverty, breaks down boundaries of class and ethnicity, and helps in the 
creation of a modern identity (Gifford 1998; Meyer 1998; Marshall 1991; Laurent 
1994; Marshall-Fratani 1998). Today the topic of Christianity in Africa can hardly 
be addressed without discussing the changes brought about by the growth of the 
Pentecostal churches (Gifford 1998: 33). 

Commentators remark on the importance of women in maintaining church 
vitality and growth. Women's prayer groups and efficient and energetic lay 
organisations have furnished the church with a powerful vehicle for expansion and 
provided its most dynamic core (Hastings 1979; Gaitskell 1990, 1997; Oduyoye 
1995). Unfortunately, the impact of spirituality and faith on the lives of women is 
too often defined by others, and rarely articulated by women themselves (King 
1991). This is particularly true of women's involvement in African Pentecostal 
churches. Very little has been published about the gender implications of the 
Pentecostal faith in Africa, although one author, on the basis of small-scale 
qualitative research, maintains that women in the Nigerian Pentecostal church are 
provided with a role that is both attractive and transformative, and this in spite of 
the Pentecostal Biblical teaching on the subordination of women to men (Marshall 
1991). Before considering the relevance of this possibility to the women's 
Pentecostalist movement in Burkina Faso, let us first place it in the context of 
development trends in Burkina and the growth of the Pentecostal church there. 

Education and Pentecostalism in Burkina Faso 

Burkina Faso poses a severe challenge to the development community's 
commitment to improving the lives of women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa and 
increasing their access to good-quality education. Although gains have been made 
recently, one need glance only briefly at the statistics to note the improbability of 
Burkina Faso reaching the education goals outlined in 2000 in the Dakar 
Framework and the Millennium Development Declaration. UNESCO's 
Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 shows that the net enrolment 
ratio for primary school is 36 per cent, and the gross enrolment ratio for 
secondary school is only 10 per cent. The figure for tertiary education, at 3.6 per 
cent, is even more revealing. The same report notes that there is still no legal 
guarantee of free primary education in Burkina, and that adult literacy stands at 
only 24 per cent. If the education prospects for Burkinabe children in general look 
uncertain, the same report also indicates that for girls the prospects appear even 
more discouraging: the female literacy rate is only half that of the men, and the 
ratio of girls to boys at both primary and secondary levels is still well below 1 (.71 
and .64 respectively). This serves to highlight the fact that Burkina's chances of 
achieving gender parity by the international target date of 2015 remain tentative 
at best. According to the Human Development Report for 2003 (UNDP 2003), 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

poverty continues to affect more than half the nation, with 61 per cent of the 
people living on one dollar or less a day. In addition, women are generally under- 
represented at the political level and with some notable exceptions are largely 
absent from positions of leadership and management. Although the country has 
laws in place to ensure equal treatment of women in civil affairs, women's civil 
rights in matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance are generally not respected 
(Ouedraogo and Dakoure 1998: 38). Women must therefore find alternative ways 
to cope with the extreme demands that poverty and culture place on them. Thus, 
in spite of these difficulties (or perhaps because of them) the Burkinabe woman, 
although poorly represented in official contexts, has more than 100 organisations, 
NGOs, and societies established exclusively to promote her political, social, and 
economic rights and interests (ibid. 43). It is not surprising, then, that Burkina's 
Pentecostal church has a thriving women's organisation. 

On 1 January 1921, six Assemblies of God (AG) Pentecostal American 
missionaries arrived in Ouagadougou, now the capital city of Burkina (AHPAC 
1996). By the 1950s, the AG in Burkina had 'acquired real local roots' (Hastings 
1979: 109), with their largely Africanised liturgies, ceremonies, and music (see 
also Skinner 1974). Today, the Assemblies de Dieu, or AD, of Burkina number 
around 550,000 members and adherents (DFM 1998). They also contribute to 
educational opportunities in the nation by running and/or maintaining a total of 
seven Bible schools, a distance-learning extension programme that serves 580 
students, 41 primary schools, and eight colleges and lycees (middle and high 
schools) (Lagengo 1999). The church experienced phenomenal growth between 
1971, when it registered some 25,000 believers (Zents et al 1971: 40), and 1996, 
where it grew on the average by 20,000 new converts a year. 2 Although it occupies 
a minority status in the country, the Protestant community is a dynamic one, 
exerting an influence that far exceeds its size in proportion to the other religious 
communities and the population in general (Laurent 1994; Otayek and Dialo 
1998). Laurent (1994: 155-77), in the course of fieldwork conducted in one 
Burkina province, found the AD to be forging itself into a powerful and cohesive 
community a trend, he claims, that rests on a willingness to embrace change 
and on a capacity for organisation. In general, he noted that the Protestant AD 
communities in the village had higher literacy rates than the community as a 
whole, were economically better off, due to a strong commitment and 
engagement with good agricultural practice/techniques, and were frequently to 
be found in positions of responsibility or leadership in the community. 

The women's movement within the church represents a significant part of the 
church's growth. Founded in 1979, the Association des Servantes de Christ (ASC) is 
led by a national bureau with nine executive members, and by offices at the regional 
and local levels (Assemblies de Dieu 1996). The ASC's primary objectives, 
according to its statutes, are as follows: to bring souls to Christ, to participate in the 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

spiritual and material development of the church, to sustain and encourage each 
other with good works, and to work towards helping the Burkinabe woman reach 
her full potential 3 (Statuts de L'ASC 1997). There are some 200,000 4 women active 
in the movement, and for several years the ASC was able to mobilise 80,000 women 
across the country who met weekly for prayer and fasting for the growth of the 
church in their country (Blumhoffer 1996:54). Although the women did not 
officially organise themselves until 1979, the foundation had been laid many years 
before. There are records from the 1930s of missionaries meeting with women for 
prayer and Bible study, and early on women began planning their own efforts to 
contribute to the church by planting peanut crops and selling the harvest from 
pieces of land that they caUed 'God's Peanut Patch' ( AHPAC 1 996: 4) . The results of 
these early roots in terms of the nature of women's involvement and activity in the 
movement today will now be examined in more detail. 

Learning in faith, faith in learning 

To determine how the Pentecostal faith culture affected women and how this in 
turn shaped their engagement with education, learning, and development, I 
conducted research with ASC throughout Burkina Faso. Although my base was 
the capital, Ouagadougou, I also travelled to the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in the 
south-west and the rural towns of Po in the south and Kaya in the north. I held 
open-ended focus-group discussions in both Po and Kaya, with women who 
represented some twenty different churches. I interviewed members of the 
church and ASC leadership. I also had opportunities to make observations and 
speak formally and informally with men and women in the church in such diverse 
settings as choir practice, the ASC's national bi-annual council meeting, teaching 
sessions for women leaders, and the national church's tri-annual administrative 
session. In addition, I conducted in-depth interviews with twelve ASC members, 
who gave me an oral history of their lives and involvement with the ASC. The 
women, whose ages ranged from 23 to 69, were originally from different religious 
backgrounds (Muslim, traditional African, and Christian), lived in rural 
communities (with the exception of two), were all married, and together had a 
total of 65 children. What emerged from the discussions during my field study is 
that learning and education play a prominent role in the Pentecostal experience. 

A culture of learning, or an atmosphere in which learning is encouraged and 
reinforced, seems to be fostered by the ASC by a range of means. First and 
foremost, informants identified the emphasis placed by the church on reading the 
Bible and reflecting on its principles, instructions, and stories as a key factor in 
encouraging women to learn to read. Several of the women whom I interviewed 
had become literate in the local language of Moore because they were taught by 
someone in the church. Informants described how literacy skills are maintained 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

and reinforced through regular practice, with an immediate, relevant application. 
The women read their Bibles independently, the scriptures are read aloud and 
reflected on in church, and in their own sessions women read passages aloud and 
discuss them. One 4 1 -year-old pastor's wife teaches literacy in her church and said 
it was important because it enabled a woman to read the Bible and 'encourage her 
family' through the sharing of Bible verses. It also encouraged an independence of 
spirit, in that a woman who reads, she told me, can see for herself what the Bible 
says; otherwise, she is dependent on what others say and what she hears. One of 
the members of the national bureau said that her impression of a literate woman 
was one who can better understand ideas, think at a higher and more effective 
level in her life and work, and more consistently accomplish for herself what she 
needed to do. There were no statistics available regarding the literacy rate among 
women in the church, but I speculate that it could very well be higher than the 
national average of 15 per cent (UNDP 2003: 313). 

Secondly, informants reported that learning is encouraged and literacy reinforced 
through the teaching sessions, seminars, and Bible Camps arranged at local, 
regional, and national levels. In one leadership seminar that I attended, the 
women took copious notes during the sessions, because many would take the 
ideas back to their churches and share them with those who could not attend, thus 
becoming in the process both learners and teachers. They said they enjoyed these 
teaching sessions because they learned new things and were given something to 
think about. They claimed to be spiritually refreshed by these gatherings: 
sometimes by the teaching itself, which they found encouraging and personally 
applicable, and sometimes by the group community and the chance to meet with 
other women, talk to their friends, and hear reports and testimonies of what was 
happening in other churches and areas. 

In addition to this, I was told that, although being literate is not a requirement for 
joining the ASC, the women are strongly encouraged to learn to read and write, 
particularly those who wish to be a member of a local bureau. For presidents, 
secretaries, and treasurers, literacy is virtually obligatory. Two of the women were 
secretaries of their local ASC chapters, and they both told me how much they 
enjoyed the job because, as one put it, 'it raises my level of intelligence". She said that 
it forced her to think, and she could see the progress that she made in organising 
her local chapter's plans and goals. The other mentioned that she liked to write 
down all the activities and plans that the women intended to accomplish, and then 
at the end of the year she would take note of the progress they had made. 

Thirdly, informants commented that the ASC community functions as an 
information- exchange network where women can share new ideas and learn from 
each other. One Burkinabe woman, who worked for a local NGO, described her 
culture as one that does not actively seek out information. Instead, she claimed, 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

people wait for information to come to them - women even more so than men. 
Within the ASC, with its local, regional, and national offices, conferences, seminars, 
and teaching sessions on various topics related to health, small credit loans, and 
small business practices, information passes from one woman to the next and new 
ideas are encouraged. In addition, the ASC is a member of both national and 
international organisations, with strong ties to sister churches in neighbouring 
countries. Often delegations are sent to attend conventions in Cote d'lvoire, or 
Mali, or Togo in an effort to expand and strengthen these links. 

Finally, there is evidence that education and skills acquisition are seen by the ASC 
as a key tool in promoting and encouraging some forms of women's personal and 
economic independence. To that end, the ASC runs a Centre de Formation, or 
training centre, just outside of Ouagadougou. There, 140 women and girls of 
various religious and ethnic backgrounds receive training in sewing, embroidery, 
weaving, and knitting as well as classes on health-related issues (AIDS, family 
planning) and literacy and numeracy. The teacher, an energetic and lively 
woman, described her satisfaction when she saw former pupils established and 
earning money. For her, financial independence was the means for the girls to 
improve their lives and shape their own destinies. She said that the classes at the 
Centre place emphasis on the girls taking control of their own sexuality, and in 
the context of her faith she encouraged the girls to recognise their value as human 
beings created by God. 

These opportunities to study and learn indicate a number of ways in which 
women might be able to change existing gender relations. First of all, it appeared 
to me that studying raised women's level of confidence and bolstered their sense 
of self- worth. Secondly, possibly as a result of an increased feeling of pride and 
personal accomplishment, women feel able to assert themselves in public. In the 
group discussion, the women from one rural community told me that many of 
them felt intimidated when they had to speak in front of people in the church. 
They acknowledged that it was still a problem for them, but could also proudly 
recount how they had organised two Journees de /'ASC. The 'Day of the ASC' 
occurs on the first Sunday of May each year, when the women plan and conduct 
the entire service, including the preaching. This is an important event for the 
women, since it raises their visibility in the church community, increases 
awareness of their activities, and pushes them into more public roles. Finally, the 
emphasis on learning and thinking for oneself also, I believe, encourages the 
women to be more openly critical. I saw evidence of this in one teaching session, 
where women openly discussed and criticised comments made by the (male) 
pastor who was teaching their session. In another group discussion, women 
commented critically on the church's (and ASC's) micro-credit programme, 
listing its benefits but also pointing out areas where the programme had failed. 
All of this self-development is linked to their concerns with spirituality. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Pentecostalism and women 

The reason given to me to explain the women's motivation for learning to read 
and write and train is linked with what lies at the heart of the Pentecostal 
movement: the conversion experience. In Pentecostalism the spontaneous and 
creative outpouring in prayer and oral testimony that the 'born-again' experience 
elicits becomes a vehicle for self-expression and affirmation. According to 
Pentecostalists, it is the learning in faith that makes faith in learning possible. 
The journey of learning begins from the moment when conversion takes place. 
Joining the church calls for no less than a redefinition of one's sense of self, for it 
is in the born-again Pentecostal community of the AD of Burkina Faso that the 
women could be seen to place their identity. Every woman to whom I spoke could 
point to the year, the day, and the hour when she got 'saved'. It was within this 
space that they had located a power that they found life-changing. When asked 
what they enjoyed most about their involvement in the ASC, the women 
overwhelmingly gave answers that pointed to this fact. They described 
themselves as 'women of God engaged in God's work'. They explained their 
commitment to the ASC as a 'calling of the Holy Spirit', not on behalf of the 
women but for God. Their deliberate choice to convert was made clear to me 
when I asked the women who came from Christian backgrounds if they felt that 
it had given them an advantage. In admonishing tones I was informed that one is 
not born a Christian, no matter what the background, but one makes a choice to 
become one - a choice that still carries a certain risk: six out of the twelve women 
were banished from their families following conversion, some for several years, 
others for months. 

