Gender and Education

USAID works to break down gender-related barriers to education so children and youth, in all their diversity, have equitable access to quality learning opportunities from pre-primary through higher education.

USAID believes that to overcome mounting global challenges such as climate change, crisis and conflict, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, all people must be supported to succeed in safe, equitable, and inclusive education systems. Potential future leaders must not be denied their right to education on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic. Through education, children and youth gain the foundational knowledge, academic and social-emotional skills, and mindsets to advocate for themselves and others, challenge harmful gender norms, and create more just societies. 

USAID works globally to advance gender equality in and through education

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, over 60 of USAID's Missions, Regional Bureaus, and other teams worked to advance gender equality in and through education.

USAID’s global education programs achieved the following outcomes in FY 2021:

Gender and Education Statistics
Image Source: USAID Education FY21 Data Brief: Advancing Gender Equality in and through Education

USAID’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy champions opportunities for all women

The 2023 USAID Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy (Gender Policy) affirms that gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment are fundamental for the realization of human rights and key to effective and sustainable development outcomes. The Gender Policy provides the vision for USAID’s work to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world—establishing our strategic objectives and driving investments across our operations and programs in order to achieve these aims.

The 2023 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy builds on decades of foundational work, on the ground experience, strong evidence from global research, and key legislative and policy advancements.

USAID’s education programming aims to achieve sustained, measurable improvements in learning outcomes and skills development. The Gender Policy compels USAID staff and partners to ensure education programs are increasingly gender-transformative and take an intersectional approach to development. USAID will work with diverse education champions and practitioners to reduce gender disparity, strive to eliminate gender-based violence, increase women’s and girls’ agency, and advance structural change and equitable gender norms around the world. 

There are many promising approaches to advance gender equality and women's empowerment

Approaches for advancing gender equality in and through education should be tailored to the local context and deployed in a manner that is appropriate for the age and development of the participants. These include:

  • Address the cost of schooling
  • Provide food in school or as take-home rations
  •  Provide accessible sanitation facilities and menstrual health and hygiene resources
  •  Promote diverse women's leadership in education
  • Promote an educator workforce that reflects the diversity of the population and support educators to deliver pedagogy that seeks to transform inequitable gender norms
  • Collaborate with diverse communities to create and promote safe and inclusive in-person and distance-learning environments
  • Use preferred pronouns and other inclusive terminology and ensure that information related to self-identification, general health, sexual health, relationships, and family formation is inclusive of LGTBQI+ individuals
  • Supply gender-equitable educational materials that are accessible to all, including person with disabilities
  • Work across sectors to ensure holistic support for adolescent girls, including efforts to counter child, early, and forced marriage and unions and provide evidence-based and age and developmentally appropriate comprehensive sexuality education for all.

Applying Gender Policy objectives into educational programming can result in key educational outcomes 

EduLinks Gender Page Objectives
This chart highlights illustrative education outcomes that may be expected when gender policy objectives are embedded into educational programming.

USAID aims to reach 15 million girls and young women across the education continuum by 2025

Millions of girls across the globe have paid the highest price of school closures due to COVID-19, including: increased household responsibilities, increased gender-based violence, and reduced ability to pay for school fees and associated costs, due to families’ pandemic-related financial hardship. As part of USAID’s Implementation Plan for the U.S. government’s first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, USAID will strengthen support for girls and young women to return to learning; by 2025, our goal is to reach 15 million girls and young women across the education continuum. This goal represents an increase of 3.4 million, or 23 percent, from a baseline of 11.6 million girls and young women reached in FY 2021. 

Additional Resources