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Closing the justice gap with research on legal empowerment

February 21, 2023

More than half of the world’s population is excluded from opportunities the rule of law provides, and 1.5 billion people cannot access support to resolve justice problems. IDRC supports research on legal empowerment strategies to address this growing justice gap and to promote vibrant civic spaces.

These strategies generally shift away from traditional models that involve lawyers, judges and courts to focus instead on community paralegals who help people understand and claim their rights. Many community-based justice strategies originated during earlier struggles to establish and strengthen democracy, for instance in South Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Indonesia and the Philippines. IDRC-supported research assesses how such strategies can promote the respect for rights that is central to flourishing civic space and accountable governance despite challenges such as weakening political institutions and inequitable responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Following an open and competitive call for proposals, IDRC invested CAD5.8 million in eight research teams that are leading a people-centred examination of community-based justice approaches in 13 countries, to strengthen democracy and protect human rights. In 2022, IDRC awarded an additional CAD1.7 million grant to three new research teams in Latin America, bringing the total to 11 research teams in 16 countries. Four of these teams will also serve as regional hubs (in West Africa, East and southern Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America) to link the research findings to broader learning and collective action in the legal empowerment community of practice.   

This research will contribute knowledge and evidence to a larger learning agenda on legal empowerment that is supported by IDRC partners Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network. The learning agenda focuses the efforts of hundreds of organizations on a set of common questions and comparative learning to address collective knowledge gaps. They seek to learn how grassroots legal empowerment strategies such as transforming institutions, achieving progressive policy reforms and addressing the structural causes of inequality and exclusion can change systems.   

Read about the projects in the Closing the Justice Gap initiative:

Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network will act as the global knowledge hub for this initiative. In collaboration with the regional hubs, they will coordinate shared learning efforts across the projects and organize joint activities at key points in the research process. 

Learning for Life: IDRC invests in research to ensure a quality education for all

January 23, 2023

Education is a fundamental and widely recognized human right. IDRC is among the many Canadian and global institutions working to ensure the right to an education translates to tangible, accessible and quality lifelong learning for all.

IDRC believes in the power of innovative, Southern-based research to inform education policy and practice in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This research does not exist in a theoretical vacuum. It is alive and active in classrooms around the world.

Today, we mark the 5th anniversary of the International Day of Education under the theme “to invest in people, prioritize education” by outlining a few of the ways that we invest in education research and innovations for people of all ages, and with a mind on reaching the most vulnerable.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: Scaling proven solutions for the right start

The evidence is clear that investments in education are the most effective and lead to the most equitable outcomes when they focus on the early years. But global disparities mean access to such programs is far from equal. In 2019, 75% of children worldwide were enrolled in pre-primary education, but in sub-Saharan Africa and in northern Africa and Western Asia, the rate was about 50% (GEM report, 2021).  

How can we close the gap? Education researchers, governments and communities are collaborating to implement and strengthen local programs that may benefit other regions through careful and informed scaling. For example, Plan International has been running a pre-primary summer program called LEARN for several years that gives children in remote villages in Lao PDR access to early childhood education. Through our partnership with the Global Partnership for Education’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange, researchers have continued to implement this initiative across the country and are now working in Cambodia and Tanzania, where millions of children in remote areas do not have access to formal early learning. Activities include trainings for government officials, community leaders and parents who are now collaborating with teachers to not only mobilize children’s enrollment but also provide resources to sustain the centres and pay teachers. 

A young girl sits in front of a laptop computer
GPE/Carine Durand


PRIMARY EDUCATION: How research can help policymakers ensure everyone gets foundational skills

UNESCO estimates that more than 60 million children are missing out on basic education — the fundamental literacy and math skills offered in primary school. That estimate doesn’t even take the full cost of the pandemic into account. UNESCO is warning there are likely more children today who cannot read a simple story than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) is an innovation designed to get primary students on the right track, and is the focus of another KIX project. The idea of teaching at the right level is to prioritize a child’s learning needs over their grades or age. TaRL is a promising innovation that saves more children from falling behind in learning outcomes, but it can’t function without systematic changes within schools and at the policy level. Recently, the government of Côte d’Ivoire, using KIX research, said it intends to integrate Teaching at the Right Level across the country.

EDTECH: Research helps to design the right tool for the right job

Investments in primary education are often cited as the reason for the climb in global literacy rates to 87% (from 12% in 1820), but disparities remain. In parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, literacy rates fall below 50% (WEF). What contributes to that gap and what interventions can close it? Research is helping to find some answers in digital technology, a sector that IDRC has worked in for more than a decade.

