International Women’s Day, 2023 – Women and Girls: Innovation and Higher Education


Credit: Canva via Unesco
  • Opinion by Giulia Ribeiro Barao, Bosen Lily Liu (Paris)
  • Inter Press Service
  • The following opinion piece is part of a series on the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8.

In 2021, UNESCO predicted that 11 million girls were at risk of not returning to school following the educational disruptions caused by the pandemic. While the educational disruption accelerated the path to innovative learning practices, including distance and online education, it was not an equal reality for all social groups, as those who were already marginalized were also over-represented in the offline population, including girls and women, and especially those living in poverty and rural communities (ECOSOC, 2021).

In 2020, 57 percent of women worldwide used the internet, compared to 62 percent of men (ECOSOC, 2021). In Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), Africa and the Arab States, the gender gap in Internet use remains widening.

For example, in LDCs only 19 percent of women use the internet, which is 12 percentage points lower than that of men. Similarly, in Africa, 24 percent of women use the internet, compared to 35 percent of men, while in the Arab states, internet use is 56 percent, compared to 68 percent of men.

Girls and women who are left without internet access and digital literacy will not benefit from the technological revolution that is currently transforming all areas of life, especially the education sector and the labor market.

While innovation and technology for girls’ and women’s education is undoubtedly a crucial topic in today’s scenario, we should note that innovation itself extends beyond the boundaries of the digital world.

To further explore the field of innovation in education, the UNESCO Young People on Transforming Education Project (YPTEP) focuses on innovative learning practices – technological or non-technological tools and techniques – initiated and led by learners themselves for meaningful and transformative engagement in their own educational journeys.

A highlight of the project is understanding the gender responsive practices of girls and women.

Girls and women around the world have long been innovative in combating gender barriers and creating self-initiative and community strategies to access learning, even when they are excluded from internet access and other forms of innovation.

A female leader who creates a finance course for mothers while providing collective care for their children innovates in education. A girl who starts a book club with her friends to read and discuss publications about feminism is innovating in education.

Women in STEM, participating in research and development groups, while still under-represented, are innovating in education.

So here we are – right at the crossroads where education, innovation and gender inequality converge. Failing to address these issues will only exacerbate existing gaps, hindering progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

To contribute to this debate and seek solutions, UNESCO’s Young People on Transforming Education Project (YPTEP) team at UNESCO IESALC organized a Fireside Chat on March 6, 2023 on “Women and Girls, Innovation and Higher Education” to women and girls from different countries and regions and celebrate their success not only to overcome challenges but also to become changemakers in the field.

During the chat, we had the opportunity to engage with ten female storytellers who shared their stories of innovative learning and broadened our understanding of innovation, creativity and transformation in education.

Stories, more broadly, approached innovative avenues to access higher education; innovative learning practices to progress through education and achieve learning goals; innovative tools and techniques that have enhanced their experiences as learners both inside and outside the classroom; and studying and developing initiatives to design new technology and broader forms of innovation for education.

Participation in the Fireside Chat is also open and expected from anyone who wishes to share their experiences of innovative learning and higher education. We have organized interactive activities and have “open chat box” and “open mic” for anyone willing to present themselves as they type and tell their stories live.


Global Education Monitoring Report Team & UNESCO. (2021). #HerEducationOurFuture: keeping girls in the picture during and after the COVID-19 crisis; the latest facts on gender equality in education. Unesco.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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