Elaine Butler of WAVE Australia reflects on the ASPBAE-Azad workshop on Gender, Education, Skills, and Work

By Elaine Butler
WAVE – Women and Adult and Vocational Education Inc.

World leaders gathered at the United Nations last month to adopt a new set of global development goals that aim to end extreme poverty, promote inclusive economic growth, and protect the planet. The result is an ambitious yet achievable agenda for the 21st century, if we harness 21st century development practices….

We are in a new era of development that recognizes the need for fresh approaches and engagement from all sectors. These lessons can help the international community move beyond traditional models and strengthen public-private partnerships so we can translate our next set of global goals from words to lasting change.[1]

While world leaders met in various locations following the formal acceptance of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2015-2030, educator/‘leaders’ from 18 countries in the diverse, densely populated, and very large area that is broadly categorised as ‘Asia South Pacific’, joined by colleagues from UNESCO, also met at a Regional Workshop in Delhi to discuss trends, issues, and futures (global, regional, local) with a focus on gender, education, skills, and work.  While these areas underpin and cut across the 17 new SDGs, and poverty alleviation has been high on the agenda, the main focus rests on Goals 4 and 5 – gender and education. Of key concern is continuing access to relevant quality affordable education and training in the post school environment – a human right – that will provide opportunities for marginalised individuals and communities through providing learning opportunities that can link them with the worlds of paid employment and decent work.

Elaine Butler, WAVE Australia

As this workshop was auspiced by Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE), in collaboration with Azad Foundation, in the best tradition of lifelong learning (LLL) was participative, collaborative, and simultaneously highly educative and educating.  The programme was divided into cascading and interlinking segments to inform, share issues, debate, and identify shared topics of concern for advocacy and action –

  • Reading the reality – the global and regional context of gender, education, and lifelong learning, decent work, and sustainable development;
  • Frameworks for understanding gender, work, and skills;
    • Policy frameworks
  • Sub regional contexts (South Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, South East Asia, South Pacific);
  • Gender and work in the real world (narratives from migrant workers, marginalised youth, the informal sector, and women’s labour organisations)
  • Country context on gender, skills, and work, including site visits, with a focus on India;
  • Examples of successful programmes and practices (from Azad, India; PEKKA Indonesia, Friend Fiji, and work through the Dhaka Ahsania Mission);
  • Financing and provisioning;
  • Planning for the way forward.

Continuing themes and cross county/region issues emerged – culture and religion; access to resources; location  and climate change: the prevalence of gender based violence and lack of safety; impact of global economic change, neoliberalism and mobile capitalism – the marketisation and commercialisation of education/learning including the ever increasing domination of TVET, privatisation of training; decreasing availability of secure paid work and increasing gap between rich and poor; and, above all, the glacial change in relation to gender and the associated normative frameworks and the need to make visible and address issues related to human rights and the complexity of gender and intersectionality.

I came to this ASPBAE workshop with two main thought tracks – deep concerns relating to post-school education and training and access to decent work for women and girls, along with the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) to impact and shape national/regional policies, implementation, resourcing and positive outcomes in Goals 4 and 5, and delight at the opportunity to listen, learn, share perspectives, to network and strategise with regional professional colleagues about ongoing advocacy.

The complexity of the new SDG agenda is compounded by inadequate support for the full implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda following the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on Financing for Development in relation to the needs of adults, gender equity, and access to lifelong learning for all. The AAAA failed to address tax justice and tax equity, while also lacking in commitment to address the responsibilities of trade regimes and traditional donors. This, in a climate of ever increasing rhetoric about involvement of the private sector in the growing area of aid capitalism – ‘social good and profitability’ and the so called lack of capacity of governments to be able to meet the needs of their citizens, let alone the marginalised. This new Agenda is highly political and firmly focused on economic outcomes – growth and prosperity. Our challenge is to enhance its potential to transform the lives of the marginalised and vulnerable, especially women and girls.

The aims of the workshop have addressed the challenges that confront us perfectly – to equip CSOs with understanding and analysis on gender, skills, and TVET to influence emergent government plans and programmes by contextualising the new education agenda 2030 including the ASEAN 2015 plans; deepening our understanding of gender issues, especially as they relate to women and the global/regional/national policy environments in which we work. The workshop indeed provided a platform for learning, exchange, and shared decision-making that will influence practice and advocacy as a collective within ASPBAE and in our own countries and organisations. The potential of strategic relationships and shared endeavour that crosses national boundaries, languages, cultures, economies, and politics within our region (and globalising world) will continue to inform and enhance our advocacy work at many levels, from grass roots to global.  I left this workshop after four intensive days feeling better informed, humbled, inspired, re-energised, and very grateful for all that ASPBAE is and does.