The tangible aspect of this new status is evidenced through a dialogue of prayer 
and testimony, first with God and then with others. When asked what they 
enjoyed most about the ASC and which activities were most important to them, 
they answered 'prayer'. Seven out of the twelve women specifically named prayer 
as their favorite activity, and every other woman mentioned it at some point in 
our conversations. Prayer, they said, helped them to cope with the demands 
placed on them as mothers and wives, encouraged them in sickness, offered 
refreshment from fatigue, and guidance in the making of decisions. ASC, they 
said, was also about establishing a network of support and a safe environment in 
which to discuss problems and needs. Women described communal prayer times 
at Bible Camps as their 'best times together'. Additionally, many women spoke of 
being encouraged by the testimony of others. Every time they meet together, 
whether for prayer, Bible study, or choir practice, time is taken for testimonies. For 
them, the testimonies affirmed each individual's experience as special and unique; 
her testimony becomes a narrative, a story, told and retold, and the fact that it 
inspires others becomes in itself an affirmation for the woman telling the story. 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

The conversion experience and its evidence in prayer and testimony appeared to 
be translated in social action. In the group discussions, the women described a 
myriad of activities through which they support each other and the church 
community in general, in times of marriage, death, sickness, childbirth, general 
hardship, the building of churches, teaching of Bible studies and Sunday school, 
and installing new pastors. That these social activities were meaningful to the 
women was clear from their own comments. Second only to prayer, these were the 
activities that the women enjoyed the most. They told how they liked to visit the 
sick, sing together, meet together for singing, prayer, or just talking and 
encouraging each other. They told the story of a believing woman who had been 
expelled from her home, for one reason or another, by an unbelieving husband, 
and told how she was provided with immediate support. In one town, I was told 
of how a woman involved in a small prayer cell was evicted from her home with 
her small children by her husband. Within a day, her cell group had collected 
money, found housing for her, hired a taxi to transport her and her few belongings 
to her new home, and provided a small donation to set her up in a small business 
selling food. When I asked the women how they found the time to engage in all 
these activities in addition to their demanding roles as mothers, housewives, and 
family providers, they insisted that although it was difficult they were happy to do 
all these things for each other, and would get up even earlier than usual to do their 
household chores, in order to have time to meet at the church. It is here within this 
sisterhood that the women focus on their concerns and their needs. 

There appeared to be other aspects of this social action, however, than mere 
sisterly support. In a sense, the ASC is building the capacity of its members to take 
part in development initiatives to help others. The President of the ASC 
specifically reported that the ASC encouraged every woman who did not already 
have a salaried job to undertake some form of economic activity, to enable her to 
provide for herself and the needs of her family, and to establish some measure of 
independence. With one exception, each woman whom I interviewed was thus 
engaged. Some women shared with me how the money that they earned in their 
business enabled them to take financial decisions on their own, such as buying 
clothes for a woman in the church who was particularly disadvantaged, or 
deciding to give financial assistance to a pastor. The ASC also runs a micro-credit 
programme specifically for widows in the churches, and provides small loans to 
help them to establish some form of economic independence. Every ASC 
member was encouraged to pay dues, called cotisation. The amount did not 
matter; what counted was the effort. With their funds, the women engaged in a 
wide range of communal activities, including purchasing roofs for churches, 
building doors and windows in the churches, supporting Bible School students, 
preparing cereal banks in order to have produce to sell in time of need, and 
financing special trips to conventions or seminars for members of their groups. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

It is this emphasis on economic independence that sets the ASC apart from the 
other women in Pentecostal churches described in the literature and provides a 
particular dynamic to the way in which the ASC addresses the needs of women. 
Of course, economic activity in the areas of agriculture and animal husbandry is 
key to women's roles in agricultural production in West Africa in general; but the 
ASC specifically emphasises the importance of income generation for individual 
independence and community contribution. 

Impact on gender roles 

What is the outcome of the learning opportunities and the activities of the ASC: 
do they transform gender roles, or reinforce the traditional gender hierarchy? I 
believe that the examples provided thus far have illustrated how the ASC is 
meeting women's 'practical interests', through satisfying basic needs, and also is 
addressing their 'strategic interests', those that play a role in transforming social 
relations and improving the condition of women's lives (Molyneux 1998: 75). 
More specifically, I would argue that although tensions are evident in several 
areas, the women are pushing against gender hierarchies and expanding their 
traditional roles, if not dramatically transforming them. 

At first glance, however, this does not appear to be true. The AD church teaches the 
submission of women to men and is, in this sense, no different from Pentecostal 
churches around the world. The women themselves informed me several times of 
the Bible's teaching on the need for the wife to submit to her husband. Secondly, 
there is the striking absence of women in leadership positions of the national 
church. The day after I arrived in Ouagadougou, the national church met for one 
of its tri-annual business/administrative meetings, and the only woman present 
was the President of the ASC, who came to represent the organisation and give a 
report on its activities. Woman are denied ordination and cannot serve as pastors 
(and therefore in leadership roles, since all leaders are pastors), although they can 
within limited contexts preach and evangelise. Thirdly, most of the activities in 
which the women engage reinforce their traditional roles as care givers and 
housewives, and as agricultural providers for the family. Even the name of the 
organisation, the Servants of Christ, does not in itself seem to make a challenging 
statement, but serves to reinforce women's subservient role. 

However, in spite of the above, I believe there is evidence of tension within the 
church setting that points to the subtle, if not dramatic, ways in which women are 
pushing against traditional boundaries and slowly expanding their roles. In the 
first place, the fact that the ASC is encouraging women to be more independent, 
take on some limited leadership responsibilities, even learn to speak confidently in 
public (whether in women's groups, or up in front of the whole church, as they do 
on the Day of the ASC), is significant in a society (and to some extent a church as 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 

well) where, as one church woman told me, 'women are encouraged to be silent'. In 
a supportive environment, women are learning to read and write, to think and 
plan and set goals for the future, and learn the leadership and management skills 
necessary to enter the public, modern sphere. Secondly, some of the activities in 
which the women engage bring them into conflict with traditional views of the 
place that women should occupy. At one teaching seminar that I attended, a 
heated discussion took place on the question of which should come first, duties or 
family. One of the leaders of the ASC described how one pastor was quite upset 
about the amount of time his wife spent engaged in activities in the group, 
insisting that she had a responsibility first to her husband and then to her duties. 
Because women see themselves as part of 'God's work' and consider their 
contributions as vital to ministry of the church as a whole, they are becoming 
more assertive in public. 

Finally, the ASC is concerned with issues of gender relations. One member of the 
ASC's national bureau recounted to me how the ASC has identified the need to 
have special, separate sessions for young girls where they can freely discuss issues 
relating to sex and marriage, and any other concerns that they might have. The 
ASC's efforts to provide training for girls has been resisted by the all-male 
leadership of JAD (Jeunesse des Assemblies de Dieu), the youth programme of the 
AD church, who have interpreted the ASC's efforts as an attempt to encroach on 
their territory, to undermine their control. At the time when I conducted my 
interviews, the women had not yet succeeded in obtaining girls-only programmes 
or classes. 

Thus, I believe, does this anecdotal evidence support my claim that in subtle ways 
the women in the ASC are actively seeking to improve the conditions of women, 
and expanding the space for women to advance economically and educationally. 
But their scope for progress is constrained by the church's teaching on the 
submission of women to men. The ASC is officially under the leadership of the 
national church, although they are financially self-sustaining and admin- 
istratively independent. In times of prayer and discussion together, they discuss 
their visions, plans, and ideas for the future, and sometimes, as we have seen with 
the case of initiating special courses for young girls, their ideas come into direct 
conflict with male leadership. Even the idea for the Day of the ASC was initially 
rejected by the national church leadership, but over time the women were able to 
convince them otherwise. One member of the ASC leadership told me that 
although the idea is now accepted and endorsed by roughly 80 per cent of the 
churches, the remaining 20 per cent are still resisting the idea of giving women 
control of the service and allowing them to preach. 

Ultimately, this all points to another important issue concerning the ASC: the 
women appear to have carved out a considerable niche in church life and have 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

made themselves indispensable to the success of the Pentecostal movement in 
Burkina. With all their outreach activities, they have significantly enhanced the 
church's social capital, as described by Laurent, in the community. Several 
pastors to whom I spoke recognised this fact, and commented that the women 
were far better organised than the men, and more effective in accomplishing their 
goals. Even the ASC's financial contribution to the church should not be 
underestimated: in a period of twenty years, the ASC gave a total of 64 million cfa 
(or approximately $183,000) 5 to the national church (ASC 1999). 


What are we to make of the impact of Pentecostalism on the women drawn to its 
churches? I would argue that the religious experience that typifies Pentecostalism 
is clearly creating spaces to which women are drawn and in which their lives are 
changed. The women to whom I spoke identify strongly with their own individual 
religious experiences, and the narrative testimony arising from those experiences 
becomes an empowering, life-affirming story. Moreover, this faith-based 
narrative has provided a space for women's education in the Pentecostal 
movement in Burkina Faso. Education and learning, along with reading, writing, 
planning, organising, and critical thinking, are viewed as essential elements of 
both personal faith and women's participation in the church. The research 
suggests that the power of the Pentecostal experience can change the lives of 
women and provide an increased sense of self-esteem, through the growth of 
communal organisational networks and social group support, and through 
encouraging financial independence. The women still face institutional 
constraints in the church context in terms of their aspirations to leadership. The 
women in the ASC in Burkina appeared inspired by their faith to actively change 
the world in which they lived, and improve their lives in the process. As 
development agencies, both foreign and local, search for partners to improve the 
education of girls and women throughout the world, religious movements and 
groups like the ASC could well prove to be allies. 

Alicia Zents grew up in Burkina Faso and Cote d'lvoire. She has worked in Mali, 
Honduras, and Kenya and is currently living in Kenya. The research for her chapter 
was conducted as part of her work for her MA at the Institute of Education, London 


Gender, education, and Pentecostalism 


1 I am indebted to the perceptive work of Elizabeth Brusco (1995), who researched the gender 
and household impact of conversion to evangelical, Pentecostal Christianity in Colombia. In 
trying to reconcile contradictions between her own anthropological training and the 
knowledge of religious ideology as an instrument of patriarchy, she found it more useful to ask 
how women in their traditional roles could be agents of change and even bring about gender- 
role transformations, rather than asking from a Western feminist perspective how 
Pentecostalism might inspire women to take on new roles in society. 

2 I base these figures on my own calculations using the statistics available to me. 

3 Elsewhere this final objective is described as 'ameliorating or improving the conditions of the 
Burkinabe woman' (AD 1996: 74). 

4 Exact figures are hard to come by, since the church does not distinguish between the sexes when 
counting members, but I am assuming that women make up at least half the number of 
adherents. The figures may well be much higher than those that I have quoted. Leaders that I 
spoke to, pastors, etc., often had the impression that women were more numerous than men in 
their assemblies. 

5 This is a rough estimate, since the exact amount, due to the fluctuation of the cfa and the 
devaluation in 1994, is difficult to determine. Even so, this is a significant sum for the women to 
have raised, especially considering many women's lack of resources. 


AHPAC (Africa Harvest Projects and Coordination Office) (1996) 'The Ladies Page' (Assemblies of 
God publication), Springfield: Division of Foreign Missions 

ASC (1997) 'Statuts de 1'Association des Servantes de Christ' 

ASC (1999) 'Situation d'execution du Budget 1998 et Projet de Budjet 1999 Dieu veulant' (budget of 
the ASC) 

Assemblies de Dieu du Burkina Faso ( 1996) 75ieme Anniversaire des Assemblies de Dieu du Burkina 
Faso 1921-1996, Ouagadougou: Imprimerie des Assemblies de Dieu 

Barrett, D. (ed.) ( 1982) World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Belshaw, D. and R. Calderisi (2002) Faith in Development: Partnership between the World Bank and 
the Churches of Africa, Regnum Books and World Bank Publications 

Blumhofer, E. (1996) 'Pentecostal mission and Africa,' in Christopher Fyfe and Andrew Walls (eds.) 
Christianity in Africa in the 1990's, Edinburgh: Centre of African Studies 

Brusco, E. (1995) The Reformation of Machismo, Austin: University of Texas Press 
Division of Foreign Missions (DFM) (1998) 1998 Annual Statistics, Springfield: DFM 

Gaitskell, D. (1997) 'Power in prayer and service: women's Christian organizations', in Richard 
Elphick and Rodney Davenport (eds.) Christianity in South Africa, Oxford: James Currey 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Gaitskell, D. (1990) 'Africa women's Christianity' in Cheryl Walker (ed.) Women and Gender in 
Southern Africa to 1945, London: James Currey 

Gifford, P. ( 1998) African Christianity, London: Hurst & Company 

Hastings, A. (1979) A History of African Christianity 1950-1975, Cambridge: Cambridge University 

Hastings, A. (1990) 'Christianity in Africa' in Ursula King (ed.) Turning Points in Religious Studies, 
Edinburgh: T&T Clark 

King, U. ( 199 1 ) 'Introduction' in Ursula King (ed.) Religion and Gender, Oxford: Blackwell 
Lagengo (1999) Statistics from the AD church headquarters in Lagengo, Ouagadougou 

Laurent, J.-P. (1994) 'Proselytisme religieux, intensification agricole et organisation paysanne,' in 
J.-P. Jacob and Lavigne Deville (eds.) Les associations paysannes enAfrique, Paris: Karthala 

Marshall, R. ( 1 99 1 ) 'Power in the name of Jesus', Review of African Political Economy, 52: 21-37. 

Marshall-Fratani, R. ( 1998) 'Mediating the global and the local in Nigerian Pentecostalism', Journal 
of Religion in Africa, 2SI 3: 278-315 

McClung, G. (1993) 'The Pentecostal "trunk" must learn from its "branches'", Evangelical Missions 
Quarterly, 29/1: 34-9 

Meyer, B. ( 1998) ' "Make a break with the past". Memory and post-colonial modernity in Ghanaian 
pentecostalist discourse', Journal of Religion in Africa, 28/3: 316-49 

Molyneux, M. ( 1998) 'Analyzing women's movements', in C. Jackson and R. Pearson (eds.) Feminist 
Visions of Development, London: Routledge 

Niringiye, Z. ( 1996) 'Parachurch organizations and student movements', in C. Fyfe and A. Walls 
(eds.) Christianity in Africa in the 1990's, Edinburgh: Centre of African Studies 

Oduyuye, M. ( 1995) Daughters ofAnowa, Maryknoll: Orbis Books 

Otayek, R. and D. Dialo (1998) 'Dynamisme protestant, developpement participatif et democratic 
locale,' Afrique Contemporaine 185: 19-34 

Ouedraogo, E. and H. Hakoure (1998) Situation desfemmes au Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou: RECIF 

UNDP (2003) Human Development Report 2003, New York: Oxford University Press 

UNESCO (2003/4) EFA Global Monitoring Report, 

Ver Beek, K. (2000) 'Spirituality: a development taboo', Development In Practice 10/1: 31-43 

Zents, R., P. Chastagner, and D. Compaore (eds.) ( 1 97 1 ) Les Assemblies de Dieu Haute- Volta: 50eme 
Anniversaire, Accra: 


12 Enabling education for girls: the Loreto 
Day School Sealdah, India 

Ruth Doggett 

The government of India's Ministry of Human Resource Development lists the 
fifth goal of Education For All in India as 'The creation of necessary structures 
and the setting in motion of processes, which could empower women and make 
education an instrument of women's equality' (Ministry of Human Resource 
Development 1997). It has been suggested that one structure to increase female 
participation in education may be single-sex secondary schools (Brock and 
Cammish 1998: 56). While in decline in the Western world, girls' schools are 
common in India, attracting about one third of all enrolments (Malhotra 1982). 
Yet there appear to be no studies of students' experiences of single-sex schools in 
India. This chapter provides a snapshot of one such school in Kolkata which, in 
its attempts to embrace 'Education For All' and widen the scope of education for 
girls in urban India, is inconsistent with the prevailing image of private, fee- 
paying, single-sex schools as the domain of the upper classes. 

