The time is now! Young rural women lead educational reform


© UN Women
7 March 2018

‘Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives’ is the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), which will be celebrated around the world on 8 March 2018.

Women around the world face several obstacles to improving their lives. For young women from rural areas, for example, these challenges are tied to socio-economic and cultural contexts. Often, their access to education and training opportunities is limited and they have to develop innovative ways to voice such concerns with an impact on an education policy that is guided by the fundamental principle of gender equality.

This is one reason why young rural women in India, Indonesia and the Philippines are taking part in an action-research project developed by the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL). The project provides them with the skills and competencies needed to seek the needed evidence to inform educational reform in their communities. This initiative is enabling young women in rural areas to continue learning, and improve their livelihoods and the health of their families.

So far, the project, Action Research as a Learning Tool to Transform Young Women’s Lives, which has operated since 2016, has helped to transform the lives of around 100 young women in the three countries. Participants are being trained and prepared to lead the action research from the very beginning, including the design of research questions to sharing research findings with community leaders and district education officials. The women receive skills training in interviewing techniques, analysing community contexts, writing and public speaking. Used together, these skills help them to identify challenges and opportunities to improve their education and to share their findings with relevant stakeholders in a way that brings about positive change. One positive example comes from India, where young women from five villages in the Nashik and Dhule districts developed the ‘Shodhini Charter of Demands’. This charter appeals for access to safe and inclusive schools and colleges in neighbouring villages, livelihood training for girls, and zero tolerance to violence and harassment.

Positive outcomes from piloting this youth-led action research approach has encouraged good practices in other countries, with more communities in India and the Philippines, as well as civil society partners in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Timor-Leste and Vanua Tu also applying this approach when developing education reforms.

To mark IWD 2018, facilitators and participants from the ASPBAE-UIL project have shared their messages with the world as they press for positive change. To see the video, click here.

For more information about the project, please contact uil-lbs@unesco.org.