[1] UN Wire United Nations Foundation 28th October 2015  Cited/sourced from http://allafrica.com/stories/201510271866.html

Elaine Butler of WAVE Australia reflects on the ASPBAE-Azad workshop on Gender, Education, Skills, and Work

Dreams and changes

29 October 2015

By Irina Razilova, DVV international, Central Asia

Irina Razilova

The trip to India was “started” for me in Uzbekistan. There was only one day before departure to Delhi, when I read the announcement that Tashkent hosts exhibition of Chinmoy Kumar Ghose (Sri Chinmoy), Indian preacher, social activist, painter, and musician. Sometimes when we are in the midst of rush, trying to overtake the clock, suddenly appears the wish to stop, take a “boat of time” and float slowly downstream, admiring the picturesque beaches. I went to the exhibition. Before the long-awaited trip it looked very symbolic. I liked all the pictures, but two of them attracted my attention to them more than others. I was allowed to make photos of these pictures. One is called the “Dream”, and the other – “Change”.Women drivers

After arriving to India for the Asia Pacific Regional Workshop ‘Gender, Education, Skills and work’, and especially after visiting Azad Foundation, I suddenly realised that “Dream” and “Change” are beautiful and relevant words, which clearly illustrate the key theme of the workshop.  During a site visit on 27 October 2015, I met women who enrolled in Azad Foundation courses to become drivers. They now drive taxis with the motto – “Cabs for women by women”. I am inspired by their journey.

Dreams and changes

Engaging young people in learning and training for paid work

27 October 2015

By Elaine Butler, Women in Adult and Vocational Education (WAVE) Ambassador (Australia), Immediate Past National Co-convenor

DSC_1480ETASHA, an NGO that focuses on empowering young people from its surrounding community, is located on the third floor of a building in a side street in the midst of a busy ‘urban village’ in New Delhi. After climbing the stairs one of the first impressions is that of a high energy welcoming learning environment where everyone is both engrossed in a purposeful activity and thoroughly enjoying it.

ETASHA’s core business if to engage the young people that are part of the local community in learning activities and training that will result in paid work, and so open doors to increased choices and opportunities in their lives. The focus is on skill development, building self- esteem, self-confidence and a sense of identity, career guidance & linking the student’s with potential employers after completing their selected modules.

The NGO works on a community development model, with staff and teachers building relationships with the community, parents, families, and businesses. Their program is learner centred with a participatory pedagogical approach. Modules are selected to provide these significant stepping stones- accounting & bookkeeping, computer & IT skills, selling skills (for retail) and tailored for flexible delivery, to suit the demands and life circumstances of the young people who enrol at a very minimal charge. Assessment is continual throughout the modules. This training also co-exists with formal schooling for those who are still attending high school, as well as acting as a pathway &/or incentive to return to or complete more schooling.

Class sizes are capped at 20, with a high success rate of students accessing paid work. Follow up with students and their families takes place, as does evaluation of programs and obtaining feedback from employers (as well as indications of skill needs). Anyone who teaches at ETASHA receives training to ensure they meet the approach that is proving so successful – interactive, participative, a mix of activity sheets, role-play, peer to peer and teacher interaction, and written & practical work.DSC_1229zd

As we walked up the stairs the buzz and hum and energy of what was going on was evident- as was the excitement at our visit when we entered. Each room was filled to capacity with students on task- totally engaged. Once a number of us (the ASPBAE visitors) entered the room the student (male and female) were quick to start asking questions, & the chatting continued in small groups gathered around each other on the floor. The young people sat through the many questions that we asked the director and other staff members, then the two presentations by ASPBAE participants- one from Afghanistan, the other from Timor Leste, who shared information about learning programs in their respective countries.

While many questions remain, initiatives such as ETASHA are to be supported and applauded for the difference they can make to individual lives as well as to the wellbeing of local communities through the provision of accessible, relevant and contextualised learning.

All too soon it was time for the long drive back to Gurgaon, thanks to the expert drivers provided by Azad Foundation, with much to reflect on from this learning experience.

