Women’s empowerment through openness: OER, OEP and the Sustainable Development Goals

Perryman, Leigh-Anne and de los Arcos, Beatriz (2016). Women’s empowerment through openness: OER, OEP and the Sustainable Development Goals. In: OEGlobal 2016: Convergence through Collaboration, 12-14 Apr 2016, Krakow, Poland.


This paper explores the potential of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) in helping to achieve women’s empowerment in the developing world – target 5b of the 17 intergovernmental Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that, since September 2015, define the development agenda until 2030. We take as evidence the Open Education Research Hub (OERH) open dataset, comprising survey responses from 7,700 educators, students and informal learners from 175 countries. Although our sample features an overall 51%/48% female/male gender split, there are many more male than female respondents from the Global South, the latter being slightly younger and better educated than female respondents from the Global North. These female respondents are more likely to use OER for professional development and for training others than are female respondents from the Global North and, of particular importance, are much more likely to face technology problems that are a barrier to their using OER in addition to difficulties in finding resources relevant to their subject area and local context. Our findings align with those of other studies finding ‘extreme inequalities in digital
empowerment − which seem to parallel wider societal disparities in information-seeking, voice and civic engagement’ (World Wide Web Foundation, 2015, p. 3) while, more positively, indicating the potential for capacity building through women’s use of OER to train others in the developing world. Obviously, our self-selecting sample comprises only people with an Internet connection and some awareness of OER, and does not include women excluded from OER use and OEP due to their lacking internet connectivity and/or ICT equipment. Even so, our study offers persuasive evidence that where technological barriers can be overcome, OER and OEP can give women a voice, access to information and education, and the opportunity to connect with peers, helping to remove social, economic, political and educational unfreedoms (Sen, 1999).

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