What UNESCO does on education and gender equality

Gender equality is one of UNESCO’s two global priorities. The organization follows the dual approach of gender mainstreaming and gender-specific programming in targeted programme areas, as outlined in the UNESCO Priority Gender Equality Action Plan (2014-2021).


UNESCO supports Member States to develop education systems that foster high quality and inclusive lifelong learning for all. UNESCO is committed to promoting gender equality in and through education systems from early childhood to higher education, in formal, non-formal and informal settings and in all intervention areas from planning infrastructure to training teachers.

Girls’ and women’s unequal access to, and performance in, education is both a cause and a result of multiple factors, including chronic and systemic gender-based discrimination reproduced in the education system. The over-emphasis on gender parity to measure progress has also led to unsatisfactory results in terms of girls and women’s empowerment through education. The statistics do not show the many types of obstacles that girls and women face, not only in accessing but also in continuing education; nor do they tell much about the quality of learning processes and environment for girls and boys. The failure to analyse the situation through a gender lens has resulted in gender blind and ineffective policies that do little to correct gender inequalities.

UNESCO works to improve the quality of learning processes and environment for girls and boys by fostering gender-sensitive and gender-responsive policies and strategies in education. It aims to move beyond conventional approaches in order to expand access towards a holistic approach that addresses those inequalities in broader society which influence educational opportunities.

UNESCO promotes gender equality throughout the education system including participation in education (access), within education (contents, teaching and learning context and practices) and through education (learning outcomes, life and work opportunities).

Specifically it

  • Monitors progress through the collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated education data and the monitoring of normative instruments related to gender equality;  
  • Helps countries develop their national capacities in mainstreaming gender in educational laws, policies and plans;
  • Supports teacher training in gender-responsive pedagogy that responds effective to the needs of male and female learners;
  • Advocates for girls’ and women’s education through innovative, multisectoral collaborations such as the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, “Better Life, Better Future”;  
  • Seeks to improve and expand girls’ and women’s literacy and their access to formal and non-formal education, including through Information, Communication and Technology (ICT);   
  • Supports the development of curricula and textbooks free from stereotypes and discrimination;  
  • Helps countries address gender-based violence and create safe, inclusive learning spaces that enhance education, well-being and empowerment;
  • Conducts policy research on the barriers to advancing gender equality, and to expand and strengthen the expertise and knowledge base of UNESCO;
  • Collaborates with partners on policy advocacy at global, regional and national levels in support of gender equality in education.

Special attention is given to global advocacy and multisectoral partnerships to promote education for girls and women, in particular through UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education “Better Life, Better Future".

Every year the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education honours outstanding innovation and contributions made by individuals, institutions and organizations to advance girls’ and women’s education. The Prize, which awarded its first laureates in 2016, is unique in showcasing successful projects that improve and promote the educational prospects of girls and women and in turn, the quality of their lives.