Gender and Development

Inclusive development: how we see it

Working with traditional leaders has been an effective strategy for several projects. It seems that the buy-in of powerful community members helps to promote girls’ education and influence attitudes around what is appropriate for girls.


A focus on community dialogue can also have important knock-on effects for equitable learning. The Link Community Development Ethiopia (LCDE) project reported a reduction in teachers who prioritised boys’ learning over girls’ – a reduction attributed largely to female teachers in project schools who benefited from wider norm change in communities.

The creation of girls’ clubs has made it easier for girls to talk about their problems, especially around pregnancy, marriage or abuse. In Kenya and South Sudan, older women counselled girls on marriage and pregnancy, and followed up with absentee girls to encourage them to return to school.

Engaging role models and mentors, such as female teachers and community mobilisers, has helped to change perceptions of what girls can do and achieve, and improve their own motivation and aspirations. In Afghanistan and Nepal, peer mentoring and academic support gave marginalised girls the confidence to ask questions in class, including in front of boys. Evaluations reported significant improvements in numeracy and literacy for girls with mentors.

Teachers play a central role in tackling gender norms in schools. During the Discovery project in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria, training in gender-sensitive methods resulted in teachers not only starting to use gender-equitable language and learning materials, but also assigning classroom duties equally to boys and girls. These changes in teacher behaviour and classroom practices were, in turn, associated with higher learning scores for girls.

Gender norms are slow to change, so continued reinforcement is key

© Jenny Matthews/PANOSWithout follow-up or refresher activities, changes tended to be undone over time. One of the projects operating in Tanzania (BRAC) reported that life skills education led to a change in mindset regarding women’s responsibilities at first, but by the end of the project, girls were again more likely to believe that women should be in charge of childcare and household chores.

A coordinated, multi-layered approach works best

The ALIGN policy brief outlines recommendations for projects working to change gender norms around girls’ education.

Seek buy-in from multiple stakeholders at all levels and across communities, schools and peer groups.

Identify and map out how contextual factors, such as conflict and economic shocks, interact with gender norms, and consider their implications for the education for girls (and boys) of all ages.

Engage, train and support teachers to understand how discriminatory gender norms and attitudes are reproduced in classrooms, and to adopt gender-sensitive teaching methods.

Strengthen school-based factors that enable learning and gender norm change, including positive leadership, ongoing teacher education, improved quality of school facilities and materials, and recourse to safe and supportive learning environments.