The chapter draws on a recent case study of Loreto Day School Sealdah (LDS), 
which analysed the meanings and values that girls attach to their single-sex 
schooling, and considered the ability of a single-sex school to effect social change 
(Doggett 2003). The study built on previous work conducted by Jessop (1998), 
which identified the school's elements of best practice, and by Greene (1996), 
which examined its approach to education from a religious standpoint. My study 
was developed from analysis of documents referring to or published by the 
school; observations made during my time working at the school; interviews 
with the school principal; and questionnaires administered to 183 students by 
their teachers in August 2002. These questionnaires, containing a number of 
open-ended questions, were administered to girls from six classes, one class from 
each of Years 7-12. This combination of research tools was designed to elicit 
students' perceptions and views of their schooling, in response to the fact that 
students are often silent in the public sphere and hold little power (Ribbens and 
Edwards 1998: 153). This sample was chosen also to reflect the reality that, in the 
literature on single-sex schools, there is more debate about this form of schooling 
in the context of girls reaching adolescence (Halstead 1991; UMO 1975: 14). It is 
also at this age that girls often drop out of school in India (Stromquist 1998: 572), 
which makes it pertinent to examine how adolescent girls were relating to their 
education in this particular school. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

My interests in these questions arise partly from my own experiences and the 
contradictions that I have experienced in growing up and being educated in 
single-sex environments in Ireland. I first became aware of societal influences on 
girls' education in my teens, when a father of three girls expressed surprise that I, 
a girl, was studying (and doing well in) higher-level mathematics. Later I 
questioned why I eventually became channelled into studying the humanities 
and traditionally 'feminine' studies, despite taking 'masculine' subjects for my 
final-year exams at secondary school. If I had attended a co-educational school, 
would my choices of subjects and career have been different, and what 
possibilities would I have seen as being open to girls like me? 

As a teacher in a wide range of different types of school in Ireland, the UK, and 
New Zealand, I have witnessed diverse experiences of students in single-sex and 
co-educational environments. For example, I have seen the streaming of boys 
and girls into feminised and masculinised forms of study and have noted the 
interactions between boys and girls in their co-educational schools, and their 
teachers' expectations of them. I have watched as boys and girls are pitted against 
one another in competition, and lined up in separate lines outside their 
classrooms. I have observed girls being told to report class 'troublemakers' to the 
school authorities. I have heard boys whistle at girls and tell them 'I'll break you 
in soon, yeah?'. I have noticed my own biases towards boys and girls in class, 
invariably reporting afterwards that I have spent more time addressing the 
'boisterous' boys. In short, I have become aware of teaching as a political exercise 
in a gendered terrain. 

These experiences, as well as working as a volunteer teacher in Loreto Day 
School, Kolkota, in June and July of 1997 and 1999, have raised for me the 
question of whether single-sex schools widen educational opportunities for 
girls. The aim of this chapter is to provide a portrait of the Loreto Sealdah's 
learning environment and examine the impact of girls' gendered identities on 
their response to education. 

Loreto Day School Sealdah: a brief history 

Loreto Day School Sealdah belongs to the Institute of The Blessed Virgin Mary, 
an order of Catholic nuns more commonly known as the Loreto Sisters. 
Representatives from Loreto Ireland arrived in India in 1842. Charged with the 
task of schooling the daughters of the colonial administration, they swiftly set 
about opening English-medium schools for girls. Their arrival in Bengal 
coincided with the time of Brahmo Samaj, a religious movement which 
promoted social reforms that sought the controlled emancipation of women and 
paved the way for the establishment of educational institutions for women 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

(Karlekar 1994). They saw within these reforms the possibilities of further 
widening the provision of education 'for the upper classes as well as the poor' 
(Colmcille 1968: 7). In this way it can be said that Education For All has always 
been a central premise of the Loreto's 'mission' in India. 

Loreto Day School Sealdah (LDS) began life under the direction of Sister 
Catherine Cantopher in 1857, but in 1938 the arrival of Mother Dorothy Maher, 
described as a 'woman of vision, clear sighted, strong willed and utterly fearless' 
(Colmcille op.cit.: 280), changed the Loreto's provision of education for ever. In 
the spirit of their revolutionary founder, Mary Ward, the Loreto Sisters 
challenged restrictions and sought ways to open education to all, rejecting 
discriminations inherent in policies such as the code for Anglo-Indian schools 
that dictated that no more than 25 per cent of students in such schools should be 
Indian (ibid.\ Doggett 2003: 62). Today there are seven Loreto schools in Kolkata, 
within a network of 19 across India. The current principal, Sr. Cyril Mooney, 
took up her post in 1979 and set about extending the scope of the school, which 
at that time was a private school catering largely for the daughters of elite Bengali 
society, with only 90 out of 790 students coming from poor backgrounds. LDS 
therefore belongs to an elite English-medium academic tradition, very different 
from the types of single-sex school in (for example) rural Pakistan, which cater 
for some of the poorest girls in areas where co-educational schooling is not an 

On arrival, Sr. Cyril embarked on a mission to foster a school with students from 
all financial, social, and religious backgrounds, because there was 'a certain 
uneasiness felt at being part of a formal education system imparting quality 
education to a privileged few, while millions of their less fortunate peer group get 
virtually nothing at all' (Cyril 1997: 3). The school today has 1,400 girls, ranging 
from the Nursery class to Year 12, half of whom do not pay fees on account of 
their families' financial circumstances. LDS has become a multicultural 
educational setting, providing for Hindu, Muslim, and Christian students, and in 
doing so has been recognised as 'a model of best practice' ( Jessop 1998). Alliances 
and networks have been formed between the school and organisations such as 
UNICEF, Save the Children, the British Council, Rotary Club, Ashoka, Childline, 
and Round Table, ensuring that LDS has a vast network from which to draw 
experiences, lessons learned, and opportunities for advocacy on the rights of the 
child. It challenges conventional assumptions that private fee-paying single-sex 
schools are exclusively for the middle and upper classes, and thus raises questions 
about the potentials of this form of school organisation. 

Loreto schools have a distinguished reputation in India, and Loreto Sealdah is no 
exception. On International Literacy Day 1994, it was awarded the UNESCO 
Noma Literacy Prize for spreading literacy and education. Each year since 1998 it 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

has won the Telegraph Better Calcutta Contest, as an acknowledgement of its 
work towards achieving social excellence. More recently it was chosen out of 600 
schools for the Telegraph 2002 award for the Best School in Calcutta, to mark its 
work on social, health, and environmental issues. Such a reputation means that 
politicians, business people, and the wealthy send their daughters to Sealdah, 
paying tuition fees of up to 740 rupees per month. But despite the fact that it is a 
private school, it does not perceive education as a profit-making exercise. In late 
2002, when private schools were forced to increase their tuition fees by a reduction 
in the State government's Dearness Allowance, which provides a percentage of the 
salaries of teachers of registered private schools, the school discussed the matter 
with parents and guardians and it was agreed that 160 out of the 700 fee-paying 
students could continue studying at the old rate of 440 rupees per month. 

The school has also been successful in reaching out to families living in the nearby 
slums, on railway stations and pavements. Students from such underprivileged 
families study free of charge at the school and are often provided with school 
uniforms, textbooks, and meals. They are supported by overseas sponsors and the 
generosity of wealthy families associated with the school. The tuition fees are 
covered by the fees of other students and by donations from overseas sponsors and 
aid agencies, and the State-administered Dearness Allowance. As a strategy for the 
integration of all children into the school community, uniforms and colour 
coding of classes were introduced to eliminate social differences. Throughout 
LDS, most classes are mixed-ability and include both fee-paying and non-paying 

This chapter discusses data from questionnaires gathered from both fee-paying 
and non-fee-paying students (see Table 1). 

Table 1 : a summary of the fee status of pupils in Years 7-12 of Loreto Day 
School Sealdah 

































Apart from the students attending the regular lessons, the school caters for 
approximately 250 street children - or 'rainbow children', so named by the school 
principal because they 'drop in like rainbows, colourful as they are, giving joy as 
they appear' (Cyril 1997). These rainbow children attend the school's 'Rainbow 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

School' and night shelter, which, as explained below, consists of an informal 
teaching programme for street children, provided by LDS students. 

The success of such a school depends on the creativity and commitment of the staff. 
In the past, Loreto schools were staffed mainly by ordained sisters, but over time they 
have been replaced by lay teachers. Today, Loreto Sealdah has a staff of 65: 62 female 
teachers and three men, many of whom have been through a Loreto education 
themselves and come from a range of social and religious backgrounds. Some 
teachers are first-generation learners. The unique ethos of the school requires that 
teachers are constantly challenged and involved in a training programme which 
involves their participation in reflective workshops. In addition, initiative and 
personal investment are expected, thus ensuring that a sense of ownership of school 
activities is fostered among the staff (Jessop 1998: 15). 

Towards an enabling curriculum 


Loreto Sealdah's unique status among Bengali schools is born out of its philosophy 
and ethos. The vision of LDS is to create 'dynamic people, with the values of giving, 
sharing and extended love - a vibrant living instrument for human change' (Cyril 
1997: 3). This type of education, it is stressed, depends on ensuring that students do 
not receive an insular elitist education, but one which involves their interaction at 
all levels of society. The school has developed not only an academic curriculum, 
but also a curriculum of non-academic activities, such as working with street 
children, which support students' interaction in the public arena. These activities 
occur alongside the academic curriculum and are equally valued; they may 
therefore be called co-curricular programmes, as opposed to extra-curricular 
programmes. The focus is on education for community and solidarity, not 
competition. This is seen as a way to tackle privileges and hierarchies within Indian 
society which divide rich and poor, men and women. The vision is based on a belief 
that, through exposure to life experiences, 'the regular school child learns at first 
hand what real destitution is and will be less likely to dismiss the poor when she 
holds a position of power later on, and if the regular child is herself poor, then she 
learns the need to work for her own community and is challenged to share rather 
than climb up the social ladder and be lost to her own people' (Majumdar 1999: 3). 
In this way at LDS 'Compassion is Compulsory', just as maths is compulsory 
(ibid.). This commitment is made explicit at enrolment, which is accompanied by 
a value test. While most schools assess the students, this entrance test also evaluates 
the parents' values: they are reminded that their daughters must attend the school's 
various co-curricular programmes, and that the education that the school provides 
aims to be dynamic and potentially liberating (Cyril 1997: 2). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The academic single-sex schools, of the tradition from which LDS emerges, have 
been identified as places for the academically oriented, with little on offer for those 
not so inclined (Arnot 1983: 79). For LDS, however, the value system and ethos 
present the academic side of school as 'one of the tools for intellectual development 
on par with but never taking precedence over the formation of mind and heart 
necessary to produce an agent of human change' (Cyril 1997: 12). Academic 
achievement is expected, but is presented in a context that stresses co-operation 
and the holistic development of its students, in contrast to the extremely 
competitive nature of the contemporary Indian education system. An education 
which promotes individual competition is rejected. This is reinforced by a request 
that no student should receive extra tuition outside the school. Instead, students 
with difficulties are encouraged to seek help from within the school. 

Exam results suggest that this approach has not been to the detriment of 
academic achievement. Loreto Sealdah achieves good results in the public 
examinations - the Madhyamik Pariksha at Year 10 and the Higher Secondary 
Exam at Year 12 - by both fee-paying and non fee-paying students, with 50 per 
cent of students attaining a first-class pass annually (Jessop 1998:13). This is 
comparable to the achievements of other private schools in Kolkota. However, it 
is achieved in a school where students are admitted through a lottery system, not 
through competitive examinations, as is the case with other private schools. 

Sarmistha Sarkar is a former pupil of the school, now involved in a peace 
initiative in Kolkota. Interviewed in 2003 about her experience of LDS, she 
attributed her activism to empowering experiences provided by Loreto Sealdah, 
and commented that 'we were never expected to compete for marks and ranks. 
What was stressed instead was our ability to reach out, to try and solve a problem 
if we saw one. It was only when I went to college that I realized how paranoid 
everybody was about academic performance!' (Ray 2003). The school's vision is 
to awaken the consciousness of everyone who plays a part in the school. This 
awakening happens through reflective participation in the variety of remarkable 
programmes described below. 

Co-curricular programmes 

In 1979 LDS established a rural programme in co-operation with the Children in 
Need Institute. Following negotiations with the village head teachers of suburban 
Amgachia district, it was agreed that LDS students would teach in the village 
schools once a week ( Jessop 1998: 9). It is now well-established practice that each 
Thursday, 150 regular students give up their day off and teach. I had the privilege 
of accompanying students on one such weekly trip in July 1997 and was impressed 
by the confidence and commitment with which students related to their peers and 
taught them through participatory techniques using song, story telling, and art. 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

Students are taught teaching methods and class planning from Year 5 onwards, by 
their Bengali teacher. Teaching topics, selected in consultation with the village 
head teacher, mainly consist of topics such as vocabulary building, environmental 
and practical science, and practical maths (Cyril 1997: 5). At Year 11, students 
begin teaching English in the village high school. The direct impact of their work 
was the establishment of a junior high school for girls in Amgachia district, and an 
increase in the number of girls attending the 'boys" school in 1979 from 7 to more 
than 800 currently studying in the new girls' junior high school, funded by LDS 
through overseas sponsorship. The involvement of Sealdah students in the village 
schools increased the visibility of girls in education and set a positive example for 
parents who were contemplating sending their daughters to school. 

