Displacement can exacerbate gender inequality in education

The effects of migration and displacement are usually considered to be the same for men and women. However, this is often not the case. It is important to recognize how gender relations in both origin and host communities influence women’s and men’s experiences as migrants and refugees. This blog reflects on issues related to displacement.

intersections image creditNew GEM Report analysis on the intersections between gender, education, migration and displacement is shared today on International Women’s Day and will be discussed at a side event in New York on March 11 during the 63rd session of the Commission of Status of Women with the African Union and the UN Girls Education Initiative. It offers a preview of the 2019 Gender Report to be released on July 5 at the G7 Ministerial Meeting in Paris.

It shows that among refugees, gender gaps in enrolment rates are often worse. In Kenya and Ethiopia only 7 refugee girls are enrolled in primary school for every 10 boys; and only 4 girls are enrolled for every 10 boys at the secondary level. In Mogadishu, Somalia, an analysis of 486 settlements in 17 districts found that only 22% of the internally displaced girls over 5 years old had ever attended school, compared with 37% of the boys.

Additional challenges to gender equality in education in displacement settings are found in the violence surrounding many settings. Girls’ education is even sometimes the target of extremist militant groups as seen in Nigeria by the Boko Haram. The Education under Attack 2018 report profiled 18 countries where girls and young women were the targets of attacks on education. In Afghanistan, the Islamic State attacked 94 co-educational schools from 2013 to 2016.

Female teachers too are harder to recruit and retain. Only 10% of primary teachers were female in the Dadaab camp in Kenya in 2016 and 16% at the Dollo Ado camp in Ethiopia in 2014. In Pakistan, female teachers displaced by violence were hesitant to return to work, fearing for their security where militant groups targeted schools. Given that there are cultural taboos on girls being taught by male teachers in many refugee communities, this extreme shortage of female teachers is yet another serious barrier to female education.


More targeted interventions are needed to improve the supply of female teachers for refugees. In Chad, the Little Ripples programme trained and employed Sudanese refugee women to provide early childhood education through play-based learning for 8,000 children aged 3 to 5 in 2 refugee camps. In Dadaab, the Borderless High Education for Refugees project trained 400 teachers through onsite and online courses and women were included through special affirmative action initiatives.

Barriers to accessing education among many refugee families mean girls are pushed into early marriage. Nine of the top ten countries with the highest rates of child marriage are conflict-affected. A survey of Afghan refugees returning home from displacement camps in Pakistan by Save the Children in 2016 found that, because so many refugee girls had not managed to access education in the camps, parents saw early marriage as girls’ only option. The threat of violence in school plays a part too.

Not just girls, but also boys face specific challenges in displacement settings. They often lack the legal status to gain employment and do not benefit from social protection. Young male refugees also miss out on education due to their status in some settings, which forces them into roles, such as that of the wage earner, based on their gender. Specialised services from humanitarian responses are often targeted at girls and women, which perpetuates harmful stereotypes that boys are able to cope with such hardships, are less vulnerable, and are less in need of such services.

The examples found across displacement settings in our analysis show that gender-based needs assessments are required to identify and understand the particular needs faced by women and men, girls and boys. To fulfil their potential for instilling resilience, education systems must respond to these needs.

This entry was posted in Gender, migration, Refugees and displaced people, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Displacement can exacerbate gender inequality in education

  1. Pingback: Displacement can exacerbate gender inequality in education — World Education Blog – MICHAEL OWUSU

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