Posted By: Michael Kamara ⇒  Posted Date: 10/27/2019


Gender balanced and equitable access to education in Sierra Leone has been a key focus of the Sierra Leone government, within the context of the Free Quality Education Programme. In support of this overarching goal, the EU has provided funding for PROMAN, an international consulting company to collaborate with the Ministry Of Basic And Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) to develop an action plan in an effort to mainstream gender in the Sierra Leone education sector. According to PROMAN consultant Ms. Khadija Bah, "Gender mainstreaming was a tool introduced at the institutional level to ensure that all development interventions have equitable outcomes for both men and women." She argues, however, that because of the difficulty of operationalizing the concept of gender and bringing about real societal change, it has become necessary to focus on gender mainstreaming to identify the actions that need to be taken to bring about gender equality and equity in education.
The approach has included interviews, a desk review, focus group discussions and a detailed review of the UNICEF and EU Plans of Action. During the focus group discussions with teachers, lecturers and administrators of MBSSE and MTHE held on the 19th and 21st of February, four key issues were explored:

  1. Why after decades of intervention to promote women's and girls' access to education, is progress on gender equality and equity in the education sector still a challenge?
  2. Is there a link between child abuse, SGBV, adolescence pregnancy and girls' educational attainment? 
  3. merging trends and innovative approaches in promoting gender equality and equity in the education section, including at the administrative and decision-making levels.
  4. How can technology be exploited to promote women's and girls' access to education, especially at the Tertiary and higher education levels; and at the administrative and decision-making levels?

Discussions revealed that poverty continues to be a major limiting factor across the board. In spite of technological advancements over the last few decades, gender stereotypes, alarming figures of sexual and gender-based violence and negative cultural norms continue to play a major role in preventing the actualization of gender parity in education. By the end of the sessions it was concluded that "the problems of women and girls have to be identified as problems impeding their advancements and so must be collectively solved through the use of the gender lens."

According to Anne Konneh the Assistant Director of the Gender Unit, MBSSE, points made during the discussions informed the development of an action plan, which was validated at a workshop held on the 28th February 2018. The document highlights, among other things, the factors that result in lower enrollment figures of girls from junior secondary levels to tertiary levels. In dealing with the major issues hindering gender parity in education, it is recommended in the document that a study be done looking into the intervention to promote women and girls' access to education from 2003 to 2017. This will present baseline data to later evaluate the Free and Quality Education Programme. It is also recommended that a study be done on the career paths available to women, in an attempt to assess women's apparent reluctance to pursue education at higher levels.

"I hope that some of the recommendations I have made will provoke thought and get people to question why after decades of intervention women and girls are still finding it difficult to get access to education, health and other critical issues," says PROMAN consultant Kadijah Bah.

The next step is the popularization of the Mainstreaming Gender Equality and Equity in Education in Sierra Leone document at national level.