Building an Expertise in Gender
Educate!’s Gender Project
Educate! has an outsized impact on girls. To better understand this impact, this year we launched a comprehensive research and development project to create new strategies for addressing the gender challenges our students face. Now, more than ever, we believe it is critical to be thoughtful and intentional in developing our girls empowerment strategy to maximize their empowerment as we scale.
Our primary aim was to develop the most thoughtful and effective tools to understand our gender impact and challenges, while also creating interventions that would make meaningful progress toward increasing gender equity for students, teachers, and Educate! staff.
Along with in-depth research through focus groups and key informant interviews, we created and tested interventions to support gender justice, including designing a more gender-responsive Skills Course, launching a gender workshop for Educate! Experience Association teachers and administrators, and challenging Ugandan educators to create a Gender Code of Behavior at their schools.
A Gender-Responsive Skills Course
We made changes to the Educate! curriculum to focus more speciﬁcally on gender equality. For example, course case studies now include more female entrepreneurs and women in professional leadership positions so that our female Scholars see themselves reﬂected in the success stories. Educate! Mentors also completed a comprehensive gender training so they can effectively facilitate the gender-responsive curriculum and be sensitive to the unique obstacles girls face in the classroom. Our goal is to elicit more female participation in class discussions and activities and to shift negative mindsets around girls holding leadership positions and working outside the home.
The below activity was a gender-focused addition to a lesson in the second term. After Scholars brainstormed solutions for the male and female characters in the example, the Educate! Mentor helped students evaluate how gender influenced the options Scholars thought that each student had available to them. The Mentor then encouraged students to think beyond gender constraints to recognize all the opportunities available to them, regardless of gender.
Gender-themed Mentoring Week
Mentoring Week is the centerpiece of the term three curriculum and has great impact on the culture of the entire student body, staff, and teachers.
The theme for 2015’s Mentoring Week was “Gender Awareness in Entrepreneurship”, and it provided an excellent starting point for tackling negative gender perceptions and stereotypes by addressing topics like female leadership, women in business, sexual harassment, and male peer pressure.
Each Educate! Scholar was encouraged to lead a school-wide event related to gender during the week, which included everything from debates and coaching sessions to games and dramas. Skits acting out disempowerment and empowerment for boys and girls were popular activities for Scholars to understand the topic. Students took on total responsibility for the success of the week and even invited guest speakers and made presentations to the entire student body.
98% of all Educate! partner schools held Mentoring Weeks.
A Gender Workshop for Educators
Our gender intervention was extended to the teachers and administrators in Educate!’s Experience Association. A workshop for educators at our Global Conference in September provided an introduction to key terms related to gender awareness and gender equity. Working in groups, over 400 teachers and administrators identified gender stereotypes faced by students and co-created strategies for empowering boys and girls equally in their classrooms. These strategies included encouraging girls to pursue math and science subjects, calling on female students more often, and placing female students in leadership positions for group work. This workshop aimed to provide education professionals with additional tools to support girls in overcoming gender barriers in the classroom.
While many teachers shifted their perception of equality in the classroom in the initial gender training, we plan to reinforce and build on these topics in subsequent trainings and Experience Association meetings, so that teachers not only understand the benefits of gender sensitivity, but also continue to develop skills to teach responsively for both boys and girls.
Gender Code of Behavior
After the training at Global Conference, the Experience Association teachers and administrators took the tools they had learned back to their home schools and led a gender training for their coworkers. During this gender training, the entire staff worked together to create a Gender Code of Behavior for their school, committing teachers to ﬁve actions related to gender equity in the classroom. These teacher-led gender trainings in schools were ultimately able to reach an additional 1,187 teachers across Uganda!
Through an iterative, mixed-methods research approach, we evaluated the impact of these interventions and found that:
- Our curriculum positively influences Scholar perceptions about women’s ability to start their own businesses, pursue higher income activities outside the home, and be worthy of investment.
- Our teacher intervention resulted in both male and female teachers showing a significant improvement in attitudes about girls taking leadership positions, pursuing higher income activities outside the home, and actively participating in the classroom.
- Our evaluation indicated that we should aim to implement shorter gender awareness sessions in each term, to provide Scholars a regular platform to discuss their opinions, concerns, and needs. This creates an opportunity to reinforce their learning to be more gender aware, as well as gain participatory feedback on Scholars’ gender-related needs.
We Are Committed
Educate! is committed to the ﬁght for female equality as we pioneer the expansion of skills-based education throughout Africa. But we aren’t ﬁnished yet. Our aim is to build a best-in-class girls' empowerment strategy so that, as we scale, hundreds of thousands of girls across Africa can break free from systemic inequality and drive their community’s economic development.
Our research also revealed that we have more work to do to support our female Scholars to take top leadership positions in school, preparing them to be community leaders after they graduate. We are energized by the progress we’ve made and deeply committed to continually improving our model to provide the best, most impactful experience for the tens of thousands of young women we reach.