Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Education

© UNESCO\ S. K. Yadav -
Breaking gender stereotypes

Nepal has nearly achieved universal enrolment in primary education and has made significant improvements in gender parity in primary and secondary level education. However, many challenges persist for young women and adolescent girls in terms of access, participation and completion of good quality education. Female students tend to drop out of school as they reach higher grades. In many instances, education systems and plans are not gender-responsive and do not take into consideration girls’ and women’s particular needs. Even when there are provisions within the education sector to ensure universal access for all, social and cultural values tend to override such provisions. Among the many socio-cultural, economic and other factors preventing adolescent girls and young women from accessing education are child marriage and early pregnancy, gender-based violence and the lack of knowledge or provision of proper hygiene facilities such as WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). 

The magnitude of the problems of illiteracy, non-enrolment and school dropout varies by gender, region and different social groups. There are clear gaps between rural and urban areas, and males and females as well as ethnic and social groups. People living in remote rural areas, females, ethnic minorities, Dalits (so called untouchable castes in the old tradition) and the poor are extremely disadvantaged in terms of educational attainment. 

Realising the need for a holistic and comprehensive approach to girls’ and women’s education and for the creation of an enabling environment, the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme was launched in Kathmandu by then Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova in April 2016. The Kathmandu Office supports the government to increase learning opportunities for adolescent girls and women and to find innovative solutions for some of the biggest challenges and obstacles to their education. UNESCO’s work in Nepal is also targeted at the most marginalised groups in society, such as populations living in the most remote areas, people with disabilities, ethnic and linguistic minorities and Dalits, of whom girls and women are especially vulnerable. 

Moreover, Nepal is a linguistically diverse country. According to the National Population and Housing Census 2011, 123 languages are spoken in Nepal. Though Nepali is the country’s official language, it is the mother tongue language of only 44% of the population. Learners with a different mother tongue often face severe challenges in following their teachers and achieving the minimum required marks. The provision of multilingual primary education has shown promising initial results and should therefore be continued and extended, with further consolidation and development. UNESCO is currently supporting the government’s attempt to address various language issues in the context of the federal structure to ensure the rights of indigenous people and linguistic minorities to have access to quality basic and primary education in their mother tongue. UNESCO also promotes mother tongue-based instruction as a means of improving educational quality by building upon the knowledge and experience of learners and teachers. 

UNESCO supports the government in developing inclusive national education policies that are culturally and linguistically relevant and that respond to the learning needs of indigenous peoples. UNESCO encourages quality teaching and learning that promotes peace and respects diversity, intercultural understanding and citizenship to enable both indigenous and non-indigenous people to live together without prejudice, discrimination, violence or conflict. Such an inclusive approach enables indigenous peoples to share their knowledge to enrich education systems. 

© UNESCO\We Inspire Nepal -
Promoting the Leadership Development of Girls through Sports

Since 2015, the UNESCO Kathmandu Office has implemented “The Female Champions”, a three-month long fellowship programme with the aim of boosting confidence, enhancing leadership skills and providing an intensive learning platform for young women across the country. 

The UNESCO Priority Gender Equality Action Plan 2014-2021 (GEAP) seeks to promote gender equality through gender mainstreaming and gender specific programming. The UNESCO policy on engaging with indigenous peoples supports the efforts to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) across all relevant programme areas. 

Key Partners

Language Commission; Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (at federal level); Department of Education (DoE); Non Formal Education Center (NFEC); Curriculum Development Center (CDC); National Center for Educational Development (NCED); District Education Offices (DEOs); Community Learning Centres (CLCs); Education Training Centres (ETCs); Resource Centres (RCs); Ministry of Health (MoH); National Health Education, Information and Communication Centre (NHEICC); Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA), Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen (MoWCSC), Department of Women and Children; UN Women Nepal; UNFPA Nepal; Tribhuvan University; Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID); Kathmandu University; Community Schools; Non-Government Organisations; Civil Society Organisations

Extra budgetary Project(s) Portfolio

Resources/Publications

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