Journal Article

Up-skilling women or de-skilling patriarchy? : how TVET can drive wider gender transformation and the Decent work agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa


Despite decades of focus on gender and skills training, the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa remains deeply gendered and rooted in wider structures of patriarchal inequality and exploitation. Engaging with recent theoretical moves toward gender-transformative and gender-just TVET programming, this paper explores how a gradual revisioning of TVET can be mobilised to challenge broader gender inequality and discrimination in precarious settings. Bringing together insights from feminist scholarship and the UN’s decent work agenda, which seeks to align fair and secure working conditions with the aspirations of workers, we ask what a gender-transformative future for TVET might look like where labour rights, sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing are incorporated from the ground up. Drawing on findings from Cameroon and Sierra Leone, from the innovative ‘Gen-Up’ project which aims to investigate possible gender-responsive TVET programmes and policies in collaboration with the TVET provider, the Don Bosco network we ask what is both possible and permissible in the fractious economic climate, where the focus on basic survival and income generation inhibits a genuine challenge to entrenched gender norms and stereotypes. For young women especially whose aspirations are multiply damaged by persistent discriminatory frameworks and who become further vulnerable at times of economic and social crisis, we ask whether current TVET programming is helping them escape the multiple forms of marginalisation they face. Even in cases where women may be portrayed as successful entrepreneurs or achieving sustainable livelihoods, the evidence suggests these individualistic narratives are leaving many young women behind. In this context of instability, precarity and increasing global and local socio-economic and gender inequalities we argue that only holistic TVET programming based on social and moral values and empowerment and proposing diverse pathways to decent work, creating forms of solidarity, collaboration and a contextualised enabling environment can act as both a lever for gender transformation and also an engine for broader socio-economic change fitting the ‘Decent Work’ vision and a constantly changing world of work.

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Wignall, Ross
Piquard, Brigitte
Joel, Emily

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Law and Social Sciences
School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-07-19

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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