In a technology research project in Kenya, a grade one class using the literacy technology ABRA and READS showed significantly greater improvements in vocabulary, reading comprehension and reasoning as compared to those that did not. It also helped the teachers involved to upgrade their own skills (this research is continuing under GPE-KIX).

In a recent project in Chile, researchers evaluated an innovative technology program that uses games to increase math and science learning in low-performing primary schools. Compiled by researchers from the University of Chile, the Inter-American Development Bank and Cornell University, the study indicated students who used the technology performed better on math questions in the Chilean national standardized exam.  

TOGETHER FOR LEARNING: Ensuring quality education in difficult contexts

Scaling innovative approaches to learning and teaching to improve educational outcomes is a significant focus of the educational research we support. An example is the experiential learning objects (xLOBs) model in the West Bank. Led by researchers at Birzeit University’s Center for Continuing Education, this innovative approach to teaching and learning started in select schools in the West Bank in 2012. It didn’t take long before researchers saw that the learning design — pedagogical building blocks for teachers to produce an active and stimulating learning process — helped to significantly raise learning outcomes among Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. After 14 years of planning, research and development study and testing, Birzeit-Center for Continuing Education, in cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) are now scaling the implementation of xLOBs to all 96 UNRWA schools operating across the West Bank in grades one to nine. This is a significant stage in the evolution and adoption of the xLOBs model because they are being integrated within an educational system at a systemic level.

A group of young female refugees writing on a whiteboard in a classroom
IDRC/Catalina Martin-Chico


SECONDARY SCHOOL: Research helps to understand challenges experienced by female students during crisis situations

The risk of drop-out increases as children get older, particularly in lower middle-income countries. Economic pressures, along with cultural factors, are often to blame. Either families cannot afford the often-increased costs of secondary school, or they need adolescent children to contribute to the household income. Adolescent girls are affected most by these pressures, which have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures hit girls and other vulnerable groups particularly hard, as demonstrated by the KIX COVID-19 Observatory project that tracks education policy and practice responses to the pandemic in 40 sub-Saharan African countries that are part of the Global Partnership for Education. The project found that some education systems did adopt measures to protect girls against sexual violence and teenage pregnancy. They achieved this through targeted campaigns and building awareness about gender-based violence and adolescent reproductive health and promoting school re-entry upon the reopening of schools. But results are uneven. The Observatory also found systems do not always collect gender-disaggregated data and track student progress in a way that we can understand and address the needs of girls.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Meeting market expectations

Post-secondary institutions, whether academic or technical, must innovate and develop to prepare graduates to meet current job market demands. This is a struggle for many places of higher learning, but the challenge is even greater in lower-income countries that have seen already modest budgets for post-secondary education shrink further in recent decades.

IDRC supported a multi-country research initiative to explore ways to strengthen engineering ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is a shortage of qualified engineers. The study was able to identify the main problems: a dramatic decrease in national funding for African higher learning institutions, weak links between industries, training, and research and development, and “brain drain” as engineering graduates migrate to other regions. Researchers offered recommendations to strengthen academic linkages with industries.

WOWEN IN HIGHER EDUCATION: Research to help close the gender gap in science

Progress has been made towards gender parity in higher education, but the gap is much wider in science fields. The gender gap in science begins at the primary-school level and worsens at each progressive academic stage. By the time women enter higher education and then the world of work, they face even greater barriers, with female scientists having shorter and less well-paid careers than their male counterparts.

We support women in advanced science education in several ways across the Global South. Since 2017, IDRC has partnered with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to support more than 200 women doctoral students and early career scientists in low- and middle-income countries through the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World. Each fellow receives up to USD 50,000 to lead research projects, establish research groups and mentor others at their home institutions to help solve the types of problems faced by developing countries and global society at large.  

Read about the latest cohort and their areas of research  

SKILLS TRAINING: Informing policy and solutions in technical education

A university degree does not necessarily lead to better economic prospects. To better equip youth for the world of work, IDRC-supported research has focused on improving technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs. For example, in a project we support in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Chad, researchers studied the levels of inclusion in TVET programs and how well graduates transitioned into the workforce. Recommendations to education ministries include increasing support to TVET institutions to make them more accessible and attractive to students, promoting greater private-sector involvement in curriculum development and recruiting teachers from relevant industries.

