Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in Dual VET: Getting Beyond Indicators

How can development cooperation foster Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in Vocational Education and Training (VET) in general and dual VET in particular? How can we ensure that GESI is included when we discuss, design and implement development projects in partner countries? What can we learn from countries that have promoted inclusive policies in dual VET?

Photo: Swisscontact

Why is GESI important?

Overall, the interest in promoting GESI in dual VET stems from two main sources:

  • the business sector’s need to address skills gaps and shortages which could affect productivity and competitiveness; and
  • the aim of social justice, addressing the needs of disadvantaged populations and individuals. Achieving equity and social justice in VET and labour markets are essential goals of SDG 4 and 8, highlighting the goal of ‘leave no one behind’ and that everyone has the right to education, lifelong learning and decent work.

Efforts made by governments over the last decades to broaden, sensitize, incentivize GESI in VET, led to noticeable progress towards achieving universal access to primary education and increased women’s labour force participation. There is a wide range of global and regional portals, networks and resources available promoting gender responsive and inclusive VET and employment, including e.g. ASPYEE (an interactive portal in Africa); International Disability Alliance (IDA); UNESCO’ s right to Education Portal or the multi-donor supported VET TOOLBOX.

When accessing VET and benefitting from better employment opportunities, however, significant inequalities remain (UNESCO-UNEVOC: Access to Quality TVET for All; ILO, 2020: The gender divide in skills development: Progress, challenges and policy options for empowering women). Dealing with GESI means dealing with complex realities and addressing barriers and multiple disadvantages faced in different ways by different groups. The cumulative nature of social exclusion (intersectionality) leads to the complex situation where those left behind in education also tend to be left behind in VET participation and in accessing labour market opportunities (ILO: Skills for social inclusion; UNWOMEN (2021): Intersectionality Resource Guide and Toolkit).

So, how can dual VET interventions in the context of development cooperation most effectively promote GESI in partner countries?

First, adequate interventions require reflections on the following issues and questions:

  • Do we really understand the nature of the most prominent barriers that women and disadvantaged groups face when they access and experience VET as well as during the transition to the world of work?
  • Is there an enabling policy environment and political will in place that supports access and overall inclusion?
  • Do we truly address these barriers and disincentives, and do we consider our own and our partners’ cultural biases and norms when we design and implement dual VET projects?
  • Do we make sure that GESI is addressed in both learning venues, the VET schools / centres and enterprises and the world of work?
  • Do we have sufficiently explored the collaboration with the business sector and relevant partners and assess a potential business case for GESI in dual VET that can be promoted?
  • How can we ensure and measure that the impact of our projects is responsive and transformative and does not perpetuate existing inequalities?

DC dVET BarCamps and further Resources

The above questions and more were addressed during a series of DC dVET online BarCamps. These BarCamps had the goal to collate and exchange learnings among donors, projects and implementing partners from around the world. All BarCamps were documented and enriched with additional literature and good case practices. 

Overview of BarCamp series and key takeaways, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in Dual VET

Between May 2022 and June 2023, DC dVET organized a series of GE SI BarCamps with a variety of stakeholders. Representatives from the private sector, from implementing partners, from Civil Society Organizations and NGOs as well as from donors’ organizations discussed in an open format how gender equality and social inclusion can succeed in (dual) VET projects. Discussions and inputs varied from the opportunities that the additional learning venue „company“ provide for our projects to change the reality of life for disadvantaged groups. On the other hand, some voices raised the challenges faced by companies not being willing to go along with training of representatives from disadvantaged groups blaming high costs.

During the five BarCamps people from a common field of work exchanged their experiences and learned from each other thanks to the open format. Not only became participants contributors, but they were also a host of a session and welcomed other experts as guests in the session room. DC dVET provided the room and session hosts decided on how to exchange with their guests. Everyone was able to take away learnings and input from other experiences. Dive deeper into our conceptual approach of our BarCamp series as well as the key take aways by clicking on the following two videos of our lead GESI expert.

Overview of BarCamp series and key takeaways

Keynote by Sandra Rotboeck

Wrap-up and key takeaways