USAID Djibouti’s Early Grade Reading Activity (DEGRA) Is Transforming Gender Norms in the Classroom and Beyond
Despite tremendous efforts by the government of Djibouti to improve women's social, economic, and political status, deeply rooted social and cultural norms perpetuate gender inequality across the country. For example:
- Nearly 74 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have undergone female genital mutilation. While in urban areas, gender gaps in primary education are closing, gender inequity persists in rural areas, as well as in access to secondary and higher education.
- Girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school.
- Although national policies and strategies aim to promote the rights of women, gender inequality persists into adulthood. Nearly three in four working age women are excluded from the labor market.
The USAID Djibouti Early Grade Reading Activity (DEGRA) is working to improve the reading skills of primary school children in grades 1-5 across the country. In collaboration with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (MENFOP), DEGRA uses inclusive and gender-sensitive approaches for three components of the current education system to:
- Enhance the quality of primary reading instruction
- Increase community engagement in support of reading
- Develop comprehensive policies for reading
DEGRA has integrated gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) throughout all activities, including the following:
- Training teaching and learning materials (TLM) developers on how to incorporate gender equality and social inclusion into all materials. As a result of this training, TLM developers revised the primary-level curricula materials to ensure the text and images depict empowering images of women and girls, and reflect the diverse population of Djibouti. After the revision, nearly 90 percent of teachers reported the classroom materials paid attention to gender issues.
- GESI training to teacher trainers to support the integration of gender and social inclusion pedagogies in the classroom. In a series of workshops, teacher trainers learned about key GESI concepts, gender-sensitive pedagogy, and how to identify and address sexist attitudes and behaviors in their school communities. Participants appreciated having space to reflect on their own gender biases and think about how they can better promote gender equality and social inclusion in their schools. Building on DEGRA’s GESI work, the Center for Basic Education Teacher Training (CFEEF) developed a new pre-service teacher training module focused on gender inclusion, to ensure all new teachers understand the importance of GESI and how to integrate it into their classrooms.
One participant reflected,
Before, I did not pay attention to the gender problem, but now I am more attentive.
- Beyond the classroom, DEGRA engaged with parents to transform attitudes and behaviors related to GESI. The Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA) encouraged parents to ensure their daughters are not overburdened with household chores and have sufficient time to study and complete their schoolwork. Additionally, an awareness campaign via radio, TV, and social media aimed to increase parental involvement in their children’s learning included images that defied traditional gender roles, such as a father reading to his young daughter.
Overall, DEGRA takes a holistic approach to transforming gender norms in the school and home environment. By changing the teaching and learning materials, as well as knowledge and attitudes of teachers and parents, DEGRA is addressing some of the root causes of gender inequality so all children have equal opportunities to learn and thrive.