Research in Kenya focused on TVET programs that support student entrepreneurship through initiatives such as private-sector mentoring, incubation and internships. The lessons learned are helping TVET institutions refine their approaches and remove gender barriers and stereotypes to support student entrepreneurial potential.

A group of students work on technical machinery
UN/Abdul Fattai


TEACHER TRAINING: Finding solutions to a teaching crisis

Quality teaching is key to ensuring learning opportunities for all. Education systems need plenty of qualified teachers who can access the necessary resources to update their skills and meet new challenges and contexts. The dearth of trained teachers has been increasing in some regions. According to UNESCO, 85% of primary teachers globally met local minimum training requirements in 2018, but only 72% did so in South Asia and only 64% met the requirements in sub-Saharan Africa. With class sizes swelling with rising populations, there are not enough teachers to meet demand.

Research is helping to understand the problem and test solutions and innovations to turn those numbers around. The situation is complex, but technology offers hope in some contexts. This working paper from the TPD@Scale Coalition for the Global South argues that harnessing the power of technology is essential to address the challenge of providing equitable, quality professional development to all teachers. That’s why the Coalition — led by the Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development in the Philippines and made up of ministries of education, international organizations, training institutions, research centres and other education and technology stakeholders — produced the TPD@Scale Framework with policymakers in mind. This compendium offers examples of large or potentially scalable teacher professional development programs using information and communications technology across low- and middle-income countries.

EDUCATION: A quality future for all

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Nelson Mandela told high school students in 1990, shortly after his release from prison in what was then apartheid South Africa. Despite decades of work, the power of an education to change the world and the right of every person to access an education remain ambitions that have yet to be fully achieved.  

This year marks the half-way point towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a collective promise by all United Nations Member States. This promise includes ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. If the Sustainable Development Goals are to be met, we must build on existing solutions to set the foundation for progress through to 2030 and beyond. 


Serhiy Kovalchuk, Program Officer, KIX, IDRC; Joy Nafungo, Senior Program Officer, KIX, IDRC; Ruhiya Seward, Senior Program Officer, IDRC; David O'Brien, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC; Matthew Smith, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC; Ann Weston, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC


Erin Gilchrist, Knowledge Translation Officer, KIX, IDRC; Florencio Ceballos, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC; Flaubert Mbiekop, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC; Paul Owki, Senior Program Specialist, IDRC

IDRC funding extends reach of global survey on tech-facilitated gender-based violence

December 8, 2022
IDRC-supported research on technology-facilitated gender-based violence in the Global South is expanding to more countries. It seeks to understand the extent of the violence and the factors contributing to it and to mobilize evidence for action.
A woman in a purple head scarf checks her mobile phone while walking in an arid, rural area in the Horn of Africa.
Petterik Wiggers/Panos Pictures

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, announced this CAD1.5-million second phase of research, led by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), at an event about technology-facilitated gender-based violence that was hosted by the United Nations Population Fund and the Grace Farms Foundation.

Around the world, the voices of women and gender-diverse people are being silenced by harassment and targeted attacks online that can take many forms, such as impersonation, surveillance, tracking, spam and sharing personal information. There is a dearth of statistically significant research on the experiences of women and queer communities online and the levels of harassment and violence they face.

CIGI’s first IDRC-supported round of surveys was conducted in 18 countries. The initial analysis found that approximately six out of 10 women and transgender, non-binary and non-heterosexual individuals have experienced online coercion and harassment, sexual harms and harms to identity, reputation, privacy and security. Nearly half of the people who had been harassed reported an impact on their mental health and struggled with stress, anxiety, or depression, while nearly four in 10 felt adverse effects on their ability to engage freely online and express their views. Full survey results from this first phase of research will be released in the coming months. 

Renewed support from IDRC will enable CIGI to extend the surveys to a further 15 to 18 countries and delve into the regional and country-level online experiences of women, girls and LGBTQI+ communities across the Global South. The project includes capacity building and the creation of a network of scholars and experts to build the field and a community of practice on this subject. Communications and mobilization will target development, private sector and government actors so they can improve the design of responses to online gender-based violence, including the regulation of online social media platforms, education programs and legal recourse.  

This announcement comes during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which launched on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on Human Rights Day on December 10.

Find out more about IDRC support for a safer digital public sphere

Deadline extended: global search underway for IDRC’s next president

December 5, 2022
IDRC is seeking a new president to build on the Centre’s success in supporting research that contributes to a more sustainable and inclusive world.
A collage of 3 photos features people at work, in a classroom, and in a garden. Next to the collage is a world map with these words written over it: We invest in researchers driving global change. A logo for the IDRC and the Canada wordmark appear at the top of the image.

