Ongera, Elizabeth Mokeira (2017). 'Towards a more gender just and equitable higher education: A capabilities approach perspective' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Widening access to and participation in higher education, particularly for women and people from minority groups and disadvantaged backgrounds has become an urgent priority for the education sector across many countries. From a gender justice perspective, we need to consider whether widening participation in higher education will reduce inequalities by promoting equitable educational opportunities and freedoms for women to choose and lead reflexively valuable lives in and beyond higher education, and the extent to which these women are recognized both subjectively and socially as having equal claims on such resources and outcomes. Drawing on my doctoral research, this paper uses the capabilities approach as its analytical framework and women legal graduates in Kenya as a case study, to examine the experiences of women students of accessing, participating and progressing through higher education so as to understand what shapes the construction of their educational and professional trajectories, and achievement of wellbeing and agency. Based on women’s narratives, the paper outlines different conversion factors that intersect at various stages of women’s lives to enhance or impair their opportunities and freedoms to equitably access, participate and progress through higher education. The paper discusses these factors and highlights those that need to be eliminated or expanded so that students, especially women, are able to equitably engage in a more just and inclusive educational learning environment, and acquire quality education that enables them to choose and meaningful and productive lives in and after higher education.


Key words: Gender justice, capabilities approach, higher education, women legal graduates, Kenya

scroll to top