While the rural programme was initiated by staff, the 'rainbow programme' is an 
initiative led by a group of students who approached Sr. Cyril in 1985, concerned 
about the numbers of children and young people on the streets who were not 
receiving an education. From their ideas grew the concept of 'a school within a 
school'. The dynamism of LDS can be seen in the progression of the rainbow 
programme from an ad hoc weekly afternoon programme, run by volunteer 
students, to one which is now an integral part of the school, involving all students 
from Year 5 to Year 10. When a rainbow student was abused on the streets, 
students again approached the school principal, and from their concern the 
concept of a night shelter developed. 

As part of this programme, children living on the streets and on the platforms of 
nearby Sealdah and Howrah railway stations, both male and female, are invited 
into the school for lessons. They are also provided with facilities to sleep and wash, 
and they have the services of a nurse and social worker. The programme operates 
efficiently, due to the use of 'work education' slots within the school. From Year 5 
onwards, the school timetable is divided into ninety-minute slots of 'work 
education' per week, with one class participating in it during every period of the 
day. Work education is a curricular subject, preparing students for employment in 
the workforce. This means that at every period there are at least fifty potential 
teachers from the regular student community, ready to teach and play with the 
'rainbow' students on a one-to-one basis. Their educational programme includes 
literacy, numeracy, life skills, dancing, yoga, singing, painting, and crafts such as 
pottery and tie dye which may later be used to generate income (Cyril 1997: 4). 
The success of this programme is apparent through the integration of some 
'rainbow' students into the regular school and other schools in Kolkata. One of the 
earliest rainbow students is herself teaching in the rainbow school and in the 
villages of Amgachia. A property next to the school was acquired in 1997, and the 
night shelter for rainbow students is currently expanding to accommodate up to 
300 students. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

The Hidden Domestic Child Labour Project began as a survey led by students 
from years 5 to 7, which established that 4,900 children were involved in 
domestic labour in the Sealdah area. In response to this, students established 
social clubs for the children, currently involving more than 300 children. 
Students' activism includes approaching employers on Anti Child Labour Day to 
demand the day off for child labourers, who are subsequently treated to an 
organised trip. Further advocacy is carried out by the school through its 
involvement in the Shikshalaya Prakalpa movement. Sr. Cyril is convenor of the 
State Resource Group for the Education of Deprived Urban Children, which 
began its work in January 1999 by surveying street children and discovering 
44,646 street children out of school. Approximately 50 NGOs and government 
agencies are working in partnership to identify and enrol all Kolkata's children in 
regular schools. As part of this movement, the school has trained more than 552 
teachers, who work in pairs and collect the children in groups of 50 in areas 
where there is either no school or no vacancy for the children in existing schools 
('Ripples and Rainbows', September 2001). 

Recognising India's need for more teachers, the school developed a Barefoot 
Activity- Based Teacher Training Programme in 1988. This is a two-four week 
programme held every month, designed to train teachers in child-centred 
educational methods. The participants are young men and women who have 
dropped out of school before reaching Year 10 and are consequently ineligible for 
places at teacher-training colleges. As many of the participants work in rural 
villages without access to sophisticated teaching materials, the programme 
focuses on encouraging participants to develop learning and teaching aids from 
locally sourced materials. Aside from designing aids, the trainee teachers also 
undertake observation of Sealdah's teachers, and learn about teaching 
methodologies and self-evaluation. 

Academic curriculum 

Loreto Sealdah is affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Education, the West 
Bengal Council for Secondary Education, and the National Open School. These 
affiliations allow the school to design its own academic curriculum, as long as 
students are prepared for the State exams: the Year 10 Madhyamik Pariksha exam 
and the Year 12 Higher Secondary Examination. Up to Year 10, students study 
science and maths, Bengali, English, history, and geography, and they also receive 
physical education, work education, and values education. In years 11 and 12, 
students choose between commerce, humanities, and science. In Sealdah the most 
popular option is commerce, a phenomenon explained by Sr. Cyril in terms of the 
financial rewards on offer in the IT industry. Other activities include Indian 
dance, yoga, Indian singing, karate, sports, and team games such as basketball. 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

'Enabling' activities 

My research in 2002 drew on the work of Mukhopadhyay and Seymour (1994), 
who developed the analytical concept of a 'patrifocal family structure and 
ideology' to account for the way families regulate gender- differentiated access to 
and control over resources both material and social, such as education, in India. 
This concept implies subordination of individual goals to collective welfare, 
which reinforces the centrality of men and the subordinate status of women. For 
example, they identified that intrinsic to this ideology is a series of sanctioned 
structural features, such as patrilocal residence or patrilineal inheritance, which 
marginalise daughters and create a concern to regulate female behaviour 
(Mukhopadhyay and Seymour 1994:3). This results, for example, in the 
commonplace observation that educating girls is equivalent to 'watering a tree in 
your neighbour's courtyard' (in Stromquist 1998:581; see also the chapter by 
Janet Raynor in this volume), which betrays families' conviction that their 
obligation to a daughter consists primarily in getting her settled in marriage. A 
daughter's education must be tailored to the opportunity of finding a suitable 
husband, rather than enabling her to pursue what she herself wants to do. 

In contrast to the subordination to which girls might be subject in the 
coeducational school (Drudy and Ui Chatham 1999; Spender 1980), Loreto 
Sealdah tries to present students with the space to identify their own and others' 
realities through the various school programmes and activities. LDS also 
encourages girls to engage in activities that acknowledge their power to change 
what is taking place around them. During their time at LDS, they become 
involved in the public domain, participating in all sorts of rallies, competitions, 
and social initiatives which address issues ranging from environmental health to 
child rights. These activities are a vital component in the school's attempts to 
increase the visibility of girls, develop students' critical capacities, and aid their 
future employment prospects: they may therefore be called enabling activities. 

The students' exposure to the examples of strong women in positions of power, 
such as their teachers, helps to reinforce the positive messages that they receive 
through the school's programmes. The first LDS newsletter was dedicated to 
three women at the school and another to 'women who have touched our lives' 
('Ripples and Rainbows', September 1997). Attempts are made to provide robust 
non-stereotypical messages and images about women's roles in life (as can be 
seen in the Value Education Books, We Are The World, edited by Sr. Cyril, which 
portray women as surgeons, construction-site managers, scientists, etc.). 

It is within this supportive atmosphere that girls gain skills and confidence 
which, it is hoped, will enable them to claim their rights. It is hoped that they will 
realise that 'we don't have to settle for small meaningless lives - we can set realistic 
meaningful goals, and do the things to make them happen' ('Ripples and 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Rainbows', September 1997). The research found that students are aware of 
structural inequalities, with comments such as 'We all together can draw out 
remedies for the women in poor families who are deprived most in this male 
dominated world. Males do not accept this' (Year 10), showing a firm resolve 
to challenge the position of women in India. 

The Value Education curriculum is seen as fundamental for the formation of 
students who are reflective and want to promote social change. It also encourages 
dialogue about life experiences. Analysis of the sequential curriculum materials 
reveals a collaborative and participatory pedagogy with a strong emphasis on 

Key in (where students gather their own thoughts) 

Share it around (sharing with friends) 

Pass it on (sharing group work with the class) 

Talk it over (class discussion) 

Think it through (self- reflection) 

Take it in (Scripture-guided reflection) 

Carry it through (plan and carry out action) 

Within these classes, the girls' own experience and knowledge are validated and 
used as building blocks for reflection, discussion, and action, nourishing 
students' critical abilities and their 'capacity to form and express an opinion, 
the courage to express and form an opinion which people may not agree with 
(Cyril, interview, 2002). Each lesson ends with the students developing an action 
plan which reinforces the message that the girls themselves can be active agents. 
They are provided with practical strategies at the end of each lesson, such as 
encouragement to contact UNICEF or find out about and help a local women's 
organisation. That many students do become agents of change may be illustrated 
by the participation of a ten-year-old student in the 2001 National Conference 
on Domestic Labour in Mumbai, where she spoke about her experiences as a 
former child labourer. She was accompanied by a fellow former LDS student, 
herself a first-generation learner, who had gone on to become a qualified teacher 
and now co-ordinated the LDS project on Hidden Child Domestic Labour. 

The 'enabling' activities and the school ethos, therefore, are part of the reason 
why 'we don't have drop outs because we don't let them drop out, we provide them 
with alternatives' (Sr. Cyril, interview, 2002). This is also achieved by avoiding 
'disabling' educational experiences or experiences of failure, by providing 
additional tuition for students experiencing difficulties, encouraging 
participation in the National Open School, and allowing some students to sit one 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

examination at a time. These strategies help girls to transform their lives and 
empower them in their struggle against deprivation. 

An LDS education - and the response of students 

An education at Loreto Sealdah can therefore be seen to consist of two strands: 
the academic curriculum, which supports the academic development of all 
students and prepares them for State examinations, and the 'curriculum of 
agency', which attempts to build confidence and a sense of capacity within 
students through participation in the co-curricular programmes and other 
enabling activities. This section uses questionnaire data (Doggett 2002) to 
examine students' responses to their education. 

Responding to questions about the academic curriculum, and asked to name 
favourite subjects, students appear to align themselves with the traditionally 
'feminine' subjects such as languages and the arts, whose favoured status appears 
to be rooted in their practical applications. See Figure 1. 

Figure 1 : Students' favourite subjects 

unspecified Commerce 

18% .^^~~^ 17% 

Science I Humanities 

16% x^^^ 15% 





As can be seen in Figure 1 , the majority of pupils in the survey chose languages, 
which included English and Bengali. After this, favour was spread across 
Commerce (Business, Maths and Accountancy), Science (Computers, Biology, 
and General Science), and the Humanities (History, Geography, Political 
Science, Nutrition, and Home Science). 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

However, closer analysis revealed that the response of students to the academic 
curriculum appears to be influenced by two factors: social position and 
increasing awareness of women's gendered roles in life. As Figure 2 shows, social 
position affected the favoured status of subjects. Those students who showed 
some ability to move beyond stereotypical 'female' areas of study were invariably 
fee-paying. In contrast to the fee-paying students, who expressed interest in a 
range of subjects, non-paying students clustered around the humanities and 
languages. Similarly, every student, bar one, who gave either Nutrition or Home 
Science as her favourite subject did not pay fees. In contrast, every student who 
chose Accountancy, Political Science, or Maths as her favourite was fee-paying. It 
could be that while poorer students may have greater aspirations in private, they 
fear that these aspirations may be imprudent and threaten their future 
marriageability or family reputation. Consequently they opt for subjects leading 
to jobs which will provide them with security. 

Figure 2: Favourite subject areas - fee-paying status 

Non-Fee Paying Students Fee-Paying Students 

unspecified 2 % 

15% . Humanities 



Language 5% 


The co-curricular programmes, particularly the educational ones, evoked varied 
responses from students. Commitment ranged between those who expressed little 
connection with the programmes, seeing them as a 'waste of energy (for me) but it 
helps the poor children to learn about general knowledge' (Year 9) to those who 
expressed a sense of ownership, pride, and genuine excitement in the school's 
achievements: 7 am proud to be part of such a unique institution. I plead to all the 
other schools around the world to communicate with us and build up a chain to reach 
out for the less privileged group. I hope the mission of our school would reach the apex 
of success and prosperity and we will be able to feel all the more proud' (Year 10). 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

When invited to describe the skills that their participation in the programmes has 
developed, many students spoke of confidence and being taught 'to become self 
independent and build a character of our own' (Year 8). Most students chose to 
focus, not on personal gains, but on how the programmes are about learning to 
'Sacrifice, to co-operate and to be compassionate towards others' (Year 10), and to 
become 'a complete countryman and . . . know how to serve the country' (Year 9). 

In cases where students said they had developed practical skills, these were linked 
with becoming teachers or parents, by learning 'how to control children and how to 
behave with children (Year 9). This element of service appears to be closely linked 
with their identification of women as nurturers and givers. Commenting on her 
single-sex education, one Year 11 student asserted, 'I strongly feel that it develops our 
feminine identity and helps us to develop the feminine qualities like perseverance and 
adjustment to our family members'. Such a strong assertion suggests that this 
student sees her education in terms reminiscent of the old 1920s education-reform 
slogan 'Educating a girl means educating a family' (Mukhopadhyay and Seymour 
1994: 38). It orientates girls towards family duties and suggests that a girl's own 
needs, and perhaps goals, should be subordinated to those of her family. While the 
school's outreach programmes give the girls exposure to the realities and 
consequences of the patrifocal ideology and encourage them to reflect and speak 
out, there is only tentative engagement in and a certain resistance to the parameters 
of behaviour imposed on them by this ideology. For some, the programmes seem 
to be equating femininity with ideals of self-sacrifice and service. 

This definition of femininity was echoed by many of the students, and reinforced 
by statements such as 'from Loreto Sealdah we have learnt to give and give our 
knowledge, love, respect, kindness and a helping hand to the needy persons but in 
return we just want love, love and love' (Year 8). The school's philosophy of 
nourishing students' critical abilities and confidence to pursue justice for girls 
and women around them appears here to be subordinated to students' definition 
of femininity. In stressing their capacity for self-sacrifice and their loving 
natures, they are once again maintaining the ideology of appropriate female 
behaviour that the patrifocal ideology demands in order to maintain group 
harmony and welfare (Mukhopadhyay and Seymour 1994: 3). 

A single-sex school and responses to sexuality 

Regardless of the school's academic record, enabling activities, and high 
reputation, many parents continue to send their daughters to this school to 
ensure maintenance of female purity. This is confirmed by Sr. Cyril and senior 
students. Across all year groups, the data suggest that students have internalised 
an ideology which considers boys and girls to have distinct natures which 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

necessitate separation in education, with single-sex schools providing the safest 
option for girls. Comments such as 'Nowadays not all boys are good so it is 
important to a girl to study in an all-girls' school' exemplify perceptions of boys' 
innate ill intentions, which must result in the restriction of girls' movements. 
Such an emphasis places all the responsibility for action on girls, with male 
accountability a non-issue. 