For more than 50 years the Centre has supported research and innovation that builds stronger economies and societies in the Global South. The challenges of this work have increased due to the disastrous impacts of climate change, persistent inequalities and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, as the tenure of the Centre’s current president, Jean Lebel, comes to a close, IDRC seeks a new president to lead the organization through these challenges and to build on successes to meet the ambitious agenda set out in IDRC’s Strategy 2030.  

The role of president serves as both the chief executive officer of the Centre and as a member of the Board of Governors. The president is responsible for initiating strategies for the Centre, directing and supervising the Centre’s work and staff, and collaborating with the Government of Canada, the Board of Governors and all stakeholders. The president leads the Centre in fulfilling its mandate and reports to and is accountable to the chairperson and Board of Governors. IDRC reports to Parliament through the Minister of International Development.  

For the duration of their term, the president will be responsible for operationalizing Strategy 2030 and achieving planned results; leading a mid-term strategy review; building cohesive national and global partnerships for results; and leading the Centre’s efforts to grow funding. The president will also provide visible leadership to promote IDRC-supported research and to identify opportunities to use research to influence policy and sustainable development. 

Interested in applying?  

This opportunity is open to Canadian and international candidates. The recruitment and appointment processes are being handled independently of IDRC by the Privy Council Office. Applications will be reviewed as of December 30, 2022.  

Learn more and apply  

A safer digital public sphere: addressing online gender-based violence

November 24, 2022

The acceleration of sexist hate speech directed at women politicians online, harassment of LGBTQI+ populations and technology-assisted, intimate-partner violence and surveillance reveal the contradictions and challenges of the internet in the 21st century. Although digital technologies are powerful tools for information sharing, self-expression and organization, they can also be used to deny or diminish people’s human rights.

While approximately 40% of the world’s population is unable to connect to the internet, those who are online are increasingly reporting experiences of violence and harassment, particularly women and gender non-conforming individuals. Forms of abuse include harassment, impersonation, surveillance, tracking, hacking, spamming, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and death threats. This technology-facilitated violence silences female and queer voices, entrenches unequal access to the digital world and has chilling and detrimental impacts on people’s lives.

Despite reports of individual cases, there continues to be a dearth of statistically significant research in the Global South about the online experiences of women and queer communities and the levels of harassment and violence they face. The rapidly changing technological and social media landscape and the differences among popular social media platforms in various countries hamper efforts to design and evaluate responses that work across regions and platforms.

To help fill this knowledge gap, IDRC has supported several research projects to understand the new reality. This includes the first statistically meaningful survey in the Global South on tech-facilitated gender-based violence and foundational research on countering sexist hate speech, the possibilities for a feminist internet and cybersecurity for LGBTQI+ communities.

The findings from this rich body of research are already having an impact on the governance of the digital public sphere in international and national policy spaces.

Global data on technology-facilitated, gender-based violence and harassment

This 18-country survey found that approximately six out of 10 women and transgender, non-binary and non-heterosexual individuals have experienced online coercion and harassment, sexual harms and harms to identity, reputation, privacy and security. Led by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), this IDRC-supported research reached representative samples of people in Africa, the Middle East, South America and Asia — regions of the world that are rarely included in public opinion polling on internet issues.

The survey results illustrate the effects of online violence. Nearly half of those who have been harassed reported an impact on their mental health and struggles with stress, anxiety, or depression. Nearly four in 10 felt adverse effects on their ability to engage freely online and express their views. More than one-third reported negative impacts from harassment on their close relationships, or that they could not focus on their everyday life. Of those surveyed, 40% of victims said they had never sought help, either from within personal circles or from support organizations.  

Using this data, development, private-sector and government actors can improve their design of responses to tech-facilitated, gender-based violence — possibly by regulating online social media platforms and other legal measures, as well as improving media literacy, digital security and other kinds of education. With renewed IDRC support, CIGI is extending the research to an additional 15 to 18 countries and will delve more into women’s and LGBTQI+ communities’ online experiences across the Global South.


Illustration of a woman standing in front of smart phones, held by hands and with eyes, mouths and symbols in text boxes towering over her.


Legal and policy responses to online sexist hate speech and intimidation

Women in politics and female public figures from across the world report disturbing levels of abuse on social media platforms. Foundational IDRC-supported research in India and Brazil set out to develop a comprehensive societal and legal change strategy to address the proliferation of viral sexism and misogynistic hate speech in the digital public sphere.

