On 1 February 2024, Commonwealth Alumni in Nigeria attended a panel discussion on, ‘Intersectionality of Gender and its Impact on Higher Education’. Alumni were joined by Emma Hennessey, Head of The Scholarships Unit at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and expert panellists representing higher education institutions.

The event opened with welcome remarks from Emma Hennessey who then introduced the panel and commenced discussions.


  • Professor Philomena.I. Ozo-Esan, NUC Visiting Professor Acting Executive Secretary and representative of the National Universities Commission (NUC)
  • Professor Abolaji Mustapha (2000 Commonwealth Scholar; 2013 Academic Fellow), Professor of Sociolinguistics and Gender Studies, Department of English, Lagos State University
  • Vaneza Udegbe Gregory, Programme Lead, Nigerian Women Trust Fund
  • Professor Bilkisu Shinkafi, Senior Lecturer, Department of Zoology, University of Abuja

Panellists opened the discussion by highlighting the challenges faced by women in accessing higher education. Barriers to access include lack of finance, early marriage and gender stereotypes. Patriarchy and the presence of cultural norms and expectations also play a role on low enrolment rates amongst women.

Following a presentation of the challenges, panellists moved into a deep dive on potential strategies that could be implemented to address these. Proposed strategies included reorientation programme and special funding to support girls accessing or re-entering education, community and media engagement to address cultural attitudes towards women and girls’ education, and implementing mentoring programmes to promote role models and encourage female enrolment.

The panel discussion was followed by a Q&A session and networking reception.