Building peace in the minds of men and women

What UNESCO does on education and gender equality

UNESCO promotes gender equality throughout the education system including participation in education (access), within education (content, teaching and learning context and practices) and through education (learning outcomes, life and work opportunities).

A particular emphasis is placed on girls’ and women’s education through UNESCO’s Her education, our future, designed to accelerate action and leadership in this area.

From access to empowerment

UNESCO’s work on education and gender equality is guided by the UNESCO Strategy for gender equality in and through education (2019-2025). The Strategy focuses on system-wide transformation to benefit all learners, and targeted interventions to support girls’ and women’s empowerment. It considers the entire education process, at all levels and delivery modalities. It aims to achieve UNESCO’s vision to enable girls and boys, women and men and all learners, to realize their rights and potential in and through education. The strategy offers three clear lines of action:

  • Better data to inform action
  • Better legal, policy and planning frameworks to advance rights
  • Better teaching and learning practices to empower

Better data to inform action

High quality timely data and evidence are key to policy-making, planning and the delivery of impactful actions that will advance gender equality in and through education. For example, and contributing to the collection of sex-disaggregated data and evidence, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Global Education Monitoring Report help countries identify and analyse gendered patterns and trends, and better plan for resources to address gender inequalities. A factsheet on gender equality in education amid COVID-19 provides the latest data available on the topic. Forthcoming reports from UNESCO will document the gender dimensions of COVID-related school closures, and boys’ participation, learning achievement and continuation in education.

Better legal, policy and planning frameworks to advance rights

The right to education lies at the heart of UNESCO’s mission, and is enshrined in international law through numerous legally binding international treaties. Despite progress in recent decades, discriminatory practices stand in the way of girls and women fully exercising their right to participate in, complete and benefit from education. UNESCO provides support to education policies and strategies in countries among which Guatemala, Viet Nam and Liberia to promote gender equality and tackle key barriers preventing learners from education opportunities. Examples of other work include UNESCO's interactive Her Atlas measures the status of national constitutions, legislation and regulations related to girls’ and women’s education rights. An issue note provides key information on addressing the gender dimensions of COVID-related school closures, while the Building back equal: Girls back to school guide supports policymakers and practitioners in Ministries of Education and their partners to ensure girls’ continuity of learning and to establish evidence-based plans for girls’ safe return to school.

Better teaching and learning practices to empower

For education to empower, it must challenge and change unequal power relations, and address practices, norms and expectations that limit education opportunities for boys and girls, women and men. UNESCO is supporting countries to achieve this transformation. Examples of this work include the Joint Programme on empowering adolescent girls and young women through education which brings UNESCO, UN Women and UNFPA together to improve education access and opportunities for adolescent girls in Mali, Nepal and Tanzania. The UNESCO Malala Fund for girls’ right to education expands girls’ access to quality gender-transformative education and promotes safe learning environments, especially in countries affected by conflict and disaster. UNESCO works with countries to protect learners from gender-based violence in schools and ensure the delivery of comprehensive sexuality education in safe learning environments.UNESCO is also strengthening teachers’ capacity to deliver quality gender-transformative STEM education and close gender gaps in STEM studies and careers .UNESCO also awards good practice through the annual UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education.

Building back equal

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO launched the Global Education Coalition, an international multi-sector partnership aiming to meet the urgent and unprecedented need amid an unprecedented disruption to education. Nationwide school closures impacted more than 1.5 billion, or over 90% of the world’s student population, from pre-primary to higher education. One of the missions is building back equal. To put this mission in action, a Gender Flagship was established under the Coalition to protect the gains on gender equality and education made in the past 25 years and promote girls’ and women’s empowerment in and through education.

Following the COVID-19 school closures, UNESCO estimates that over 11 million girls and young women risk not returning to school. To curtail this risk and safeguard progress made on girls’ education, UNESCO and members of the Global Education Coalition’s Gender Flagship launched a campaign entitled Keeping girls in the picture promoting the importance of girls’ continuity of learning amid COVID-19 and girls’ safe return to school.