IT for Change carried out an in-depth investigation of case laws in India to examine the challenges of accessing justice. The research team identified 90 cases of women seeking redress for various forms of online sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence. It concludes that despite some protection from strong right-to-privacy laws in India, the lack of a specific legal provision to address challenges, such as the non-consensual circulation of intimate images, made it very difficult for the judicial system to recognize and act on gender-related harassment online. The project established a knowledge network of leading feminist scholar-practitioners and lawyers to catalyze public debate on the specific legal reforms needed. The forthcoming legal resource guide targeting judges and lawyers, expected to be launched in 2023, will offer a holistic understanding of gendered cyberviolence and existing solutions within the law that are rights-based and survivor-focused.

IT for Change also studied the prevalence of sexist hate speech on Twitter in India, documenting  how gender-based abuse and trolling falls between the regulatory cracks of the existing content governance and automated hate-detection techniques of popular social media platforms.

With a focus on female political and public figures, IDRC research partner InternetLab analyzed social media comments related to both male and female contenders in Brazil’s 2020 municipal elections at a time when candidates had turned more extensively to online campaigning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. InternetLab found that women running for office were more exposed to online political violence, particularly on Twitter, with attacks often alluding to their bodies, intellectual caliber and morality. The violence also targeted women because of other social markers such as their race, social class, age and their expressions of sexuality and gender.

“Comparing to men, women were attacked for being what they are — women, black, elderly, transgender — while men candidates were offended mostly for their professional performance as politicians and public administrators,” InternetLab wrote, noting the exception of male candidates who were also targets of hate speech and aggressions for being elderly and LGBTQI+.

InternetLab’s findings influenced legislation passed in August 2021 that criminalizes the dissemination of false content about candidates during the election campaign period. The organization continues to develop tools to counter online gender-based violence, such as a lexicon of Portuguese hate speech, selected in a competition organized by Twitter, and training materials to help candidates and parties fight political violence based on gender.

Freedom Online Coalition

The findings and solutions emerging from IDRC-supported research on gender-based violence supports Canada’s leadership in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 34 governments working together to advance digital freedom. Chaired by Canada in 2022, the coalition is redoubling its commitment to advance Internet freedom and human rights online, including countering online violence against women and LGBTQI+ populations.

IDRC is partnering with the coalition’s support unit to expand the engagement of Global South experts in shaping norms and national legislation to address misinformation and gender-based-violence online.

Building a feminist digital sphere

Several more strands of IDRC-supported research are contributing knowledge to promote an equitable and feminist digital sphere. Based at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto, the Citizen Lab leads research and capacity building on threats to freedom of expression online that affect LGBTQI+ communities in the Global South, with a focus on internet censorship.

The Feminist Internet Research Network engaged leading feminist researchers from around the world to explore critical issues in our digital ecosystem, including online gender-based violence. IDRC’s support for this field-building network is helping to reveal the critical gaps in the research and policymaking needed to foster an internet that enables gender equality in low- and middle-income countries. For example, research in five African cities documents the prevalence, experiences and responses to online gender-based violence against women.

At stake with this form of violence and harassment is not only women’s full participation in the public digital sphere but also gender equality in the physical world.

“While the internet is a mirror of social dynamics, it increasingly helps to create and cement influential narratives that impact societies more broadly — in both positive and negative ways,” says Ruhiya Seward, senior program officer at IDRC.  “Opportunities and threats to women’s, girls’, and LGBTQI+ communities’ empowerment can be found in this circular dynamic between the digital and physical worlds.”

IDRC continues to support research to explore how governments, the private sector and civil society organizations can combat gender-based violence and harassment online and to strike the appropriate balance between online transparency and the privacy rights of users.

Contributor: Ruhiya Kristine Seward, senior program officer at IDRC

Research highlights

  • A global survey delves into the online experiences of gender-based violence of women and LGBTQI+ communities.
  • Research in Brazil and India explores legal and policy responses to online sexist hate speech and intimidation.
  • IDRC support for research on technology-assisted gender-based violence aims to build a feminist digital sphere that enables gender equality.