Further to these discourses, some students commented that the single- sex school 
actually helps them to learn their distinct roles: 'School is a period when children 
grow up. Boys and girls are to grow up according to the manners suitable to them, 
which is different from one another (Year 12). Asked what 'manners' are suitable 
for girls, the students varied in their replies, according to their age. Ninety per 
cent of Year 7 students questioned thought that girls should be modest and 
obedient, while only 23 per cent in Year 12 agreed, which suggests that senior 
students had become more critical and questioning through Loreto's 
programmes. For some students, perceptions of the 'appropriate' behaviour of 
girls govern the range of topics that they can discuss. Some talked openly about 
their future husband and the numbers of children they wanted, while other 
deemed this 'unladylike'. However, some Year 12 students acknowledge this 
treasured space, saying 'girls have their own problems and their own views of life so 
it is better and easier to share these when in an all girls' school', and they 'can discuss 
feminist matters freely'. It is this opportunity for girls to discuss realities away 
from the presence of men that has been prized by many feminists (for example, 
Deem 1984; Mahony 1985; Scott and Spender 1980). 

Reflecting on Loreto Sealdah's programmes, one 15 -year-old student spoke of 
her increased awareness of women's subordinate positions in India: 'girls have 
always been treated badly, especially in the villages... Girls are also being hit, kicked, 
burnt and killed by their husbands and in-laws and some women are ill-treated by 
other men. The children from poorer families are given in marriage under-age and 
they suffer all their lives.' 

However, the ability to negotiate a strong position after school was questioned by 
some students, who stressed that the regulation of their sexuality and social 
interactions through single-sex schooling may impede their success in future life, 
because 'it sometimes leads to fear and hesitation for some of the girls to commu- 
nicate with the masculine world in their coming days' (Year 11). This is made all the 
more significant as senior students consistently identified life after school as 
being within a masculine realm, within which they had yet to negotiate a space. 
Students spoke of being 'faced with a whole new world' (year 10) and, repeatedly, 
about 'obstacles' ahead of them in the outside world. 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

Life after Loreto - finding a place in 'a whole new world' 

LDS also appears to function as a sanctuary where 'We can be ourselves (in our 
school) without any second thought for our actions' (Year 11). This is in contrast to 
life beyond school, the masculine world, where girls feel that their behaviour is 
under constant scrutiny. Students, particularly the older ones, mention their 
teachers in the same sentence as friends and identify them as their allies. One 
aspect of this openness towards teachers is the ability to approach teachers and 
ask for help or advice on school matters or personal life. A Year 8 student declares: 
'All girls should be given equal rights as boys. Nowadays in an all-girls school, they 
are treating girls equally. People must not think that girls are the weaker sex. Today 
a girl can do all the things that a boy can. I feel each and every girl should be allowed 
to go to school? It is suggested that the single-sex school is the structure through 
which this may be achieved. 

As with choice of subjects, when students were encouraged to look beyond 
school and focus on future careers, there was little evidence of moving beyond 
culturally sanctioned female occupations, such as nursing and teaching. This is 
not surprising, considering how strongly they perceive life after school as being 
full of obstacles which advantage men. But some fee-paying students identified a 
diversity of desirable careers, including those in science (6 per cent), law (4 per 
cent), medicine (9 per cent), the military (2 per cent), and business management 
(6 per cent), but they still showed little evidence of interest in risk-taking through 
(for example) entrepreneurship, despite the school's valuing of initiative. Non- 
paying students were significantly less imaginative: legal careers were not 
mentioned, and only 2 per cent wanted to be nurses, while 7 per cent mentioned 
business management, usually of small family businesses. 

As students become increasingly aware of the limited opportunities open to girls 
in a male-dominated labour market, they see teaching as a reliable career: 12 per 
cent of the students named it as their chosen career (8 per cent of fee-paying 
students, 17 per cent of non-paying students). Such a choice does little to 
threaten the prevalent ideology, but it provides the necessary social and cultural 
capital to maintain status and provide economic stability, while allowing them 
time to tend to their families. It may also demonstrate the function of teachers as 
role models, some themselves first-generation learners, offering practical 
examples of education leading to social mobility. This would clearly be 
important to the non-paying students, for whom teaching would provide the 
financial security denied to their parents. It is also a career of which all students 
have some experience through their involvement in the school's programmes, as 
mentioned previously, and one which allows them to give something back to 
their community - a very strong aspect of the school's philosophy. 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Focusing on future careers appeared problematic for the 34 per cent of students 
who chose not to answer this question. It may be that many girls see their future 
roles within the home or that, for the wealthier students, education is about 
building or maintaining status through qualifications, not careers. The fact that 
only small numbers of students appear to be heading into 'male' environments 
points to the continuing dangers that women can incur through damage to their 
social reputations in a male-dominated society. Modest aspirations may also 
indicate increasing awareness of the constraints imposed on girls, and the limited 
time that they have in school to establish confidence in themselves. Students 
therefore cherished their time at school, and 90 per cent agreed that 'Education 
helps to improve a woman's position in society'. The strength of this conviction 
may be reflected in the decision of 22 per cent of students surveyed to pursue 
some form of higher education. 


The form of schooling exemplified by Loreto Day School Sealdah presents 
numerous advantages as a means for increasing the participation and retention of 
girls in education in India. Its single-sex nature, combined with the levelling 
strategies employed since 1979, ensure that students from a diverse range of 
backgrounds participate fully in quality education. Once they are engaged in 
education, Loreto Sealdah provides girls with the support and encouragement 
that they need in order to remain in school and gain qualifications. Students are 
encouraged to reach their full potential through the academic curriculum, at 
which they are expected to succeed, and through the innovative co-curricular and 
enabling activities, which provide girls with a range of opportunities to exercise 
leadership and initiative, question the social position of women in India, and 
develop practical strategies to effect change and achieve their goals. This study has 
revealed that the students at LDS directly linked their reflection to the challenges 
posed by social equations with the single-sex environment of their school. 
However, although they are vociferous critics of the inferior position of many 
women in India, their desire for independence and female autonomy appears to 
be tempered by an internalisation of the ideals of female behaviour and roles that 
are embedded in a wider patrifocal ideology. The study also indicates that girls 
respond in different ways to the challenges ahead, according to what they believe 
to be the possibilities for change in their future lives. 

The case of Loreto Sealdah illustrates how students' responses to their education 
and their ability to maximise its benefits are conditioned by gendered identities 
formed inside and outside school. It illustrates the complexity and the 
interrelatedness of internal and external expectations and social pressures on girls. 


Enabling education for girls: the Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 

The LDS education is designed to provide its female students with the 
opportunities and abilities to challenge gendered identities that limit and constrain 
the ways in which girls can respond to their education - an education that Sr. Cyril 
describes as a true education: liberating girls from the fear which prevents them 
from achieving their full potential spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally (Sr. 
Cyril in Green 1996). Loreto Sealdah provides, therefore, an example of a valuable 
approach to education, which offers girls from all backgrounds in urban India the 
opportunity to achieve greater equality as women. 

Ruth Doggett is a qualified teacher who has taught in Ireland, the UK, and New 
Zealand. She gained her first degree in Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin, 
and a master's degree in Gender, Education, and Development at the Institute of 
Education at the University of London. She is currently co-ordinating a programme 
addressing educational disadvantage and early school leaving in Dublin. 


Arnot, M. ( 1983) 'A cloud over co-education: an analysis of the forms of transmission of class and 
gender relations', in S. Walker and L. Barton (eds.) Gender, Class and Education, New York: 
Palmer Press 

Brock, C. and N. K. Cammish ( 1 997) Factors Affecting Female Education in Seven Developing 
Countries, London: Department for International Development 

Colmcille, M. (1968) First The Blade: History of the IBVM (Loreto) in India 1841-1962, Calcutta: 

Cyril, Sr. (ed.) (1989) We Are the World - Experience Based Value Education for Schools, Kolkata: 
Orient Longman 

Cyril, Sr. (1991) 'Nurturing to Freedom: Loreto Education in India', paper presented at the Loreto 
Education Meeting at Dhyan Ashram 

Cyril, Sr. ( 1995) 'A School for Justice', Newsletter, Calcutta: Loreto Day School Sealdah 

Cyril, Sr. (1997) 'Ripples and Rainbows in a Regular School', Calcutta: Loreto Day School Sealdah 

Deem, R. (1984) Co-education Reconsidered, Milton Keynes: Open University 

Doggett, R. (2003) 'The Single Sex School as an Agent of Social Change - The Case of Loreto Day 
School Sealdah', unpublished MA dissertation, Institute of Education, University of London 

Drudy, S. and M. Ui Chatham (1999) Gender Equality in Classroom Interaction, Kildare: NUI 

Greene, E. (1996) 'From Dirt Streets to Rainbows: An Analysis of Loreto Sealdah's Dynamic 
approach to Education', unpublished paper, Pontifical University of Maynooth, Dublin 

Halstead,M. (1991) 'Radical feminism, Islam and the single sex school debate', Gender and 
Education, 3/3: 263-77 

Institute of The Blessed Virgin Mary website: 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Jessop, T. (1998) 'A Model Of Best Practice At Loreto Day School Sealdah, Calcutta, India', London: 
DFID Education Sector Group 

Karlekar, M. ( 1994) 'Woman's nature and access to education in Bengal' in Mukhopadhyay and 
Seymour (eds.) ( 1994) 

Mahony, P. ( 1985) Schools for the Boys - Co-education Reassessed, London: Hutchinson 

Majumdar, G. ( 1999) 'At this school, compassion is compulsory', available online at 1 099/hs 1 0995t.htm 

Malhotra, A. ( 1982) 'Problems of girls' education - future course of action', in Educational 

Development of Women in India, New Delhi: Ministry of Education and Culture, online at the 
Education Portal of the MHRD at 

Ministry of Human Resource Development Government of India (MHRD) (1997) 'Goals of EFA', 
online at the Education Portal of the MHRD at 1 .htm 

Mukhopadhyay, C. and S. Seymour (eds.) (1994) Women, Education and Family Structure in India, 
Oxford: Westview Press 

Ray, A. (2000) 'Sister Cyril's army of barefoot teachers', Changemakers Journal, August 2000, 

Ray, A. (2003) 'Rainbow children: dissolving differences', Changemakers Journal, October 2003, 

Ribbens, J. and R. Edwards ( 1 998) Feminist Dilemmas in Qualitative Research: Public Knowledge and 
Private Lives, London: Sage 

'Ripples and Rainbows', Quarterly Newsletter of Loreto Day School Sealdah ( 1 996-200 1 ) Sealdah, 

Spender, D. (1980) Learning to Lose: Sexism and Education, London: Women's Press 

Stromquist, N. P. (1998) Women in the Third World -An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Issues, 
London: Garland Publishers 

UMO (Union of Muslim Organisations of United Kingdom and Eire) (1975) Islamic Education and 
Single Sex Schools, Jamadi-al- Awwal: UMO 


13 Conclusion: policy and practice change 
for gender equality 

Sheila Aikman and Elaine Unterhalter 

What have the contributors to this book offered in terms of improving 
understanding, practice, and policy making to ensure that education for girls and 
women is gender-equitable, that it transforms the structures that shape their lives, 
and contributes to their empowerment? How can we use the learning generated 
here to influence not only the development of good policies - for it should be 
acknowledged that many good policies exist already, at least on paper but to 
influence the implementation of good policies which translate into high-quality 
educational experiences for girls and women and men and boys? 

The chapters in this book illustrate a vision of a transformational education that 
is currently being put in practice in a number of places. This is an education that 
promotes social change and contributes to building a just and democratic society. 
It is a view of education as a human right, a right which we are ethically obliged to 
provide for each other. The right to education is itself nested in other human 
rights. These include the right to live in health, without the indignities of poverty; 
and the right to an education which is free from violence and free from 
discrimination - not only gender-based discrimination and injustice but ethnic, 
economic, cultural, and social forms of discrimination. Where peoples such as 
indigenous Quechua groups of Peru (Chapter 7) or Somali pastoralists of Kenya 
(Chapter 6) experience negative discrimination in their education, women and 
girls find themselves doubly or triply marginalised, with less access to education, 
a poorer quality of education, and education of shorter duration than that on 
offer to boys and men. These chapters help to expand the concept of rights and 
capabilities presented in Chapter 1. Rights to education are not fulfilled simply 
because a set of laws at national or international level confers them. Women's and 
girls' rights to education are won through active processes of discussion and 
negotiation, to which research makes a contribution. Rights, seen in this way, are 
thus much like capabilities, and securing rights in education is bound up with 
ensuring the freedoms against violence and discrimination that will enable rights 
to be fulfilled. 

We are calling for a transformation of policy and practice so as to achieve this 
empowering education for all, irrespective of their sex. But what will it take to 
achieve it? 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

In broad terms, there are three ways in which the Millennium Development 
Goals (MDGs) can promote gender equality over the next ten years. In the first 
scenario - a 'business as usual' approach - we continue with the current patchy 
implementation of policies and programmes for gender equality, concentrating 
primarily on improving access, and leaving the responsibility for fulfilling 
human rights, promoting social change, and building a just society to short-term 
projects located (for example) in small units within education ministries, or to a 
handful of NGOs and groups of concerned teachers and education officials. 
Larger numbers of children will come into school, but only some will learn in 
ways that help them to thrive, and a considerable number will be subject to threat 
and violence in school. Some innovative and transforming programmes will be 
implemented, but funding and support for them may remain unreliable and 
limited, provided through committed teachers, NGOs, and community-based 
organisations with little institutional support or follow-up. This scenario is a 
revitalisation of a 'Women in Development' (WID) approach, with small 
projects engaged in 'Gender and Development' (GAD) work, or the development 
of thinking about gender, education, and human rights. 

In the second scenario we will have achieved Education For All, as proposed in the 
Dakar Framework for Action (itself a considerably enlarged vision compared with 
that sketched in MDG 2), and all children will be in school. But the links between 
improved education quality and gender equality will be made only in part, 
because attention will be focused on the formal education system, to the exclusion 
of wider societal considerations. Schools may receive resources to implement 
education reforms, and school-community relations may be improved through 
the work of school councils and by enhanced training for teachers in gender 
equality, as well as increased numbers of female teachers. But the vital linkages 
across and between sectors will remain fragile. This second scenario would see the 
expansion of GAD concerns within the formal education sector, and some 
concerted efforts by governments to treat gender equality as a human right. 
However, the links between gender equality in education and wider gender- 
equality agendas would be limited. 

