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16 December 2015
Since the Colombo Plan was launched in 1951, Australia has provided scholarships to citizens from developing countries to undertake full time undergraduate or postgraduate study at Australian educational institutions. Investments in scholarships continue to be a significant component of Australia’s Official Development Assistance. Scholarships are intended to 'develop leadership potential', enabling recipients to return and 'make a significant contribution to their home countries as leaders in their field', and build an 'engaged and influential global network of leaders, advocates and change-makers'.
Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is now one of the six investment areas outlined in Australia’s development policy, with enhancing women’s voice in decision-making and women’s leadership identified as areas for 'strong investment'. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify how the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) could modify the design and implementation of Australia Awards Scholarships to increase the likelihood of women’s leadership outcomes. Such recommendations are founded on an analysis of if, where, and how, Australia Awards Scholarships have supported women's leadership.
The evaluation found that Australia Award scholarships have been very effective tool for building women’s leadership. Tertiary studies have given women from developing countries the professional skills that have helped them advance their careers despite persistent gender barriers. Importantly studying in Australia was found to have been transformative for women from countries where restrictive social and cultural norms limit their opportunities. Scholarships have enabled many women to develop the personal attributes, vision and broad range of skills needed for leadership. However, the full potential of scholarships to build women’s leadership has yet to be realised. Opportunities for DFAT to enhance the contribution of Australia Awards to women’s leadership form the basis of six recommendations. Actions needed to improve women’s leadership outcomes include increasing women’s access to scholarships and a more strategic use of different types of Australia Award and post award activities.