By Hannah Kuntz, International Technical Associate / Co-chair of Gender Working Group, Education Development Center
Gender Work is in Our DNA
Education Development Center (EDC) has a longstanding history of integrating gender sensitivity and awareness into its work, beginning in the US and then expanding internationally. In 1975, EDC produced films for US high school students to raise awareness of how gender stereotyping and socialization affect the life choices of young women. For more than 25 years, EDC’s Women’s Educational Equity Act Center supported 750 field-based projects in the US to promote bias-free education and to increase learning opportunities and outcomes for girls and boys, and young women and young men. Internationally, for more than 30 years, EDC has used interactive audio instruction to strengthen equitable access to learning, particularly in resource lean settings. In 2015, a Gender Working Group was formed by EDC staff eager to build on earlier efforts and ensure that the concept and practices of gender integration are fully understood and reflected in all of the organization’s external partnerships and commitments.
Why We Endorse the Standards
Given EDC’s ongoing commitment to reducing gender gaps and barriers as part of our global mission, it makes sense for us to join the Endorsers’ Circle, a group of organizations committed to upholding the Minimum Standards for Mainstreaming Gender Equality (Gender Standards). Our technical guidance, the ‘how to’ of our gender-responsiveness, outlines six guiding principles informed by the Gender Standards. These principles are applied at all stages of a project lifecycle across our international programming and include:
- Do No Harm: We take care to avoid exacerbating and / or perpetuating existing gender and social inequalities in our work. This requires an understanding of the context, including the drivers of conflict, political dynamics and gender and social norms in the communities where the intervention is implemented, which is why we conduct and utilize gender research (see below) (Standard 7).
- Develop Organizational Culture and Capacity for Gender Equality: At all levels of our organization, we share responsibility for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion as core components of our organizational culture. Our Gender Working Group also facilitates learning opportunities on gender-related topics specific to our international work and provides training to raise awareness among staff and partners on gender equity (Standard 2).
- Allocate Budget: We allocate resources in project budgets to implement activities to promote equity and inclusion, such as the development of teaching and learning materials to encourage students and teachers to challenge stereotypes and harmful norms, as well as hire staff with gender integration expertise, both full-time personnel and those providing short-term technical assistance (Standard 4).
- Conduct & Utilize Gender Research: We regularly conduct a gender analysis at the start of every project and build on the findings by developing and tracking indicators and commissioning special studies to assess progress toward mitigating gender gaps and barriers in education, health and economic opportunity during the life of the project (Standards 3, 5, 6).
- Dissemination of Results: We share evidence of inequity and exclusion with key stakeholders, including donors, implementing partners and government ministries, to ensure lessons learned, recommendations and successful interventions are integrated into longer-term planning and implementation with gender disparities in mind (Standard 8).
These guiding principles have helped us to strive for equity in a more systematic and meaningful way, and we continue to expand this critical lens though capacity and consensus building with our colleagues and partners .
Why Gender Standards Are Important
In spite of concerted efforts by donors, governments, civil society and the private sector during the past 70+ years, gender gaps and barriers persist around the globe. According to the 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index, it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide; the index analyzes four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Preliminary evidence also indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated inequities and vulnerability and partially re-opened equity gaps that had been addressed and shrinking.
It is at this important juncture that we join other organizations as an Endorser of the Gender Standards, affirming our commitment to prioritizing gender integration as a key component of our work and acknowledging that this is a collaborative effort. If we are to achieve gender equity globally, especially in countries hardest hit by the pandemic and those with existing high levels of gender inequality and exclusion, we must work closely together. To this end, we hope more organizations will step forward as Endorsers and look forward to learning from and collaborating with this growing community.