The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is a pan-African non-government organization, founded in 1992, whose goal is to increase access, improve retention and enhance the quality of education for girls and women in Africa. FAWE’s members are African women ministers of education, permanent secretaries, and university chancellors and vice chancellors who band together to use their positions and clout to further FAWE’s mission. Its mission is to work at continental, national and local levels, together with partners, to create positive societal attitudes, policies and practices that promote equity for girls in terms of access, retention, performance and quality by influencing the transformation of education systems in Africa. FAWE has facilitated the development of National Chapters in 33 countries across Africa to help accomplish the goals.
FAWE’s strategic direction calls for action in four key areas:
- Education policy
- Demonstration interventions Replication
Underpinning these is a renewed focus on capacity building at both regional and national levels. Particular attention is given to developing the skills of National Chapters to influence policy formulation, Advocacy is used to help with implementation and monitoring, as well as to show what works.The ultimate aim is to influence governments to replicate and mainstream such best practices, with an overall emphasis, in line with Education For All goals, on action on the ground. FAWE is supported by a variety of agencies, foundations and other donor partners.
Gender is a term that is commonly used and interpreted to mean “women’s issues” in numerous circles. In reality, gender refers to socially determined roles and relations between males and females. From the wider picture, the term “gender” refers to a socio-cultural classification of women and men. This classifier is based on societal norms and ideals that determine men’s and women’s positions in society. They cannot be changed. The man makes the woman pregnant and the woman gives birth to the child and breastfeeds. Gender roles, on the other hand, are determined by the society, which assigns different responsibilities to men and women, e.g., cooking for women and decision-making for men. Gender roles can therefore be changed and vary over time and from community to community.Both teachers and students carry these gender norms into the classroom interactions, whether consciously or unconsciously.
The gender inequities pervading society are carried into the school environment. This can be seen in school operations including teaching, teacher–student communication, school administration, and the physical infrastructure plan and design. Teaching and learning materials, for example, may contain gender stereotypes. Teachers are not always aware of the gender specific needs of both girls and boys. School management systems may not sufficiently address gender constraints such as sexual harassment, and many schools do not have adequate or separate toilets for girls and boys. As a result, the schools do not provide a gender responsive environment for effective teaching and learning to take place.
One teacher in isolation cannot transform the pedagogy to be gender responsive. It is a process that requires the action and commitment of all stakeholders, including teachers, parents, and students both girls and boys, led by the school management. The effort to establish a gender responsive pedagogy must be supported by a similarly gender responsive school management system.