In the third scenario the full vision for gender equality, as presented in the Beijing 
Platform for Action, will be realised, together with the resolutions made at other 
key international forums such as the International Conference on Population 
and Development at Cairo in 1994, and the World Summit for Social 
Development in 1995. This means that gender-equitable education will be based 
on broader societal change for gender equality, with implications for the 
sustainability of practice, and girls and women will be empowered to demand 
that their rights be respected and their positions in society strengthened. They 
will benefit from an education which provides them with the capabilities to 
achieve the freedoms and the kind of life that they have reason to value. This third 


Conclusion: policy and practice change for gender equality 

scenario would bring together the insights of all four frameworks discussed in 
Chapter 1: WID, GAD, post-structuralism, and 'capabilities and rights'. 

Achieving no more than Scenario 1 in the next ten years would be extremely 
unsatisfactory. It would mean that MGD 2 and MGD 3 were not achieved, and 
the expanded policy visions articulated in the 1990s would have been 
abandoned. Achieving Scenario 2 would be a good outcome, because it could 
provide the conditions that would generate Scenario 3. If Scenario 2 were 
achieved by 2010, therefore, we could push for a substantive change in social 
development in order to reach Scenario 3 by 2015. 

What have we learned about transforming policy and 

Because we believe that good learning and good research can guide good policy 
making, this book documents good innovative practice. However, it also 
documents problems, weaknesses, and shortcomings in practice and policy 
making. The book indicates that there are no quick fixes to the deep-rooted and 
often widely accepted forms of gender discrimination that affect education and 
schooling, but it does highlight key areas for change. 

The participation of women and girls in decision making about their own 
education is a fundamental aspect of developing an education which transforms 
women's lives in the way that they desire. Such participation would put into 
practice the concept of rights and capabilities that we believe will guide 
transformative policy. The school-based work on HIV/AIDS (Chapter 10) 
illustrates how young people - both girls and boys - need opportunities and 
space to explore, reflect, debate, and ask questions about their sexuality and 
HIV/ AIDS; it emphasises that the space needs to be safe, so that young people can 
challenge gendered power relations and develop their own understandings, 
which will enable them to change their behaviour. 

Transformational education needs transformed teachers. It is important therefore 
that the training of teachers and adult educators not only raises their status and 
self-esteem but is empowering for them and, through their teaching, for their 
students. In addition, the structures that shape teachers' lives, salary scales, career 
ladders, and conditions of work need to address concerns about gender 
inequality if the GAD vision is to be realised. Failure to attend to the consequence 
of gender inequalities in the employment and training of teachers created the 
conditions for the reproduction of gender inequality. Where a teacher transmits 
gender inequalities that are 'hidden' in the curriculum (for example in Mali, see 
Chapter 9) or discriminates against female students because of the teacher's own 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

prejudices and lack of awareness (for example in Peru, see Chapter 7), change is 
urgently needed - change of a type illustrated in the enabling aims of Loreto 
Sealdah School (Chapter 12), where teachers and students engage in structured 
reflection. Raising women's status through their participation in the Total 
Literacy Campaign (see Chapter 8) is a step towards empowerment which needs 
to be supported by government and by society. However, these small-scale 
changes at the project level need to be sustained and enhanced by attention in 
policy and practice to address the deep-seated structures of gender inequality 
that will always constrain anything that the most transformative teacher can do, 
unless they are supported by access to equal pay, good working conditions, and 
secured rights to participate in political, economic, and social decision making. 

But we are not suggesting that policies and practices which work in one context 
can be replicated in others wholesale. On the contrary, what works in one context 
may fail dismally in another. We are suggesting, however, that there is a need to 
look beyond the confines of the school or the literacy class and understand the 
bigger social, cultural, economic, and geographical environment in which it is 
embedded. The diversity of context, of learners, of teachers, as well as the diversity 
of frameworks for education and development within which we work (see 
Chapter 1 ), mean that we must develop flexible policies and flexible practices that 
take account of the different scenarios described above. The examples from Kenya 
(Chapters 5 and 6) remind us not only of the need for flexibility within national 
policies, but also of the need for a range of different strategies for change, each 
tackling different and interrelated aspects of education and gender equality. 

The processes of learning and influencing that enrich policy and practice can only 
flourish if there are good partnerships between practitioners, policy makers, and 
researchers. The foregoing chapters recognise the importance of civil society 
working in small-scale and innovative projects and programmes, linking with 
government and intergovernment organisations charged with policy making. 
They also recognise the extent to which NGOs themselves influence policy, and the 
way in which governments responsible for national policy can also learn from their 
own practice. We are not necessarily dealing with discrete categories - practitioner 
or policy maker - but we should recognise that there is often a large degree of 
overlap and also of movement between the two: policy makers sitting in 
government ministries may have been teachers, or they may have worked with an 
NGO or UN agency - and vice versa. A change of government, such as that which 
took place in South Africa in 1994, or the successive regime changes in Peru during 
the 1990s, means that an influential lobbyist from the NGO sector can overnight 
become an influential policy maker in the ministry of education or finance. 

NGOs and civil-society actors have an important part to play in influencing the 
policy and practice of government. And good documentation of innovative, 


Conclusion: policy and practice change for gender equality 

good-quality, and small (or not so small) education programmes is key to 
successful advocacy and lobby for change. MDG 8 calls for developing a global 
partnership for development and recognises the importance of civil-society 
participation in change for the achievement of the MDGs themselves. Civil 
society, and especially the work of national education coalitions of civil-society 
organisations (see, for example, Chapters 2 and 5), have a very important role to 
play in partnering government for successful education. The work of women's 
organisations in promoting transformative agendas is crucial, and here we find 
that there is more work to be done across sectors (see, for example, Chapter 8) and 
at all levels of the education system, to foster respect and facilitate negotiation of 
aims and objectives. There are organisations and groups of concerned and 
involved women, teachers, communities, and parents which need more space and 
greater voice in policy- development processes. As Elimu Yetu in Kenya illustrates 
(see Chapter 5), NGOs and national coalitions are lobbying to gain this space. 

Strong political will and leadership in a range of social sectors and settings is 
important, and there is evidence that political commitment is beginning to achieve 
change. While that change may not be as extensive or transformative as we desire 
(see Ahmed and Chowdhury 2005), it provides us with evidence of what is possible 
and with examples of how to proceed where high levels of political commitment 
are accompanied by civil-society action and dynamism. In countries where there 
has been significant political commitment to change at all levels, we see how 
dramatic actions, such as the abolition of school fees, can result in huge numbers of 
girls attending school, and the first steps being taken towards gender equality in 
education. There may be a process of moving from WID to GAD to rights and 
capabilities, but it is important that the momentum of that process is maintained, 
and equally important that policy should extend beyond a narrow focus on access. 

As this book has shown, the evidence of political will and social mobilisation 
does exist. We do know a lot about what good-quality, gender-equitable 
education looks like, and what needs to change in order to achieve it. The 
Millennium Development Goals provide an opportunity to galvanise new 
resources, new partnerships, and collective energies and commitment to 
overcome the difficulties and to achieve really significant results. 


Ahmed, M. and R. Chowdhury (2005) 'Beyond Access: Partnership for Quality with Equity', Institute 
of Education and Development, BRAG University; Campaign for Popular Education, CAMPE), 



Page numbers in italics denote information 
in tables 

Abracancha,Peru 150, 156, 157, 159 
ActionAid Kenya (AAK) 116, 117-18, 121, 


adolescents 208-9 

adult basic education and literacy 5-6 
advocacy and local sensitisation, Kenya 


affirmative-action programmes 23 

Central and Southern, in-school 

feeding programmes 47 
East, Central, and South, Sara initiative 


faith and gender in 214-15 
French-speaking, gender inequalities 


reluctance to educate girls 131 
withdrawal of girls from school 39 
Africa, Commonwealth 
changes 1990s-2003 69 
GEEI 69, 73, 74 
Africa, Southern 

female enrolments 53, 203 
response to HIV in schools 200 
Aga Khan Foundation 120 
aid, needs to be increased and intelligently 

targeted 57 
Alternative Basic Education, Karamoja 


animatrices 185-6, 188, 193, 194 
challenges 187 
changes in attitudes to girls' education 


impact on early marriages 187 
lobbyists within local communities 

need for equity and girls' right to 

education 188 
not concerned with transformation 

promotion of girl-friendly 

environment 187-8 
serve as positive role models for local 

girls 186 
success in increasing number of girls 

in school 187 
success in increasing access and 

retention of children 181 
work with Parents' Associations 186 
ASC see Association des Servantes de Christ 


effect of communist governments on 

the GEEI 72-3 
effort needed to reach GEEI 95 by 2015 


GEEI (1993-2001) 70 
most countries show gains 70 
Association des Servantes de Christ (ASC) 

Bangladesh 46, 52, 73, 83-105 

Campaign for Popular Education 

(CAMPE) 63B 
dowry violence 84-5 
family ordinance laws 85 
Female Stipend Programme (FSP) 


Food for Education programme 47 
growth in secondary-school 

enrolment 87, 88 
Meena Initiative 51 
Prohibition of Dowry Act, of little 

value 84 



Qudrat-e-Khuda Education 

Commission Report 85 
Bangladesh Rural Advancement 

Committee (BRAG) 45 
Begusarai District, India 167-72, 178n 
Beijing Declaration 27 
Beijing Platform for Action 3 
gender-equitable education and 

gender equality 246-7 
Beira, Mozambique 200-2, 205, 208-9 
Bible reading 217-18, 220 
bilingual projects, rural Andes 161 
Boal,Augusto 204-5 

'the great game of power' 207-8 
Botswana 49 

attitudes to Female Stipend 

Programme 92, 93 
attitudes to sexual partners 201 
views on girls' education 100-1 
Brahmo Samaj 228-9 
bridging (accelerated) programmes 


Burkina Faso, gender, education and 
Pentecostalism 212-26 
space for women's education 224 
unlikely to reach education goals in 

Dakar Framework 2 1 5 

for girls from poor families 160-1 
Kenya 11 7, 123 
see also stipends 

Calvary Evangelistic group 117 
Cambodia, community-based pre-schools 

Campaign for Popular Education 

(CAMPE) 63B 

capabilities, measurement of 65-6 
capability approach (Sen and Nussbaum) 

Caribbean, girls in school affect boys' 

underachievement 19 
centres of excellence 1 1920 
Christian Children Fund (CCF) 117 
Christianity, its role in Africa 214 
civic-society organisations 

BGVS as a civil-society partner 167, 
168-77, 178n 

important role in education 249 
co-curricular programmes, LDS 231, 
232-4, 238-9 
Barefoot Activity-Based Teacher 

Training Programme 234 
concept of a night shelter 233 
element of service 239 
Hidden Child Labour Project 234, 236 
rainbow programme 233 
rural programme 232-3 
varied responses from students 238-9 
Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF) 125 
Commonwealth Education Ministers' 

Conference (2003) 28 
communities, raising awareness of 
importance of educating girls 51 
community schools 45, 49 
condoms, gendered reasons for not using 


Convention on the Elimination of All 
Forms of Discrimination against 
Women 84 

Convention on the Rights of the Child 27 
curriculum reform, Mali 189-92 
'familial economy' module 189-90 
opted for competency-based and skill- 
based curriculum 189 
reform processes, bilingual education 

and curriculum reform 189 
survey based on male-female roles and 

relationships 190-1 
women's and girls' representation in 

the curriculum 191-2 
women's and girls' roles 190-1 

Dakar Framework 215 

democratic government, in countries with 

democratisation, indigenous struggles for 

developing countries 

few female primary-school teachers 

gender and learning, variation 

between countries 62 
limited progress in expanding female 

employment 38 

nearly all require parents to pay some 
charges 39 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

Development Alternative for Women in 

the New Era (DAWN) 167 
donors, bilateral and multilateral, to set 

clear targets 52 
dowries 84-5, 100 

class-related issues in 94 

do not always work against girls' 

education 39 
education reduces dowry demand 94, 


impact of education on 90 
drama and role-play 204-5 
Dramaide 200 

Early Childhood Development and Care 

Centres 40, 51 
early marriage 

low value attached to girls' education 


and schooling, Kenya 108, 109 
EDI see Education and Development 

Index (EDI) 
education 23, 24 

basic, value of increased spending 57 

benefits of educating girls 18 

and cultural values 96-8 

efforts to expand access for all children 


eliminating gender inequality in 43-4 
encourage a range of provision 55-6 
end the 'queue' for 54 
enhancing children's capacity/self- 
confidence 42 

formal, improving girls' access to 2 
gender equity in 183-4 
for girls in Bangladesh 45, 83-105 
huge popular demand for 2, 46 
Kenya, tradition of cost-sharing 


as a key capability 28 
leading to social mobility 241 
low rates of participation 141-2 
making gender equality a reality 52-8 
measuring gender equality, recent 

developments 62-5 
parity, equality, equity and quality 2-4 
and Pentecostalism, Burkina Faso 

a practical or strategic gender need 2 1 

problems with measures of gender 

equality and inequality 65 
reasons for dropping out 39 
recommended initiatives to improve 

girls' access 53 

right to nested in other rights 245 
in the rural Andes 1 56-60 
seen as a tool for rebuilding livelihoods 


transformational 245 
transformational needs transformed 

teachers 247-8 

unprecedented demand for secondary- 
school places 46 
as a way to diversify the pastoral 

economy 135 

Education and Development Index (EDI) 

problems with 64-5 
Education For All (EFA) 229 

changed perception of education for 

girls, Peru 162 
and expansion of GAD 246 
mainstreaming gender within 

44, 45B 

official reports from Kenya 142 
pressure to achieve 2 
programmes focus on easing 

constraints on access 44 
strategies of the Kenyan government 


success of BRAC schools 45 
education and gender equality 
challenges for 7-8 
current measures of 60-2 
four approaches to 15-17 
Education Management Information 

Systems (EMIS) 61 
education, quality of 156 

crucial for achieving gender equality in 

schooling 4 

efforts to improve in Peru 161 
impact of expanded access to 

schooling 98-9 
in Mali, flexible and innovative 

approach 183-4 

educational materials, Mali 191-2, 194n 
images portray current gender realities 




educational materials, rural Andes, 

remained little used 157 
Elimu Yetu Coalition 249 

approach to campaigning and 

advocacy 124 
campaigning to influence policies and 

plans 123-5 
formation 123 
empowerment 208 

of girls and women 246-7 
measurement of, Kabeer's discussion 

not an overt part of FSP programme 

through experiences provided by 

Loreto Sealdah 232 
and understandings of equality 21-2 
empowerment of women 
economic, support for 43 
in India 166, 173-4 
in a patriarchal system 167-8 
women's literacy proxy indicator for 


based on an understanding of human 

capabilities 28 

GAD theorists' understanding of 22-3 
Escuela Nueva, Colombia 143, 145n 
Ethiopia, challenging sexual harassment 

