Education and Gender Equality


UNICEF in action: Strategy & priorities

Child-friendly education (for all)

Girls' education and gender equality

Early childhood development (ECD)

Education in emergencies

Results for children


Results for children

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-2296/Holt
Girls at a secondary school in Ethiopia. UNICEF supports in-class dialogues about harmful social practices, including female genital mutilation/cutting.

Child-friendly schools (CFS)

UNICEF, together with partners, supports governments in providing child-friendly schooling and learning spaces throughout Eastern and Southern Africa region (ESAR). Countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania have established a set of minimum standards and indicators for quality education, using the CFS principles. Countries are also using the CFS framework to develop teaching materials, manuals and other tools to improve and assess the quality of education. UNICEF has been organising annual capacity development workshops on CFS, during which participants can exchange experiences and lessons learned in providing quality education to children. 

Important support for the roll-out of the model has come from the Schools for Africa partnership involving UNICEF National Committees, a key private donor and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Some four million children have already benefited from a better school environment in line with the CFS principles thanks to the funding provided by the Schools for Africa initiative.

Girls' education

In 14 countries in ESAR, UNICEF support to gender audits has helped in assessing the needs of girls in school and addressing the barriers to their education. The gender audits are key activities in deepening the situation analysis of girls and influencing education policy and planning. As the lead agency, UNGEI has helped establish and scale up the Girls’ Education Movement (GEM) and the Girls’ and Boys’ Education Movement (GBEM) in Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland and Uganda, to mobilize communities to support school retention and completion of girls. Gender training for GEM and GBEM members in all of Eastern and Southern Africa – hosted in Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda – has helped ensure progress towards greater gender mainstreaming in education.

To learn more about UNGEI, please visit its official website.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1374/Pirozzi
Two girls at a child-friendly primary school in Rwanda.

Early childhood development (ECD)

While ECD programmes are yet to reach all the young children in need, many countries are putting polices, systems and resources in place and are gradually increasing coverage. For instance, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia have or are in the process of developing national policies and guidelines on early childhood development. Promotion of gender equality is an integral part of ECD programmes. UNICEF advocacy and technical support has resulted in 17 of the region’s 20 countries having included the reduction of gender disparities in their sector plans.

Education in emergencies

UNICEF considers education an integral part of any frontline humanitarian response to an emergency, on a par with food, shelter and healthcare. Throughout ESAR, UNICEF has been supporting trainings and capacity building for government and other institutions to ensure that children who are affected by an emergency can continue going to school, thus providing them with a sense of normalcy. Together with Save the Children, UNICEF acts as co-leader of the education in emergency cluster of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) in eight countries in the region to enhance the coordination among all stakeholders that provide education services. In war-torn Somalia, UNICEF is the only provider of textbooks for schools, while countries such as Angola benefit from the organization’s “building back better” approach, which is aimed at improving the education system following the end of hostilities based on the child-friendly school approach.

UNICEF with support from the Dutch Government, has been providing training of governments and other stakeholders in emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction throughout the region and supported the design of eco-friendly schools.



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