IDRC partners put care economy on the Asia-Pacific and G20 agendas

November 10, 2022
IDRC and several other organizations partnered with the Asia Foundation to organize the Bali Care Dialogue immediately preceding the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali from November 12 to 14. The dialogue aims to leverage global momentum around gender equality in the care economy while advancing the issue in the Asia-Pacific region.
A young woman washes clothes in several plastic bins, with water pouring from a tap on the wall.
J. Aliling/ILO

The Bali Care Economy Dialogue will focus on actionable policies and strategies to build a resilient care-work ecosystem in Asia and the Pacific. The event will allow policymakers, practitioners, the private sector and community-based organizations to engage in deeper discussions on practical solutions and collaboration.

IDRC’s initiative on Transforming the Care Economy through Impact Investing will be featured through the participation of our partners in the dialogue: Intellecap, Value for Women and the UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. Their contributions will help mobilize impact investing and leverage entrepreneurship to grow sustainable and inclusive economic opportunities in the care economy.

In partnership with the UN Research Institute for Social Development, IDRC is also launching new action research to support the Global Alliance for Care through funding to generate data and evidence for care policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The project will also facilitate peer learning and collaboration across the Global South.

The dialogue is also an opportunity to explore the intersections between the care economy and climate action. IDRC will launch a new report mapping women’s economic empowerment, care work and clean energy.

The Bali Care Dialogue will help seed interest for the G20 Summit in India and other relevant global platforms where robust policy and programmatic commitments can be made to accelerate change for a fairer care economy.

Learn more about the Bali Care Economy Dialogue

Advancing gender equality and social inclusion through climate action

October 31, 2022

In a year of unprecedented flooding in Pakistan, record-breaking heatwaves in India, famine and drought in Somalia and raging wildfires across Europe and the western United States, the urgency of climate action is clear. Countries in the North and South are feeling the effects of climate change, but its impacts are highly unequal. Low-income countries that have contributed the least to global warming are among the hardest hit. Marginalized people and those living in poverty are at the greatest risk from heatwaves, drought, crop failure and other effects.

Globally, women are more likely to be living in poverty due to the unfair distribution of care work and their concentration in low-paid and informal work. In Africa, women do three to five times more unpaid care work than men. This burden limits their income and opportunities and reduces their options for adapting to climate change. Along with other marginalized groups, they have little say in climate action plans that may be key to their survival. They also have fewer opportunities to benefit from an economic transition to low-carbon pathways.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights the urgent need for research to accelerate adaptation and address gender and social inequalities. Research to enhance adaptation and resilience needs to be locally led and inclusive to give the people most affected by climate change a voice in shaping solutions. To provide the evidence base that is needed, IDRC is investing in new research to strengthen gender-responsive climate action in the Global South.

Gusts of wind kick up sand in a dry bed of a reservoir near Cape Town, South Africa.
Lalo de Almeida/Folhapress/Panos
Gusts of wind kick up sand in a dry bed of a reservoir near Cape Town, South Africa.

Changing how we think about gender and climate change

IDRC’s understanding and approaches have evolved over more than 15 years of supporting research on climate change adaptation and, more recently, mitigation. Findings from successive projects have shown that understanding how climate change risks, vulnerabilities and response options differ between men and women — and across different social groups and livelihoods — is fundamental to supporting climate action.

Gender intersects with other social factors to shape vulnerabilities and options.

Gender alone does not shape vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities. Research on adaptation in semi-arid regions showed that gender is just one of many factors (including ability, age, education, ethnicity, household composition and socio-economic status) that are essential to understanding vulnerabilities. Looking at how these factors interact is key: applying an intersectional frame reveals how gender and other factors work together to shape vulnerability and influence people’s responses to climate change.

Adaptation can transform gender and social norms.

IDRC-supported research has highlighted the potential for climate change adaptation to be gender-transformative, carving out new opportunities for men and women to exercise their agency in ways that go beyond traditional roles. In this view, gender and social differences are not just vulnerabilities, but potential sources of resilience.

Women have much to contribute to climate action and resilience.

An examination of gendered vulnerabilities in semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia challenged the idea that women are powerless victims of climate change. Research in Kenya, for example, showed how empowering women entrepreneurs can contribute significantly to community resilience. Strengthening the agency of women and other vulnerable groups, while challenging the social structures and environmental factors that make them vulnerable in the first place, is vital for building resilience.

IDRC has focused on empowering women in many areas of climate action. Through the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES) initiative, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Initiative Fellowships for Women in Climate Change Science, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s (CDKN) training for Gender and Climate Change Focal Points, IDRC has strengthened women’s capacity as climate negotiators, researchers and leaders at various levels.

