Planting seeds of the empowerment of women in the changing world of work and life

8 March 2017

To achieve an inclusive and sustainable society for all, the empowerment of women and gender equality have a vital role to play. The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) is committed to creating and improving learning opportunities for young women in order to equip them, their families, communities and societies with the proper tools to thrive.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, themed Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50–50 by 2030, UIL is proud to share its youth-led research project in pursuit of the empowerment of women. This two-year project, conducted in collaboration with the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) and its members and partners, aims to develop strategies to improve access to learning and education for disadvantaged young women in India, Indonesia and the Philippines. In particular, the project focuses on the challenges women are facing in rural communities with poor learning environments and limited resources, and seeks to develop local solutions through community learning. 

Turning a vision into reality

The project, named “Youth-led action-oriented research on basic skills education for young women's empowerment”, was launched in March 2016. As the first step, two local organisations in each of the three countries were selected as partners: one engaged with innovative educational programmes in remote rural areas, and the other active in education advocacy work at national level. Then, after consultations with district officials and community members, selected young women and members from three rural communities in each country were identified to participate in the training workshops.

During the first twelve months of the project, participants received training in participatory action research, which was provided by partner organisations with technical support from UIL. Then, drawing lessons from the training and UIL’s guidebook Action research to improve youth and adult literacy: Empowering learners in a multilingual world, the participants planned and implemented research in their communities. Their three overarching research questions were:

  1. How do young people, especially young women, view and engage with learning opportunities in their rural context?
  2. What alternative strategies might enable them to engage in lifelong learning to improve their lives?
  3. What support mechanisms and strategies might enable learners to access quality education and lifelong learning opportunities?

The project empowered and inspired the young female participants. One of them – a village youth leader from the Philippines – stated: “I attended many meetings and workshops, but this was the first time that I did more talking than listening”. The training and research experience has provided young female leaders and non-formal education providers with a deeper understanding of the hurdles that young women who left school early are likely to come up against when it comes to education and learning, thereby stimulating them to take action to bring about positive changes. Specifically, by identifying the mechanisms linking patriarchy with decision-making; wealth with access; and power with control over resources, participants pinpointed some of the reasons for the disempowerment of women and reaffirmed the significance of education as a tool of empowerment.

Based on the participants’ research outcomes, new services and activities in community-based learning programmes are currently being designed and piloted in the communities involved. The processes and results of this ongoing project will be documented and published as case studies by UIL. The expectation is that this material will later form the basis for guidelines for governments and civil society to initiate better policies and practices for the empowerment of women, not only in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, but also in other countries.

For more information on this project, please contact uil-lbs@unesco.org.