From Counting Women to Ensuring Women Count: A Qualitative Study of University and Early Career Experiences of Women Secondary School Teachers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from a Capabilities Perspective

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At the heart of this study is a concern with moving from counting women—from a quantitative focus on gender parity—to having women count—ensuring conditions exist that allow women teachers to fully participate in quality teaching and the positive transformation of the teaching profession. Women comprise less than 20% of secondary school teachers in Ethiopia (MoE, 2014), reflecting similar patterns of under-representation elsewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study uses in-depth interviews and field observations over a period of 15 months in Addis Ababa to shed light on why many women in Ethiopia who enter university do not make it into secondary school teaching and why many of those who enter teaching, in urban areas where most teachers are concentrated, do not stay in the profession. Drawing on a capabilities perspective, the study goes further to examine the cumulative disadvantage—in terms of well-being and agency—that women experience during the process of their university (undergraduate and teacher) training and in their early years of working in urban secondary schools, as well as the ways in which women contend with disadvantage.

This study shows that such disadvantage and the responses to it have implications not only for whether women enter and stay in teaching but also for how they engage in their work. Utilizing the rich qualitative data collected and the analysis afforded by using the capability approach, the study concludes by recommending how different actors, including government, universities and schools, can foster institutional conditions of possibility (Walker, 2006a) and educational arrangements that enhance rather than limit full and equal participation in the teaching profession. Foregrounded throughout this study are the voices and experiences of young women, offering a perspective which disrupts the presumed norm of the single male teacher and highlights some of the limits of gender-neutral teacher policies.