Home | Malloy, M., Unterhalter, E. et al (2024). ‘Sustainability, gender equality and girls’ education: Reflections from approaches to MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) in Girls’ Education Challenge projects in Kenya’. AGEE Working Paper.

Malloy, M., Unterhalter, E. et al (2024). ‘Sustainability, gender equality and girls’ education: Reflections from approaches to MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) in Girls’ Education Challenge projects in Kenya’. AGEE Working Paper.

‘Sustainability, gender equality and girls’ education: Reflections from approaches to MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) in Girls’ Education Challenge projects in Kenya’.

AGEE Working Paper.

Meaghan Malloy, Elaine Unterhalter, Rosie Peppin Vaughan and Helen Longlands, with contributions from Collins Olang and Michelle Lewis Sandall.

Executive Summary (full paper to be published in May 2024)

This working paper explores how project level data, collected as part of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) processes of girls’ education projects, can contribute insights to wider initiatives concerned with building a broader data ecosystem to understand how and why gender inequalities in education manifest and change, and what processes can work to help build institutions that sustain gender equality in and through education. To do this, this paper draws on perspectives from a diverse group of individuals and organisations involved in designing and delivering four Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) projects in Kenya during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This working paper aims to reflect critically on how data and evidence generated at the project level can be augmented and used to promote and sustain gender equality in and through education in contexts of crisis.

Processes to promote and sustain girls’ education and address gender inequalities in education are complicated and complex. Progress has been frustrated by numerous overlapping issues including forms of crises, political backlash, lack of resources, and data and measurement issues, despite longstanding policy support for girls’ education at global and national levels. Generating and gathering accurate data and building inclusive institutions are key aspects of trying to protect against the indifference and dehumanisation of processes that oppose or hinder progress towards gender equalities in education. But while building the evidence base in support of gender equality in and through education is a difficult task, it is not impossible. A growing community of practice comprising academics and practitioners is collaborating to make gender and education data more accurate, complete, accessible, and useful for building inclusive, equitable and sustainable institutions and to help deepen understanding about how transformative, sustainable change can happen.

This working paper contributes to the work of this community of practice by exploring emerging questions concerning meanings and measures of sustainability, gender equality and girls’ education in a post-COVID-19 world. Through exploring evidence and knowledge of practitioners working on girls’ education at the project level, this paper provides insight on how data are used and what improvements in data are needed for work on gender equality in education. This is done through a focus on the work of the Girls Education Challenge (GEC) and the Accountability for Gender Equality in Education (AGEE) project. In particular, the paper explores dialogues between those working on the two initiatives in Kenya and concludes by drawing out wider issues.

The research discussed in this paper was conducted by members of the AGEE team over an eight-month period from February to September 2023. Kenya was chosen as the focus country because the GEC had seven projects operating in diverse settings across the country between April 2017 and March 2023. In 2023, the Kenyan government planned national reforms to improve education quality, equality and inclusion thus providing an excellent setting for reflections on sustainability of gender equality in and through education.

The data discussed in this paper was collected through a review of GEC MEL documentation, dated from 2017 to 2024, including internal and publicly available documents such as project tracking and progress reports, annual reports, and MEL frameworks, guidance and tools; a 3-hour online workshop, held on 19 April 2023, with 10 Kenya-based GEC project staff involved in four of the seven GEC projects in Kenya; and nine 1-hour individual interviews, conducted online via Zoom between July and September 2023. The workshop was modelled on prior AGEE workshops using participatory and consultative methods and drew on the AGEE Framework to think about project evaluation more broadly.

Key findings include the association of sustainability with a project’s ability to influence change at different levels, including girls’ lives, social norms and local or national education policy. The examples of sustainability shared by participants did not showcase maintaining the same exact project activities over a longer period of time, but instead this sense of sustainability as influence. The associated concept of social sustainability, as opposed to financial or environmental sustainability, also emerged as a key theme. There were a number of connections and disconnections between participants’ views on sustainability and gender equality in education. Overall, however, there was greater coherency in defining gender equality in education, and this led to more exploratory and innovative thinking around what additional measures would be needed to monitor girls’ and women’s education in the longer term, thereby further securing the sustainability of the project aims beyond the closing. The AGEE Framework was seen to be a useful supplemental tool for thinking about that process and improving data collection as crucial for building institutional conditions for gender equality in and through education. The importance of including stakeholders in discussions about data, how data is used, how data is generated and which data is generated and how different sites of reflection of this connect, will continue to be explored in the next stages of the AGEE project.