EYC see Elimu Yetu Coalition 

Fair Chance report 53-4, 53 
Family Planning Club (Ethiopia) 48 

Fast Track Initiative (FTI) 57-8 
feeding programmes 

free school meals for girls 54 

in-school, Kenya 1 16 

in-school, Mali 182, 188 

Malawi 46-7 

school breakfasts 161 
female genital mutilation (FGM) 121-2 

among the Maasai 107, 108 
Female Stipend Programme case study 

perceptions of FSP and girls' education 


Female Stipend Programme (FSP), 
Bangladesh 83, 85-90 

based within a WID framework 87 
eligibility for 86 

logo on promotional material 96-7 
much non-enrolment attributable to 

poverty 100 
multiple meanings of girls' education 

offers an allowance to send girls to 

school 86 

praised internationally 86 
pressure for means-testing 86, 100 
sees girls' education enhancing 
traditional cultural values 96 
some public outbreaks of male 

resistance 89 

success in increasing enrolment 87 
widespread support for 100 
female teachers 

lack of, affects girls' education 41,111 
needed to encourage girls' enrolment 


feminism 2 1,23 
femocrats, obtain resources for gender 

equality in education 25 
FGM see female genital mutilation (FGM) 

forced marriage 119, 120, 121 
Forum for African Women 
Educationalists (FAWE) 
challenges gender sensitivity of Mali's 

new curriculum 189-90 
establishment of centres of excellence 

wishes to influence education-policy 

formulation 123 
Forum for African Women 
Educationalists (FAWE), Kenya 
holistic approach to enhancing girls' 

education 11 9-20 
provides seed money to school 

managers 115-16 

Forum Theatre (community theatre) 204 
FSP see Female Stipend Programme 
(FSP), Bangladesh 

GAD approach 20-6, 30, 246 
expansion of 246 

focused on sexual division of labour 21 
grew mainly out of women's 
organisations 21 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

measurement of empowerment, 

Kabeer's discussion 22 
research, mainly small-scale projects 

significance of gendered power 

structures of inequality 20 
GAD (gender and development) 

framework 15, 16, 17 
Gao region, Mali 

current Oxfam programme 182 
education still reinforcing gender 

inequalities 193 
Fatimata's story 184-5 
homeofpastoralists 181-2 
political marginalisation 182 
population conservative and mainly 

non-literate 184 
severe food shortages 182 
GEEI see Gender Equality in Education 

Index (GEEI) 

GEI see gender-related EFA index (GEI) 

dismissed by politicians as a foreign 

concept 44 
in the EDI 64-5 
and faith in Africa 214-15 
in HIV education 201-4 
and power 207-8 
gender advocates 

co-opted from NGOs to government 

positions 44 

involving and nurturing of 5 1-2 
gender bias 138, 141,145 

in textbooks and school lessons 162 
gender blindness, in Malian educational 

materials 191-2 
gender budgeting 25, 26 
Gender Development Index (GDI) 65, 67, 

gender and development strategies, 

effective 43 
gender division of household labour, 

Kenya 108-10 
gender and education 

concerns in developing countries 24 
in high-income countries 245 
and human rights 246 
Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) 
average of three indices 68 

criticisms of 68 
low position of Bangladesh 84 
gender equality 2, 3-4, 55, 125 
developing a concern for 208 
differing approaches to 3 
equality means a functioning and 

positive school environment 47-8 
expressed most fully by the Beijing 

Platform for Action 3 
as a human right 246 
policy and practice change for 245-9 
raising importance of 5 
some aspects 3-4 
a theme in HIV education 206 
a topical issue in Mozambique 208-9 
towards an alternative measure 65-6 
gender equality in education 249 
challenges for 7-8 
current measures of 60-2 
four approaches to 15-17 
making it a reality 52-8 
no substitute for detailed research 66 
problems with developing a 

quantitative measure of 66 
recent developments in measurement 

of 62-5 

and in society as a whole 4 
Gender Equality in Education Index 
(GEEI) 67-71 
calculation 76, 77 
Commonwealth Africa 69 
in Mali 190-1 
measures used for girls' access to and 

retention in school 67 
a weighted index 67 
what does it tell us 71-5 
gender equity 3-4, 43, 200, 203 

in education 4, 183-4 
gender gap 2-3, 42-52 

in access, targets for elimination 52 
bridging (accelerated) programmes 


community schools 45, 49 
in enrolments and achievements 42 
ensuring girls' safety and dignity at 

school 47-9 

free primary education for all 45-6 
greatest where enrolments are low 54 
involving communities 51 



involving and nurturing gender 

advocates 512 
mainstreaming gender within EFA 

strategies 44, 45 
para-teachers 50 
parental incentives to educate girls 

priority measures for integrated 

strategies 55-6 
promoting early childhood education 

and care 5 1 

shown by GER and NER 61-2 
still wide in Mali 181 
taking women and education seriously 

what has been done to close the gap 


gender identities 242, 243 
gender inequality, Mali 190, 192 
gender inequality (ies) 1 

in basic education, constraints 36, 


conditions for reproduction of 247-8 
in education, elimination of 43-4 
and GAD 23 

main success factors for elimination 36 
in pastoral districts of Kenya 138-40 
in primary- school participation, 

Kenya 131 

progress in elimination 42-3 
risk of creating in secondary school 

places 46 
in school 203 

severe in universities/higher- 
education institutions 56-7 
WID approach to challenge of 19 
gender mainstreaming 25-6 
across organisations 122 
within EFA strategies 44, 45 
gender needs, practical and strategic 2 1 
gender parity 2-3, 55, 62, 66, 86, 125 
abolition of fees, girls may suffer 

(Kenya) 141 

among rural teachers 55 
Burkina Faso's chances of achieving 

development of locally appropriate 

strategies 44, 45 
in enrolment 89 

Kenya 140, 142 
limited scope of 64B 
misplaced emphasis on in the MDGs 5 
a narrow aspiration 3 
Peru, in primary education 149 
gender relations 205, 219 

and HIV education 202, 207-8 
gender roles, impact of the ASC on 222-4 
gender targets 52 
gender training 26 
gender-disaggregated data 

on primary gross enrolment ratios 

(GER) 60, 6 1-2 

on progression through school 62 
gender-enrolment parity 53 
gender-equity approach, encouraged girls 

to assert sexual rights 202 
gender-related EFA index (GEI) 
concerned with parity 64 
developed by UNESCO 62 
gender-sensitisation clubs 115-16, 118-19 
gender-sensitive curricula 42 
GER see Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) 
Girl Child Network (GCN) 115 
mentors act as role models 118 
now sponsors girls in secondary school 

girls 5 1 

affirmative action in education 

provision 125 
African, schooling seen as irrelevant or 

risky 139 
encouraged to take control of own 

sexuality 2 19 
ensuring safety and dignity at school 


Fatimata's story 185 
individual and social bias against, 

pastoralist Kenya 138 
initially reluctant to respond in class 

likely to be affected by impact of 

in mixed-sex groups, often the most 

articulate 207 

parental incentives for education 46-7 
poor, reasons for dropping out of 

school 39-40 
promoting positive images of 1 18-20 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

strongly agreed the FSP was beneficial 


and their future roles 241-2 
urbanisation, positive pressure in 

access to school 134-5, 135 
Girls' Clubs (Ethiopia), challenging sexual 

harassment 48B 
girls' education 

and early marriage 38-9, 108, 109B 
failure to motivate or encourage girls 

failure to protect girls' basic rights and 

dignity 41 
girls have too much to do at home 

government schools are few and far 

between 40 

health and productivity benefits 56 
integrated strategies for 44-5 
Kanchi's story 38B 
Mali, still about gender parity 193 
political commitment to 36 
priority measures for integrated 

strategies 44-5 
school too expensive 39 
son preference 37-8 
still many obstacles to progress 125 
top-down approach a leading cause of 

failure 56 

girls' education, Bangladesh 83-105 
education and cultural values 96-8 
fathers' education and assets may have 

negative effects 88-9 
Female Stipend Programme 85-90 
focus areas 83 

frequently mentioned advantages 89 
impact on dowry 90 
impact of expanded access to 

schooling 98- 100 
multiple meanings of 91-100 
objective of channelling girls into 

teaching 90 
perceptions of FSP and girls' education 


purpose of 95-6 

reasons sited for not educating girls 90 
small amount of cultural bias against 

still significant gap in exam results 99 

strong reservations about quality and 

relevance 89 

stylised uniform of dupatta 96 
was focused on 'enlightened 

motherhood' 85 
girls' education, Kenya 
effects of poverty 110 
financing initiatives to support girls 


findings of the Elimu Yetu Coalition 106 
government strategies 112-14 
in-school factors 106, 1 1 1-12 
insufficient learning materials 1 12 
Kajiado District 107, 108, 109, 111,119 
low opinions of some teachers of girls' 

performance 1 1 1 
Nairobi, informal settlements 107, 

need to raise community awareness of 

importance 1256 
not as highly valued as boys' education 


Ominde and Koech reports 112-13 
out-of-school factors 106, 108-1 1 
re-entry programmes 1 15, 1 15 
regional disparities in primary 

enrolment 106 
Tharaka District 107, 112 
variations in drop-out rates 106 
Girls Education Movement (GEM), 

intervention by WERK 117 
girls' education, northern Mali 

aim of Oxfam GB and local NGOs 


low demand for 182 
two sets of barriers to 182, 183 
girls' education, rural Andes 

affected by multiple factors 150 
distance and availability barriers to 


interventions targeted at rural girls 163 
more fragile and fragmented than boys 


girls, Peruvian 155, 160 
Global Campaign for Education 36, 58, 1 24 
Global Monitoring Reports (UNESCO) 
2003 24 
2003/2004 statistics for Burkina Faso 




2004, focus on four proxy measures for 

quality 63 
tried to link quality with equality in 

schools 63-4 
view of gender 62-3 
Global Week of Action for Education 
April 2003 185 
April 2005 2, 124-5 
Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) 60, 61-2, 181 

Herz, G. and B. Sperling, What Works in 

Girls' Education IS 

hidden costs of children's schooling 46 
HIV education 

gender and power 207-8 
helping adolescents make sense of 

their culture 208-9 
issues and assumptions about 

femininity and masculinity 201 
need for training 209-10 
team work in 205 
use of drama 2045 
workshop approach 205-7 
HIV/AIDS 57, 126 

and gender, comprehensive approach 

needed 6 

learning about in schools 199-21 1 
makes burden of work for girls acute 

needs to be mainstreamed into school 

subjects 199 
orphans in Kenya 1 10 
and post-structuralist thinking 27 
school-based work on 247 
as a topic, still contested ground 202-3 
human development and human rights in 

development 16, 17 
Human Development Index 65 

position of Bangladesh 84 
human-capital theory 28 


crossing cultural boundaries 172-7 
gender segregation persists in the 

classroom 41 
Loreto Day School for Girls Sealdah 

purdah pratha, a physical restriction on 

women's liberty 1 72 

rural, domestic work expected of girls 


inequalities, of gender, class and 
race/ethnic identity 25 

Jomtien Declaration 27 

and pastoralist Kenya 132 
Jordan, limitations of quantitative 
measures of gender parity 64B 

Kajiado District 107, 108, 1 1 1 
Centres of Excellence 1 19 
chiefs try to reduce poverty 1 16 
collaboration to fight for the rights of 

the child 121 

early marriage and schooling 109 
Kenya 106-27, 248 

abolition of (primary) school fees 20, 


advocacy and local sensitisation 121-3 
Arid/Semi-Arid Areas, problems with 

girls' schooling 116 
Basic Education Fund 1 15, 1 19, 121 
benefits of low-cost ECDC 

programmes 51 

bursaries and sponsorship 1 17, 123 
campaigns against retrogressive 

cultural practices 121-2 
centres of excellence 119-20 
Children's Act (2001) 113, 125 
commitment to redressing problems 

in girls' education 113 
cost-sharing in education 140-1 
education needs to adapt 145 
expansion of primary education 128 
factors influencing girls' prospects 


financing of small businesses 1 16 
flexible models of schooling 117-18 
Free Primary Education Programme 

(FPE) 112, 113, 125, 141 
Gender Education Policy 1 14, 125 
gender-sensitisation clubs 115-16, 


Girls' Clubs 117 

harambee (self-help) schools 140 
head teachers, promoting girls' 

education 118 
in-school feeding programmes 116 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

interventions in girls' education 


little change in education policy 145 
Mobile School Project, north Eastern 

Province 118 
national data, hide significant 

disparities 131 
NGO initiatives 1 14-20 
on-going review of the Education Act 

out-of-school centres in Samburu 

pastoralist districts, gender-based 

disparities 143 
public policy and attitudes and norms 

of behaviour 139-40 
teaching methodologies 130 
Western Kenya Girl Child Network 1 15 
Kenya, learning to improve education 
policy for pastoralists 128-48 
abolition of fees, differential impact on 

girls and boys 141 
boarding-school provision vs. day 

schools 132-3 
enrolment, low rate for NE Province 

factors influencing participation 

gender inequalities in primary-school 

participation 131 
geographical inequalities in school 

participation 130, 131 
girls perform domestic labour 139 
need for pastoralist-aware gender 

strategy 143 
non-formal education, ensuring 

quality of 143-4 
pastoralism and education 144 
policies for effective change 142-3 
policies inappropriate for pastoral 

districts 128 
poverty and financing education 


provision 128, 132-3 
retention 133-4, 134 
vulnerable groups, basic education 

rarely available 133 
Kibera Slum Education Programme 
(Kenya) 123 

Las Chulpas, Peru 

comments of the head teacher 158 
corporal punishment 158-9 
head teacher trying out new 

methodological strategies 162 
life in 153 

primary schooling 150 
restrictions of family assets on girls 


the school day 157 
textbooks not used regularly 157 
Las Lomas, Peru 162 

primary schooling 150-1 
Latin America 

effort needed to reach 95 GEEI by 2015 


GEEI for (1993-2004)77 
Nicaragua and Guatemala, low GEEIs 


sharp division in GEEI increases 72 
LDS see Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 
Letting Girls Learn (World Bank 
Discussion Paper: Herz) 87-8 
lack of 1 

link to gaining empowerment 168 
maintained and reinforced through 

Bible reading 2 17- 18 
Loreto Day School Sealdah, India 227-44 
academic curriculum 234, 237-8 
awards 229-30 
brief history 228-31 
career choice of some fee-paying 

students 241 
co-curricular programmes 231, 232-4, 


'Compassion is Compulsory' 23 1 
distinguished reputation 229-30 
'enabling activities' 235-7, 248 
ethos 23 1-2 

fee status of Years 7-12 230-1, 230 
good public examination results 232 
integration of some 'rainbow' students 

involvement in Shikshalaya Prakalpa 

movement 234 
life after Loreto 241-2 
a model of best practice 229 
a multicultural educational setting 229 



non-stereotypical messages/ images 

about women's roles 235 
opportunities and abilities to challenge 

gender identities 243 
reaching out to the underprivileged 

single-sex school and responses to 

sexuality 239-40 
social position affects favoured status 

of subjects 238, 238 
Value Education curriculum 236 
'work education', a curricular subject 


