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Uncovering gender disparities in STEM and higher education in Southern Africa: evidence from nine countries

4 May, 2023 hora: 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

The side event, part of the 8th Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), aims to discuss the preliminary results of the joint research project of UNESCO IESALC and UNESCO in Harare conducted across nine countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The study assesses women’s participation and representation in higher education in Southern Africa and identifies areas with gender imbalances. The key issues to be discussed include:

  • Representation of women in decision-making and leadership bodies
  • Female participation in teaching across different levels of seniority
  • Women’s conditions of employment
  • Women’s proportion in student enrolment at bachelor, postgraduate, doctoral, and postdoctoral levels
  • Female enrolment in STEM areas of study



The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-25 (CESA 16-25) set out an ambitious and transformational vision for the world and Africa, respectively. Although the primary responsibility for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lies at the country level, higher education institutions (HEIs) in the respective countries are well-placed to make a significant contribution to the 2030 Agenda.

In recent years, enrolment in higher education institutions (HEIs) worldwide, including in Africa, has been growing at an unprecedented rate. HEIs have expanded in number and outreach and therefore played an increasingly influential role in national and world affairs. However, this expansion is also presenting governments with multiple challenges, particularly regarding the inclusion of women in HEIs and their full and sustainable participation in the tertiary education sector.

Additionally, the prevalence of men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers and courses is a crucial factor that influences the growth direction of higher education. The distribution of genders across different fields of study is significantly uneven, and the STEM areas of study show a notable underrepresentation of female students across most countries, including in Africa.

Format: In-person side event inside UN Headquarters (New York).

Organiser: UNESCO

Contact : Rovani Sigamoney, Programme Specialist, UNESCO Office in Harare, r.sigamoney@unesco.org



4 May, 2023
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm