Uk Aid


2007 - 2011

Research Team

Project Director: Elaine Unterhalter, IOE, University of London
Research Officer: Amy North, IOE, University of London
Research Officer: Jenni Karlsson, University of Kwazulu-Natal
Research Officer: Veerle Dieltens, University of the Witwatersrand
Research Assistant: Stungoane Letsatsi, University of the Witwatersrand
Research Assistant: Khombisile Dlamini, University of the Witwatersrand
Research Officer: Jane Onsongo, Catholic University of Eastern Africa
Research Assistant: Herbert Makinda, Catholic University of Eastern Africa
Research Project Adviser: Chris Yates, IOE, University of London
Project Administrator: Clare Thornbury, IOE, University of London

Gender, education and global poverty reduction initiatives (GEGPRI)


Gender equality in education has gained increasing prominence in global policy since the 2000 through agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals (2000).  This project aims to examine initiatives which engage with global aspirations to advance gender equality in and through schooling in contexts of poverty.

It looks at how these are understood, who participates in implementation, what meanings of gender, schooling and global relations are negotiated, what constraints are experienced, in what ways these are overcome, and what concerns about global obligations emerge. A key focus is what conditions how global policy goals are interpreted and acted on in different sites

Summary of activities

Case study research is being conducted in Kenya and South Africa, two countries where reforming governments have sought to address questions of poverty and gender in the expansion of education provision. In each country data will be collected in five sites: the national Department of Education, a provincial education department, a rural primary school, the offices of a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) engaging with global education and poverty policy, and an education NGO operating at a local level.

Research will also be conducted in global institutions including international NGOs, UN agencies and donors. The main methods of data collection will be individual and group interviews, focus group discussions, observations and documentary analysis.

Advisory committees in Kenya and South Africa will guide the process of data collection, comment critically on emerging analysis, and give support with dissemination.

Summary of findings

The conclusions drawn from the study are that there is only a partial connection between the formulations articulated in global policy aspirations for gender equity, poverty reduction and education expansion and various sites of enactment. The clearest expression of a connection is in global organisations and their work with local partners and in a national government like South Africa, where there is considerable concern with, and interest in, questions of gender and poverty, even though some officials find it difficult to get full buy-in from colleagues for this work, and rolling it out to districts and schools is challenging.

In Kenya the simultaneous pressures of a substantial aid relationship, limits on the employment of staff, difficulties with corruption scandals, and discouragement of informed critical debate in a number of work settings, means that the kind of connection made is only to part of the global policy framework, notably the MDGs, with a relative neglect of the wider gender aspirations associated with the EFA goals and the gender, education and poverty concerns of the Beijing platform.


The following is a list of some recent publications by the GEGPRI research team:

Dieltiens, V., Unterhalter, E. et all,  'Gender blind, gender-lite: a critique of gender equity approaches in the South African Department of Education', Perspectives in Education, 27, 4, 365-374

Dieltiens, V., Karlsson, J. (2010), 'Skirting the classroom- Changing bureaucracy, transforming gender in the education system'. Presentation to Department of Basic Education consultative seminar on gender equity and gender equality in education, Johannesburg, August 25-26 2010

Karlsson, J. (2010), 'Gender mainstreaming in a South African provincial education department: a transformative shift or technical fix for oppressive gender relations?', Compare 40, 4

Letsatsi, S. (2010), 'Has the department of Education done enough for girls in South Africa?' Paper presented to International Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and Social Justice in a New Global Dispensation: Challenges and Transformations. UNISA, Pretoria, 2 February 2010

North, A. (2010), 'MDG3 and the negotiation of gender in international education organisations', Compare, 40, 4, pp. 425-440

Unterhalter, E. (2012 forthcoming), 'Mutable Meanings: Gender Equality in Education and International Rights Frameworks', Equal Rights Review

Unterhalter, E. (2012), forthcoming 'Silences, stereotypes and local selection: Negotiating policy and practice to implement the MDGs and EFA' In Antoni Verger, Hulya Kosar Altinyelken and Mario Novelli eds., 'Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies' London: Continuum

Unterhalter, E., Yates, C., et all (2012), 'Blaming the poor: Constructions of marginality and poverty in the Kenyan education sector', Compare 1-21

Download: Full list of publications (pdf, 376Kb)