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Promoting gender equitable schools through our programs 

Our focus on gender equity

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Schools need to be safe and inclusive environments that meet the needs of all students so they can maintain access to education throughout their childhood and young adulthood. If school environments are not safe or inclusive, students can suffer. 

The responses from our 2023 PULS Survey show that many biases about student capabilities based on gender are common among school leaders. Research tells us that students assigned to biased teachers are more likely to experience negative outcomes. For example, a study conducted in Peru found that “when high school students are exposed to the gender biases of teachers the effects can be deleterious and long-lasting, impacting factors such as whether students finish school, whether they apply to and attend college, and whether they succeed in formal sector employment as young adults.”

Because of these challenges, we set out to learn more about how to best train school leaders in creating gender-inclusive environments through our gender-focused programs.


School leaders play a crucial role in promoting gender-responsive practices by establishing inclusive learning environments that challenge stereotypes and empower students to reach their full potential regardless of gender. Anchoring in this belief, our programs support school leaders in identifying vulnerable students and responding appropriately to their needs. They help school leaders collaborate with community stakeholders to co-create solutions to establish a gender-responsive culture within schools and communities.

Key questions we are aiming to answer through this work:

  1. What is the role of School Leaders in producing gender-equitable outcomes?

  2. What factors are responsible for gender inequality in schools and within school leadership?

  3. What support is needed to promote gender equality in schools and within school leadership?

How are we working towards building improved and equitable solutions for all students?

Our gender programs have grown and changed over the years. We began with a program implemented by our partners Kenya (Dignitas) and India (Alokit). After that program, we made some changes, and our partners implemented a modified version in India (Alokit) and Indonesia (Inspirasi). In India and Indonesia, the program was called Shakti (Hindi for power), while in Kenya, it was referred to as Kanya (Hindi for girl child). Our partners implement each of these programs using the content developed by GSL and we support them with program implementation.

Shakti 1.0 / Kanya

In the first phase of Shakti implementation, the goal was to strengthen the capacity of school leaders to support girls’ return to school post-COVID-19 shutdowns as well as their continued education. The program did this by training school leaders on 

  1. Gender-inclusive approaches to girls’ school re-enrolment

  2. Gender inequity in education

  3. Engaging girls in continued learning

Shakti 2.0 

Keeping Shakti 1.0 in mind, a second version of this program was rolled out to empower School Leaders to create gender-responsive school leadership in a more contextual and impactful manner. 

The second phase of the program was implemented in India and Indonesia with our partners Alokit and Inspirasi, respectively. In India, the program was implemented in 30 residential schools for girls, with a focus on physical and sexual violence. In Indonesia, it was implemented 30 in co-ed schools, and it sought to address gender-based challenges, especially bullying.

Gender Equitable Schools Program (GESP)

Echidna Giving and the Vitol Foundation are currently funding our latest gender-focused work, the Gender Equitable Schools Program. Through this program, we aim to build school leaders’ competency to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to co-create solutions that will help to establish a gender-responsive culture within schools and communities.

We hope to answer two questions from this program.

  1. Which gender training and mainstreaming approach is more effective—a focused standalone gender training program (Program B), or a broader equity-focused training program (Program A)? 

  2. What are the systemic conditions and structural barriers and biases that may affect gender equity in school leadership and schooling in Telangana, India?


Overall, as a result of the various gender-focused projects, we have seen improvements across contexts.

  1. Increased awareness of gender issues and challenges that students face

  2. Shifts towards more equitable mindsets and beliefs about opportunities that boys and girls should have in life

  3. More confidence in addressing challenges that students face and in creating gender-responsive environments


In our latest program (GESP), we hope that school leaders will continue to change their mindsets about students, gain skills in implementing interventions to improve student safety and improve their capacity to support effective classroom practice. We hope that these improvements will result in students feeling a greater sense of safety and belonging at school and eventually lead to more students staying in school and achieving better outcomes.

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