Engaging young people in learning and training for paid work

Promoting innovative ideas in public education

27 October 2015

By Choi Suet Wah, Chinese Women Workers’ Network

DSC_1229mIL&FS is a private training centre funded by the Government of India and several other companies. Their work focuses on income/social security, education school and skills, and healthcare. The global business head, Pooja Gianchandani, and her colleagues received us and introduced their work to us. The most impressive point was that they developed a technology with an in-built computer, projector, touch-control function, and video camera in one machine called “K-Yan”. That is awesome and really marveled our group. Other than the hardware, they also develop the curriculum and e-training materials for formal education and skills training. K-Yan is used in 26000+ schools in the country and IL&FS provides TOT trainings to teachers. We also visited their training class and found that the K-Yan helps a lot in the classroom.

The vocational training in IL&FS is various and diverse. Their target is to skill 4 million people for jobs by 2022. They train people in welding, electronic wiring, sewing, healthcare, traditional handcraft design and sales, catering, retails and sales, hotel services, and hair and beauty services.

The students found the training in IL&FS useful because it is practical. Those trainings are fit to the needs of corporations. Some companies cooperate with the organisation through CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives, some companies are directly involved in the curriculum design, and some others receive graduates from the organisation. It is quite a good adaption for employment. We met a student who is studying in university for a degree and he comes to IL&FS for electronic wire training. He is planning to have his own shop after he practices for a few years in the industry after his graduation. The tuition fee is 350-400 USD which is less than half in other profit-making training centers. The tuition is reducing recently due to subsidies from the government.

The idea is good, the machine is excellent, and the people are working hard with passion. May be due to time limitation, it would be great if we could share more on education ideology with each other, especially while the public education is almost absent in the country, we cannot just focus on skills even though it is very important. Basic education is a fundamental element for social mobility. How to promote the innovative ideas they have already contributed to public education will be an important task for IL&FS.\

Here are some photos of the site visit taken by ASPBAE –

DSC_1229f  DSC_1229b  DSC_1229q  DSC_1229j  DSC_1229k  DSC_1229r  DSC_1229s  DSC_1229u  DSC_1229z  DSC_1229p


Promoting innovative ideas in public education

Being more instrumental in COESI’s advocacy and campaigns initiatives

By Sam Wilson, Coalition on Education Solomon Islands (COESI)

Today’s session was awesome, the programme set up, presentations, and the discussions were great. I was so privileged to attend such a higher level programme, a regional one.

I for real was so nervous, however after day I started to build confidence. I’ve learned more about the topic which helps inputs more understanding. It also gives me a wider angle in comparison of different cultures to mine and also similarities.

I hope that by the end of this workshop I will be more instrumental in the advocacy and campaign programmes of COESI and also be more confident in ASPBAE’s programmes in the future.

I would like to thank ASPBAE for this wonderful opportunity.

Being more instrumental in COESI’s advocacy and campaigns initiatives

Men need gender sensitisation too!

26 October 2015

By Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director, Women’s eye, Japan

MegumiAfter a 9 hour flight from Narita, Japan, to New Delhi, I arrived in India last night. I was then picked up by a woman taxi driver from “Women on Wheels” programme, creating a job for women in where used to be a man dominated industry. That was an exciting start!

Today was the first day of the ASPBAE-Azad Foundation 4 day workshop on Gender, Education, Skills and Work. At the registration line up, everyone looked a bit nervous but they also seemed filled with a lot of expectation. I myself set 3 goals that I will bring back from the workshop. And I’ve already reached those three goals although more values will be added for the next 3 days for sure.

My goals and one example of what I’ve acquired today are –

  1. What are the tips, actual behaviours, things, that are being careful for successful grassroots activities/groups (25% of the participants were male for this WS to learn and discuss gender equality. In Japan usually the participants for gender related events are almost all women).
  2. What are the tips to make the workshop special as there are so many workshops but only few are meaningful ones (we spent 1 hour for Ice break to get to know each other by using 3 different ways so that I was able to know not just names but about their family, hobby, inspiration and etc. This made me feel much more relaxed and took barrier between other participants that lead the atmosphere of whole venue ready for deeper discussion.
  3. Create my own network in Asia (through the workshop, we are all getting real close).

The first speaker, Rebecca Gaddi, who teaches at University of Philippines, seemed a bit intimidating to me at first. She started the session by telling us “You are all feminist, right?” Then when she moved to other topic that were very gender issues she told the men “Let’s ask men here!” and started to ask questions. I was very shocked to see these and was thinking it is not possible in Japan!!!

