How gender mainstreaming can improve our education system

Education is beneficial on a personal, societal and economic level. When an individual is educated, they stand a better chance of getting job opportunities than those who aren’t educated. Getting a job changes the trajectory of their lives for the better as they will earn an income. Subsequently, once they join the labour market, they become participants in economic activities. However, one of the biggest challenges in the education system is gender inequality. This means that only one specific gender, that being male, has historically benefitted from the education system. Girls and women have, only in recent years, been allowed to go to school.

Education in the African context

Gender inequality is particularly prevalent in the African education landscape. This article explains that the disadvantages which women and girls face, start in the early years, with millions not in school and 4 million at the risk of never setting foot in a classroom. “Yet advancing women’s equality, the African economy could add 10 percent to GDP or $316 billion by 2025”.

The lack of access to education continues to widen the opportunity gap between men and women. The effects of educational inequality cause a domino effect, whereby inequality shows up even in the workplace. As a result, women do not have equal access to opportunities and pay as their male counterparts. 

To confront these inequalities, transformation needs to take place from the foundation, which in this case is education. It’s important to start at the foundation to ensure that we cultivate a system that doesn’t devalue and underestimate the contributions of girls and women. A system that doesn’t question girls and women’s intellectual abilities and leadership qualities. And, gender mainstreaming is the key resource for achieving these goals. 

How gender mainstreaming can improve education

Gender mainstreaming refers to a strategy which analyses the implications of gender disparities in all aspects of life. This data enables the development of policies, legislation and programmes aimed at achieving integrated gender equality. It enforces inclusive gender equality principles such as involving all genders in the decision-making processes, enforcing a balanced gender ratio in language, assessments and access to services as well as fostering equal treatment at all levels. 

In the context of education, gender mainstreaming eliminates harmful gender roles in the classroom and related-workspaces. Therefore, committing to the process and thoroughly following the steps of gender mainstreaming can effectively address inequality. 

Thereby, we can ensure that girls and women have equal access to education opportunities, which will result in them contributing to the necessary transformation to a better education system. It also encourages youth empowerment, which comes with great potential for youth-led innovation solutions to improve the quality of learning.

DBSA’s role on gender mainstreaming in Africa

As the Development Bank of Southern Africa, we’re mandated to bring transformation on education in the form of infrastructure. Through our gender mainstreaming programme, we’re able to promote investments in women-owned projects, adapt strategies, policies and procedures to enable gender mainstreaming across our extensive portfolio. We’re also able to provide capacity building and knowledge sharing and build partnerships with public and private partners who share our vision for gender equality. 

Put simply; we work with partners who assist us in our goal to develop an adequate and sustainable education infrastructure to ensure that African schools have access to resources necessary to build quality education.

Final thoughts

The state of education in South Africa, and Africa at large, is inherently unequal and on the verge of collapse due to numerous factors such as the lack of adequate infrastructure. To mitigate further risks and fight against inequality, we need to develop a gender-responsive education system. 

And, that is the key role which gender mainstreaming sets to drive. With our gender mainstreaming programme, we’re able to improve the development of infrastructure necessary to drive change in schools across the continent.