Through the Leadership, Climate Change and Cities Specialization initiative, 102 young urban leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean — more than two-thirds women — received post-graduate training and an opportunity to contribute to climate action. Based on studies they produced on climate change and related conflicts in urban areas, seed funding was provided to selected local interventions in areas such as cycling, urban greening and the restoration of ecological corridors. This experiential learning bolstered local adaptation while building a cadre of emerging leaders.

How IDRC supports more inclusive research

Climate change and inequalities are addressed as dual challenges across IDRC’s Strategy 2030. We require grantees to integrate gender equality and social inclusion goals and approaches in their work and we invest heavily in building grantee capacity in these areas. Successive programs have offered a mix of training, peer learning and expert accompaniment to strengthen these dimensions of climate change research.

From 2019–2022, we supported an action-learning effort that worked with project teams in six countries to strengthen their ability to undertake gender-transformative research to accelerate climate action. Accompanied by Gender at Work, the teams found that applying transformative approaches entails much more than integrating gender into research questions and methods: it means the more equitable functioning of teams, strengthening women’s voices within the research team itself, and a greater  focus on learning in communities to allow diverse women to participate in decision-making, policy discussions and personal learning.

Projects applied these new understandings to their work. In Benin, for example, the team adapted an existing vulnerability assessment tool to better capture gender considerations. Using an intersectional approach, they then used the tool to strengthen community adaptation planning to better meet the needs and interests of women, the elderly, people living with a disability and other vulnerable groups.

Looking forward: investing in the nexus of gender and climate action

Gender and social inclusion are fundamental to a new suite of research initiatives backed by IDRC:

  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE) is a partnership between IDRC and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Gender equality and inclusion are integrated across CLARE, backed by capacity strengthening and cross-cutting monitoring, evaluation and learning. Supported research teams must have a credible plan to monitor how they engage with and affect different social groups.
  • Gender Equality in a Low Carbon World (GLOW) puts women’s leadership at the heart of low-carbon transition strategies. Action research in 17 countries is exploring innovations that boost women’s economic progress and promote climate action.
  • Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) aims to build the resilience of pastoralists and farmers in fragile parts of Africa and the Middle East that are experiencing climate change, armed conflict and weak governance. With a focus on women, youth and people with disabilities, IDRC is supporting SPARC research in Nigeria and South Sudan that takes an intersectional approach to building more inclusive livelihoods and climate-resilient food systems.
  • Step Change, a new CAD28.6-million partnership between IDRC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, will mobilize knowledge into action and build climate leadership and capacity to advance gender-responsive and socially inclusive climate-resilient development.

Learn more about:

Developing inclusive resilience to climate change and disasters in Benin

Advancing gender equality in fragile food systems in West Africa

Building leadership for cities in Latin America and the Caribbean in a changing climate

Strengthening scientific evidence and its use to inform policy, negotiations and climate implementation in Africa

CDKN knowledge accelerator for climate compatible development

Climate leadership program: Building Africa’s resilience through research, policy and practice

Research highlights

Gender alone does not shape vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities. Looking at factors such as ability, age, education, ethnicity, household composition and socio-economic status is essential to understand vulnerabilities.

  • Gender and social differences are not just vulnerabilities, but potential sources of resilience.
  • Empowering women entrepreneurs can contribute significantly to community resilience. Strengthening the agency of women and other vulnerable groups, while challenging the social structures and environmental factors that make them vulnerable in the first place, is vital for building resilience.

Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE2) — operating costs for capacity building

This project will support the Climate Adaptation and Resilience (CLARE2) partnership by covering the operational costs (including salaries and benefits), office expenses and travel of project-paid positions required to implement the program. Separate project approval documents will authorize the execution of individual research projects and activities related to program governance, communication and evaluation.

Climate Adaptation and Resilience is a partnership between IDRC and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. It represents a renewed joint investment from April 2022 to March 2027 that is aimed at enabling inclusive and sustainable action to build resilience to climate change and natural hazards for people across Africa and the Asia-Pacific.

Project ID
Project Status
60 months
IDRC Officer
Santiago Alba Corral
Total Funding
CA$ 2,579,801.00
Far East Asia
North of Sahara
South Asia
South of Sahara
Climate-Resilient Food Systems
Climate Adaptation and Resilience

Building and mobilizing evidence for education policy: Lessons from the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange

September 13, 2022

Decades of educational innovations have culminated in many effective strategies in the Global South. These range from how to prepare pre-schoolers in remote communities for primary classes to interventions to help refugee youth complete secondary studies. At the heart of these innovations is Southern-based experience and research, while their successful implementation at scale lies in the strength of connecting evidence with use among Southern-based policymaking circles. This is where the Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (GPE-KIX) comes in. The joint endeavour between GPE and IDRC is helping to inform decision-making in education systems through South-South research and the exchange of learning.