Loreto Day School Sealdah students 
aware of structural inequalities 236 
critical of inferior position of women 


definition of femininity 239 
an LDS education: response 2379 

Maasai, cultural beliefs and education 107 

Manila Shikshan Vihar, Jalore (Rajasthan), 

residential education programme for 

young women 50 

abolition of school fees 20, 46 
feeding programmes for primary- 
school children 467 
League of Malawi Women 5 1-2 

attitudes/textbooks reinforce gender 

inequalities 192 
barriers to education 183 
curriculum reform 189-92 
distance to school in rural regions 40 
mobile-school initiative discontinued 

needs flexible and diverse approaches 

to education 188 
Oxfam programme works towards 

curriculum reform 189 
parents' expectations of marriage for 

their daughters 39 
Ten Year Plan for Transforming 

Education 192 
training in health/hygiene and 

HIV/AIDS awareness 183 
Mali, pastoralist schools in 181-95 
the animatrice model 186 

challenges 187-9 

Fatimata's story 184-5 

a joined- up sustainable approach 

new curriculum, women's and girls' 

roles 190-1 

Oxfam's strategic aim 184 
women and girls in the school 

curriculum 191-2 
MDG 2 1,2 

concerned with gender equality in 

schooling 15 
failure to meet targets 30 
MDG 3 1,2, 4 

advancement of 5-7 

concerned with the empowerment of 

women 15 

and reaching gender parity 62 
MDG 8, calls for a global partnership for 

development 249 

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 
government and donors must work 

together 54-8 

information from the GEEI 73-5 
low- income countries need substantial 

help 57 

promoting gender equality 246-7 
Mobile School project, Wajir District, 

Kenya 137-8 
Muslim women, effects of purdah 172 

Nairobi, informal settlements 109-10 

girls lack money for sanitary wear 1 10 

girls overburdened with housework 

reasons for dropping out of school 1 10 

work of Singa Center 1 1 7 

democracy movement and girls' 
education movement 43-4 

female primary-school teachers in 42 

primary-school stipends 46 
net enrolment ratios (NER) 60-3 

gender advocates co-opted from to 
government positions 44 

initiatives in Kenya 1 14-20 

key role of in education 55-6 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

may influence policy 248 

see also ActionAid Kenya (AAK); 

Oxfam GB 
Nigeria, teachers more responsive to boys 

non-formal education (ActionAid Kenya) 

Ntanira Na Mugambo, raising awareness 

about FGM 122 
nutrition, improved 46-7 

opportunity costs, higher for girls than 

boys 39-40, 139 
Oxfam GB 116 

data on attitudes to change and gender 

equity in Mali 190 
Gender Equitable Education in West 

Africa programme 193-4 
on-going work with pastoralist schools 

in Gao, Mali 181-95 
Promoting Gender- Equitable Basic 

Education, West Africa 181 
support for Kibera Slum Education 

Programme 123 
supports Nomadic Primary Health 

and Mobile School in Wajir 118 
supports partner in Wajir 1 1 7 

Pakistan, North West Frontier and 

Baluchistan 37-8 
para-teachers 50 
participatory methods 

involving communities in girls' 

education 5 1 

use of in HIV training 200 
pastoralism, problematic relationship 

with education 129 
'patrifocal family structure and ideology' 


Pentecostalism in Burkina Faso 212-26 
People's Movement, Rajasthan 51 
Peru, educational exclusion of rural girls 

daily life, work and poverty 1 52-6 
initiatives guarantee enrolment of all 

school-age girls 161 
issues affecting girls' exclusion 161-2 
methodology 151-2 
new projects forget needs of girls 161 

research site 150-1 

the school experience 156-60 

temporary or permanent withdrawal 

from school 154 
physical facilities in schools 41 
policy and practice 7 

change for gender equality 245-9 
changing things through practice 

development of flexible policies and 

practices 248 

doing things differently 11-12 
GAD influence seen at two levels 25-6 
need to take a wider view 248 
NGOs and civil-society actors 248-9 
policy-making process 56 
political will and leadership 249 
post-structuralist approach 26-7, 247 
equality not a major concern 27 
methodology and the 'colonial gaze' 

questions stability of definitions of 

gender 16, 17 
poverty 6, 141 

affecting girls' education 39-40, 


Burkina Faso 215-16 
driving force behind urbanisation in 

Wajir 136 
extra help needed to keep girls in 

school 26 
and the financing of education, Kenya 


of pastoralists 138 
prevents girls from realising full 

potential 37, 38 
in rural Peru 152-5 
power and gender 207-8 
male participants 208 
various types 207-8 
women participants 208 
pre-schools, community-based 51 

considered girl's responsibility to avoid 

forces girls to drop out of school 48-9, 


and re-entry programmes 49, 1 15, 126 
primary education 67, 120 



focus of MDGs on questioned 5-6 
free for all, Bangladesh 45-6 
Kenya 128, 130, 131, 132, 142 
Peru 149, 150, 156 
re-entry after giving birth 115 
teachers' stipends 46, 54 

private secondary schools 40 

purdah 166-7, 172-7 

rights, needs, and capabilities 16, 27-9, 

risk, gender- related dimensions of 206 

San Juan, Peru, primary schooling 150, 


school attendance, influences on 154 
school-attendance ratios, Peru 152 

flexible models of 117-18 

hidden costs 154 

impact of expanded access to 98-100 

parental decision-making 37-8 

removal of fees makes schooling easier 


too expensive 39 

appropriate places to teach about 

HIV/AIDS 2-3, 203-4 
ensuring girls' safety and dignity 47-9 
fail to motivate or encourage girls 41-2 
fail to protect girls' basic rights and 

dignity 41 
in poor communities, rescue plan for 

provision of toilets and running water 

and re-entry programmes after 

pregnancy 49, 11 5, 11 5, 126 
secondary education for girls 227 
felt to be good for society 96 
private 40 
a remote possibility for rural Andean 

girls 155, 156 
secondary- school places 
need to create more 54, 56 
risk of creating gender inequality 46 
shortages of 56 

secondary-school scholarships/ stipends 

Sector Wide Approaches to Education 

(SWAPs) 52 

sedentarisation, and education 135 
sexual harassment 

and abuse, sanctions/penalties against 

55, 126 

of girls in schools 4 1,1 11 
and intimidation, dealing with 48 
sexual intercourse 

traded for goods or lifestyle benefits 


unprotected, and spread of HIV 206 
sexuality and gender, issues for adolescents 


Singa Center, Nairobi 117 
single-sex schools (LDS) 239-40 
son preference, in education 37-8 
South Asia 

concept of 'joyful learning' 42 
expansion of private secondary schools 


lack of literacy and numeracy in girls 3 
Sperling, B. see Herz, G. 
sponsorship, in girls' education 1 17 
stipends 47, 54 

for boys, an issue 92 

Female Stipend Programme (FSP), 

Bangladesh 85-90 
primary-school 46, 54 
sub-Saharan Africa 

expansion of private secondary schools 


feeding programmes for children 46-7 
gender equality, impact of HIV/ AIDS 

on attainment of 57 
gender gap 3 
gender-enrolment parity hard to reach 


sustainable education provision, support 

Tanzania, removal of school fees 30 
teacher-training college, access for young 

women 41 

in BRAG schools, recruited from local 

community 45B 

can reverse effects of HIV-awareness 
work 203 


Beyond Access: Transforming Policy and Practice for Gender Equality in Education 

and gender inequality 247 
engaging in sexual relations with 

young girls 203 

in India, use of biased language 41 
LDS, openness towards 241 
male, common response to HIV 202-3 
in Mali 193 
and managers, concern about gender 

equality 67 
need for urgent 46 
not trained to teach a second language 


pay more attention to boys 41 
payment of salaries 57 
professional training seems inadequate 


regular in-service training 119 
seen as role models 241 
status, pay, and support improved 55 
transformational, need for 247-8 
teachers, rural Andes 

approaches to teaching/learning 

limited 157-8 
changing practices have negative 

impact on girls 162-3 
dissatisfied and frustrated 158 
leave children open to abuse 159-60 
low expectations of pupils 158, 159 
order and control enforced through 

threats 159 
reinforce the domestic role of women 

among students 159 

India, seen as a reliable career for girls 

a political exercise in a gendered 

terrain 228 

teaching methodologies 130 
textbooks, images of women and men 42 
Tharaka District 107, 111 
bursary funds for girls 117 
lacking adequate sanitary facilities 


work of Ntanira Na Mugambo 122 
toilets and running water 47-8, 55, 1 12 
Total Literacy Campaign, Begusarai 167, 
Bharat Cyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) 

167, 168-77, 178n 

experiences of organisers, volunteers, 

and learners 173-7 
opened important spaces for all to 

make use of resources 167 
Post-Literacy and Continuing 

Education phases 168 
provision of space outside home for 

women to participate 172-3 
pushing social and geographical 

boundaries 173-4 
raising women's status through 248 
women's roles in the campaign 167 
Total Literacy Campaign, India 166-7 
aim 166 
delivery 166-7 
'Improved Pace and Content of 

Learning' 166 

post-campaign study in Begusarai 167 
training, of facilitators for HIV 

education 209- 10 


Alternative Basic Education, Karamoja 

initiative 138 
introduction of free primary schooling 

only African country with significant 

educational gains 69 
under- achievement, girls and boys 25 
UNDP, Human Development Reports 28, 


development of the Education 

Development Index (EDI) 64-5 
Global Monitoring Reports 24, 62-3, 

Noma Literacy prize for Loreto 

Sealdah 229 

awareness-raising programmes 51 
supported development of community 

schools 49 
United Nations Women's Conference 

(Nairobi) 167 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 27 
Universal Primary Education (UPE) 456 
university students, highly respected 209 
urbanisation, and participation 
relationship 134-5, 135 



Wajir District, Kenya 

cost-sharing negative and inequitable 

education decisions based on family's 

best interests 136-7 
education a livelihoods-diversification 

strategy 136 
factors influencing participation 

government response to increased 

demand for schools 132 
latent demand for education among 

pastoralists 138 
lowest primary-school participation 

rates 128, 142 

Mobile School project 137-8 
need for alternative models 129 
poverty driving urbanisation 136 
primary-school provision 132 
retention rate higher than nationally 

134, 134 
small percentage of children attending 

school 130, 131 
subordinate status of girls and women 

success of the only girls-only school 


unequal gender relations 129 
ways of strengthening the family 

economy 136 

war/periods without democracy, 
countries with low GEEIs 71-2 
WERK see Women Educational 
Researchers of Kenya (WERK) 
WID approach 17-20, 30, 246 

equality understood as equal numbers 

of resources 19 
gender, education, and development 

or empowerment 18 
human-capital approach 28 
importance of including women in 

development planning 17 
influence of the King and Hill papers 

little attention to gendered learning 

processes 19 

policies associated with 20 
WID (women in development) 
framework 15, 16 

women 247 

empowerment of 43-4 
encouraged to learn to read 217-18 
Gao, little say in partner choice/age of 

marriage 184-5 

lack of empowerment in Jordan 64 
lacking Spanish, relegated to 

subordinate positions 161-2 
position in Burkina Faso 216 
stereotyped views of suitable work 


working outside the home 95 
women as campaign organisers 170-1, 

women as campaign volunteers 171, 

Women Educational Researchers of Kenya 

(WERK) 11 7, 123 
women learners 171-2 

'coming out of purdah' 176, 176-7 
crossing social and geographical 

boundaries 176 
largest personal risk 177-8 
mostly from lower castes 171 
participation not a simple matter 


women's movements, differences 24 
workshop approach, for discussion of 

gender relations 205-7 
World Bank, influence of King and Hill 

papers 18 
World Declaration on Education for All 

(1990) 129-30 

World Food Programme, feeding 
programme for Malawi children 47 

young mothers, right to continue 

education 48-9 

Young Muslim Association 117 
Youth Alert project, Mozambique 200-1, 



In a world in which poverty, social prejudice, and poor-quality provision 
prevent an estimated 100 million girls from completing primary education, 
it is not enough for governments to pledge themselves to expand girls' 
access to school. This book presents a vision of a transformational 
education which would promote social change, enable girls to achieve 
their full potential, and help to create a just and democratic society. 

Contributors to this book examine the extent and causes of gender-based 
inequality in education; analyse government policies and their implications 
for women's empowerment; and report on original field-work in a range 
of local contexts where gender- equality initiatives have flourished. 
In their introduction and their concluding chapter, Sheila Aikman and 
Elaine Unterhalter consider the challenges that confront policy makers, 
practitioners, campaigners, and researchers if they are to make real progress 
towards gender equality in education, in the context of the Millennium 
Development Goals. 

Sheila Aikman (Global Education Policy Adviser, Oxfam GB) and 

Elaine Unterhalter (Senior Lecturer in Education and International 

Development, the Institute of Education, University of London) are joint 

co-ordinators of 'Beyond Access: Gender, Education, and Development', 

a project arising from a partnership between Oxfam, the Institute of Education, 

and the British government's Department for International Development (DFID). 


ISBN 0-85598-529-1 

|9 II 780855"985295 I