During a break, I asked some guys as to how they felt. Mr. Khan from Bangladesh and Kiichi, a Japanese living in Bangladesh, answered my questions and said that they were OK and for Mr. Khan it was a good exercise to check his gender lens. And both of them told me that I should share my concerns with others.

So I directly talked to Rebecca and her Philippines group. We discussed how I felt uncomfortable with Rebecca’s approach with such direct communication. Rebecca understood the cultural situation in Japan and she actually gave me some tips and good ideas which may work in the Japanese context. She also explained how important it is not just to include men in gender-related sessions but to train them to be men champions and advocates. The Philippine group also promised me to share the gender sensitivity training basic for men to help me.

This reminded me that educating and empowering only women might be cause for more difficult situation unless include men who are key in the region.

How nice to have an international team to work on gender equality!

The workshop and also my very first time India are becoming an amazing experience!


Men need gender sensitisation too!

Gearing up for the Regional Workshop on Gender, Education, Skills and Work

By Sumedha Sharma, ASPBAE Programme Coordinator


The Asia Pacific Regional Workshop on Gender, Education, Skills and work starts tomorrow

in New Delhi, India. 52 participants from 18 countries will be participating in the 4 day
workshop being co-hosted by ASPBAE and one of its members, Azad Foundation.

It has been an exciting journey from the time the idea was conceptualised during a small team meeting of ASPBAE to this stage where such a large gathering will talk about education, skills, and work from a gendered lens.

The idea germinated from discussions on TVET and skill building and a deeper reflection on how relevant are the skills imparted to young girls and women.  We at ASPBAE felt that there is a need to look at the existing literacy and life skills education programmes and TVET programmes offered in different countries and review if they address the issues of gender discrimination and gender stereotyping.  Are the skills offered to women different from those to men? Are women encouraged to learn skills that fall in the traditional domain which believes that women can do some jobs better such as healthcare, tailoring, communication, education, etc.? And men can do the others better.  This demarcation of skills and roles has an impact on the social and economic empowerment of women, whose engagement in the job market has not been equal to men. There is a glass ceiling that women hit when the choices for them are limited, and capacities not built to the optimum.

Some members of ASPBAE are actively engaged on issues of gender, skill building, and TVET, Azad Foundation being one of them.  And it was most appropriate that Azad Foundation agreed to co-host this workshop, as their aim of is to work towards a world where all women, in particular women from resource-poor backgrounds, enjoy full citizenship, earn a livelihood with dignity, and generate wealth and value for all. Through its “Women on Wheels” programme, Azad has helped women enter the transport sector which has been and continues to be very male dominated. It has succeeded in creating a pool of active women drivers in the community.

The timings for this discussion align with the preparations of civil society organisations to influence their national policies and programmes to support the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Gender, skills, and TVET feature prominently in these goals especially SDG 4, 5, and 8.

It’s also timely in the Southeast Asia region, where in the midst of ASEAN integration, to locate the issues of gender and skills in the context of integration, cross-border movements, and decent work.

It will be interesting to see how the discussions unfold in the next few days. The organisers and facilitators for this workshop have tried their best to cover as many aspects as possible on gender, education, skills, and work with the objective to start a meaningful and continuous dialogue on this issue.

The journey has begun and it has been an enjoyable process so far, from conceptualising the idea to the eve of the workshop. As one of the members of the facilitating and organising team, I have felt grateful all through the process, from the support and enthusiasm shown and offered by participants, resource persons, and ASPBAE members. The initial planning started keeping in mind a group of 35 participants – we are 52 now. There have been emails from participants and facilitators offering support where required and willingness to take additional work as required.

There are some workshops where one feels the energy levels high, a great deal of interest, and enthusiasm on the topic to be discussed and the country to be visited. And this is one of those workshops.

We will be visiting 3 organisations working on skill building and I would like to mention that 2 of them are not ASPBAE members and have not known Azad Foundation and ASPBAE earlier. However, the support and willingness to host our participants at their organisation is greatly appreciated.

Participants have started to arrive, picked up by women chauffeurs of Sakha Cabs (a sister wing of Azad Foundation). It will be a first time for many to travel in a woman cab service, and few have posted about that on Facebook as well.

Keep watching this space as other participants share each day about the workshop.

Gearing up for the Regional Workshop on Gender, Education, Skills and Work