Complexities of gender mainstreaming in higher education capacity development programmes

Miriam Langeveld, Carin Vijfhuizen, Mtinkheni Gondwe
Nuffic (Netherlands Organisation for international cooperation in higher education)
Year of publication: 

The Netherlands organisation for international cooperation in higher education (Nuffic) manages and implements capacity development programmes in post-secondary education (e.g. fellowship programmes and projects) in partner countries. The organisation also supports and promotes the internationalisation of higher education in the Netherlands. All this is done on behalf of national and international public and private sponsors. Many of the capacity development programmes managed by Nuffic have explicit gender-related specifications and targets (defined by the sponsors) to ensure that women and men equally benefit from the interventions. Many sponsors find that development programmes should contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. However, experience has shown that mainstreaming gender in the programmes is very challenging.

In this paper we analyse Nuffic’s efforts to ensure the inclusion of women and their interests in its programmes. Examples are provided from practice, indicating the successes achieved and factors that hamper or facilitate gender mainstreaming. These examples are drawn from experiences gained in three key programmes managed by Nuffic on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (NFP, € 160 million in 61 countries), the Netherlands Programme for Institutional Strengthening of Post-secondary Education and Training (NPT, € 228 million, 175 projects in 15 countries) and the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity development in Higher Education (NICHE, € 104 million, 78 projects in 23 countries). Each of these programmes has a lifespan of four years and an additional four-year phase out period. Altogether, these programmes have provided a wealth of experience in gender mainstreaming.

The current document was originally presented by the authors at the Women’s Worlds Conference in Canada in 2011. In its current form it serves as a report on ‘lessons learned’ to inspire others who manage capacity building programmes in higher education in developing countries. We discuss:

  • what the gender equality objectives and requirements are for NFP, NPT and NICHE;
  • how Nuffic interpreted these and translated them in the programmes;
  • the challenges that Nuffic has experienced in mainstreaming gender in the three programmes;
  • how Nuffic has dealt with these challenges; and
  • where there is room for improvement (tips/do’s and don’ts).

For each of these programmes, an analysis is made from the perspective of the most important stakeholders in the programmes (Nuffic as programme manager; the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs as programme owner; Northern and Southern project implementers; and, in the case of NFP, the fellows). The lessons learned from these programmes are also relevant for and applicable to cooperation programmes outside the education sector.

(The above text is taken from the preface to the report)