East Africa initiative to boost women leaders in HE

An East African chapter of HERS – Higher Education Resource Services – has been launched. Based at Makerere University in Uganda, HERS-EA will among other things provide training to prepare more women leaders to steer universities in the region.

HERS-EA was launched on 5 August during a two-day conference held in the Ugandan capital Kampala, which drew more than 150 participants from universities in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

It is a sister organisation of HERS, an educational non-profit organisation based in the United States that provides leadership and management training for women in higher education.

According to the Inter-University Council for East Africa or IUCEA, demand for higher education has been growing tremendously in the past decade and the number of public and private institutions has also increased exponentially. For example, the number of IUCEA member universities grew from 33 in 2000 to 87 in 2011.

But there is an acute shortage of senior women in universities in East Africa, and a need to promote leadership and management development for women.

“HERS-EA sets out to intentionally support and prepare women leaders to steer higher education institutions in East Africa so that they can create developmental ideas needed for 21st Century development,” says a HERS-EA concept note.

Higher education experts have called for encouraging, empowering and engaging women administrators in higher education.

To do that, HERS-EA will provide intensive training that is specifically tailored to strengthen the knowledge and skills of women to enable them to assume institutional leadership roles competitively in higher education institutions.

According to the HERS-EA note, in the medium term the organisation will focus, among other things, on establishing links with East African universities as well as ministries of higher education, and will build a database of international universities that can host some HERS-EA alumni for ‘shadowing’ training.

In the longer term, up to 10 years, HERS-EA will work to identify and train its own leaders and will aim to increase the number of female deans and heads of department in higher education in the region to 50%.

In the United States, HERS has prepared more than 4,500 women academics and administrators for positions of senior leadership in higher education institutions all over the world. In 2003, HERS-SA was founded to cater for the need for leadership and management development for women in higher education in South Africa.