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Supporting women participation in higher education in Eastern Africa: building sustainable and equitable higher education systems in Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda
Place of publication | Year of publication | Collation: 
Paris; Nairobi; Caracas | 2023 | 73p.
ISBN 978-980-7175-73-9
Mitullah, Winnie V.;Forojalla, Sibrino; Basheka, Benon; Vieira do Nascimento, Daniele; Jallow, Saidou Sireh; Awol, Endris Adem; Feddal, Scheherazade
Corporate author: 
UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean; UNESCO Office Nairobi and Regional Bureau for Science in Africa
© UNESCO 2023

<Executive Summary>

Some takeaways from the Report:

Policy frameworks and various legislations have enhanced the implementation of programs aimed at improving women’s education from primary school to university level. At the Higher Education (HE) level, some progress has been made, but the institutions are lagging behind in having gender parity, more so in top leadership positions. Men dominate leadership positions. At lower education levels, progress is hampered by socio-economic and cultural gender inequities, and limited resources. Socio-cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages have also had a negative effect on women’s advancement to HE.

There are multiple factors that hinder women’s participation in HE and in reaching leadership positions. These include fewer women having PhD, maternal household engagement, limited time for participation in research and related activities that are a requirement for upward mobility as well as lack of child care and women-friendly facilities within universities. Ongoing mainstreaming of gender in HE is improving the situation, albeit minimal. More effort is needed to increase the number of women in HE. In addition, there is limited administrative commitment on the part of the universities to address gender inequality in leadership positions.

Overall, HE institutions have not fully exploited opportunities that exist for gender advancement in HE, including potential partnerships for supporting the advancement of women. There is need for effective governance to achieve gender equality and collaboration between HE institutions, and development partners through public-private partnerships. Such partnerships have the potential for making resources available and for funding opportunities to enhance the support to women students, in particular those undertaking STEM courses which require more time for study.

In Kenya, higher education has evolved over time from the technical and commercial institute in Nairobi – the Royal Technical College of East Africa – established in 1951 to offer technical courses within the East Africa region. The college was transformed to Royal Technical College in 1961, and later to the University of Nairobi in 1970. From this initial one university, Kenya currently has 32 chartered public universities, 9 public university constituent colleges, 21 chartered private universities and 3 private university constituent colleges.

In South Sudan, at its commencement, missionary education did not provide for girls. When schools re-opened in August 1956, the Sudanese government authorities maintained the closure of the girls’ schools, irrespective of whether government or missionary, for the following four to five years. The impact has been the severe retardation of girls’ education for almost a generation. Tradition and tribal customs regarding gender equity are still very strong and dominant in everyday life. Consequently, traditional male stereotypes also dominate within almost all higher education institutions, including the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHEST) itself. This research is in fact the first time an effort is being made to investigate the participation of women in HE and in leadership positions in universities and other tertiary institutions. This explains the very limited response to the questions sent out to the institutions outside Juba. Today, however, a good start has been made in advancing girls’ education in general.

In Uganda, under similar circumstances, women do not have good access to higher level jobs, positions, voice and wealth like men. The low representation of women in leadership positions in higher education institutions in the country can be traced back to the late start in women’s enrollment in modern schooling due to a number of factors.

Resource Type: 
Research papers / journal articles
Human rights
Sustainable development / sustainability
Level of education: 
Higher education
higher education
womens education
womens participation
gender equality
educational policy