Now in its third year, the people at KIX have learned some important lessons about how to make a difference in strengthening education systems in the Global South. The emerging results are building quality evidence rooted in the priorities of partner countries, mobilizing that knowledge to reach policymakers, and strengthening their capacity to adapt it and put it to use. This is an overview of how several KIX participants are supporting education policy and practice.

Putting evidence to use

A student in a rural community in Honduras.
GPE/Paul Martinez

The KIX research agenda is driven by demand from GPE partner countries, so emerging findings are designed to be immediately useful for policymakers. However, producing evidence is not enough. KIX positions research within an ecosystem of processes and interventions that facilitate collaboration and learning exchange within and between countries in the Global South.

KIX regional learning exchange hubs support educational stakeholders so they can put new evidence and innovations into practice. This learning journey can involve various methods ranging from webinars that introduce evidence and expertise on priority topics in each region to in-depth professional development opportunities. As this blog describes, weeks-long learning cycles conducted by the Europe, Asia, and Pacific hub extend far beyond workshops about using research in policy to actually involving policymakers in the production of the research. Civil society and government representatives from Vietnam participated in the learning cycle on current skills and continue to share research and explore how to adapt it to the context of curriculum reform in the country.

In the Maldives, national experts are using skills from the learning cycle on improving equitable access to education with geospatial data to identify bottlenecks in providing upper secondary education across the country. Participants from the same learning cycle in Bhutan are using their new knowledge to help identify schools at high risk of flooding and ultimately to improve the safety of students.

Exchanging knowledge on teacher training reform 

A teacher trainee at a primary school in Uganda.
GPE/Livia Barton

In addition to these professional development opportunities, GPE-KIX's regional hubs provide a platform for GPE partner countries to share ideas and solutions. A representative from Niger shared successes in teacher training reform in Central and West African countries with representatives from other countries in the region at the Africa 21 Hub. The hub is supporting countries to build from the lessons shared by Niger, including through national policy dialogue workshops to discuss teacher training in depth — another example of the hubs’ knowledge-chain approach in action.

Similarly, countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region place the abilities of teachers at the heart of potential solutions for learning outcomes. Coming out of the regional learning exchange, KIX is helping integrate regional and global best practice and evidence into the main teacher training program for the eastern Caribbean.

The 2021–2022 KIX Annual Report showcases how KIX regional hubs and applied research projects work together to support teacher professional development as a key priority for partner countries. This is particularly important as they look to recover learning losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a devastating impact on education systems.

Emerging findings

KIX also provided a means for countries to learn about one another’s pandemic responses and how to better prepare for future crises. The Observatory on COVID-19 responses in educational systems in Africa released early findings and recommendations to help ensure that learning can continue during similar disruptions.

The Observatory’s research prioritized responses for gender equality. As cases of sexual and gender-based violence rose during the pandemic, the Observatory documented the strategies of different countries to promote children’s wellbeing, such as making helplines available to children, providing positive parenting resources to caregivers, enhancing training for child-friendly counselling, and spreading awareness about gender-based violence and teen pregnancy. The Africa 19 hub has also provided opportunities for countries to exchange pandemic-related experience, such as how to support girls’ return to school, including in cases of adolescent pregnancy.

KIX has been gaining momentum

Innovative solutions to the biggest challenges facing education systems are out there, and policymakers in low- and middle-income countries are committed to addressing these challenges. KIX is helping to bring solutions to the surface, learning how to adapt solutions to scale through demand-driven applied research, and facilitating the exchange of South-South learning and capacity strengthening so ministries of education are equipped to integrate these solutions into their national education systems. The emerging findings and early instances of knowledge uptake outlined here are clear indications that this approach is working.

Learn more on the KIX blog

Research highlights

  • KIX positions research within an ecosystem of processes and interventions that facilitate collaboration and learning exchange within and between countries in the Global South.
  • GPE-KIX's regional hubs provide professional development opportunities and  a platform for GPE partner countries to share ideas and solutions with each other.
  • The 2021–2022 KIX Annual Report showcases how KIX regional hubs and applied research projects work together to support teacher professional development as a key priority for partner countries.
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