Indigenous adult women, learning and social justice: Challenging deficit discourses in the current policy environment

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Indigenous education engages directly with an overtly politicised process of knowledge construction, recognising and building on existing skills and informal learning practices within communities. Given the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda’s emphasis on social justice and gender equality, this paper sets out to explore what indigenous movements can offer in terms of developing an alternative approach to adult learning based on a rights perspective. The article compares documentary analysis of policy on indigenous women and adult education internationally with a case study of indigenous movements and government policy in Nepal. The analysis reveals that international policy recognises indigenous women as a particularly marginalised group, but is not informed by a transformative notion of empowerment nor consideration of the implications of indigenous knowledge for mainstream education. In Nepal, indigenous federations and the government non formal education programmes similarly aim to impart skills for a modernised economy. However women’s indigenous movements are committed to developing capabilities and creating new spaces for indigenous women to engage in political debate and representation. This politicised informal learning offers insights for developing the cross-sectoral rights-based adult education envisaged in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)268-289
Number of pages22
JournalStudies in the Education of Adults
Issue number2
Early online date11 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • indigenous women
  • informal learning
  • Nepal
  • educational policy
  • Sustainable Development

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