The theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is ‘inspiring change for greater awareness of women’s equality’ and what better way to inspire change than to start in the classroom? Over five years of research, the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment’s programme has uncovered a multitude of stories around the journeys of women’s empowerment. This exciting new learning platform transforms these stories into resources which can be used for teaching from secondary school to university levels as well as in workshop and training situations. The aim is to inspire and influence the next generation of policy makers, activists and academics around issues of gender equality.
The Pathways Learning Platform launching on 8 March in celebration of IWD 2014 is a new educational website that promises to reinvigorate teaching and learning on a range of subjects connected to gender, women’s empowerment and development. The platform, which is a free open-access site, contains four modules, which connect to Pathways’ four research themes.
- Empowerment and Women’s Work explores what it is about work that makes it empowering for women. It presents the experiences of women who have navigated routes of empowerment through work, often in difficult and restricting societies and political systems.
- Politics, Equality and Voice explores the ways greater fairness for women participating in politics can be achieved and presents factors which enable or constrain women from fully participating in politics.
- Women, Representation and Sexuality takes the body as its entry point to understanding ways sexuality and pleasure can be a positive force in development policy and practice and challenges the negative language used and approach taken by institutions working with women on sexuality and female representation.
- Understanding and Evolving Empowerment explores fresh ways to measure empowerment and evaluates the power of quantitative vs qualitative. It presents a broad range of projects, which have used alternative techniques to collect data and have helped to expand our conceptual understanding of the meanings and practices of empowerment in different regions and for different women.
Resources for you
The platform is aimed at a wide range of users and has filters to access content by academic level. It provides resources for students and teachers as well as others. Whether you are part of a community group, work for a women’s organisations, are facilitating workshops or are studying gender related undergraduate programmes, you can access resources under the ‘other groups’ category.
All resources can be downloaded and used without Internet connection and every resource and activity is also included in specially designed workbooks. These features allow users complete flexibility in how they choose to teach and engage with the learning materials within this platform. A lesson planning document and ‘How to Use’ instructional film is also included to enhance understanding and provide further support to educators and learners.
Inspiring change through women’s stories
As a group of researchers, activists and communicators with hubs based in Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia and West Africa, Pathways members have tried to trace the hidden as well as the well-worn journeys of women’s empowerment. Well-worn journeys such as the importance of education, political voice and economic empowerment, and those more hidden such as the significance of pleasure and leisure and religion. One of the main guides of our work has been to give space for women’s own voices – to show how women are experiencing empowerment and disempowerment in their own lives. We have developed this platform with the aim of showing these stories to a wide audience through engaging visual resources.
The platform combines the use of case studies from nine countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone – with a wide selection of resources designed to engage and incite debate:
- films which follow women’s experiences in Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Palestine and Sierra Leone
- photo galleries, for example photographs taken by domestic workers in Brazil to capture their own life experiences
- info graphics, timelines, text resources, interactive comics
- a range of flexible activities that vary in length of time, learning styles and skills bring women’s stories of empowerment to life and aim to inspire teachers and learners alike.
With these resources we aim to influence a new generation of policy makers, activists and academics around issues of gender equality.
Our hope for the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment learning platform is that by offering flexible learning materials it will inspire a radical shift in policy and practice. Inspiring change on International Women’s Day and beyond.
Natalie Jeffers is an IDS/School of Global Studies Climate Change and Development Msc Alumni, principal developer of the Pathways Learning Platform and director of Matters of the Earth, a company which specialises in the re-purposing of research for new audiences.
Jenny Edwards is the Programme Officer for the Pathways to Women’s Empowerment Programme, based at IDS.
Pathways of Women’s Empowerment is a research and communication programme which seeks to discover where women are achieving real gains despite or because of policy and practice. It looks at how this has happened, and aims to make these pathways visible so that we can build on these revealed successes. By involving policy actors and practitioners directly in what we are learning, through action research and through innovative communications methods, we hope that our work can in itself become a catalyst of change.