Brenda Gael McSweeney

My research and teaching passions include gender and international development; gender equality and women’s empowerment in West Africa, India and Ireland; and poverty eradication. These emerged from doctoral studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and 30 years leading development programs for the United Nations; then I was honored to join BU’s Women Studies in 2003 as the first Visiting Scholar. I was asked to bring this global experience spanning from grassroots to policy-making levels into teaching and publications. At WGS I lead the UNESCO/UNITWIN Network on Gender, Culture & Development with Indian, West African and Boston area university and nongovernmental partners. I am a Founding Board Member of the Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender with whom I initiated a series of e-books of gender case studies across continents; authors have included several WGS faculty and students. Our first volume of which I was Co-Editor with the Buenos Aires-based head of the Global Network was widely disseminated by UN Women and UNESCO-Paris, and is accessible (free!) at:

My action-research projects at WGS and as a Resident Scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center focus on equal access to education for women and girls in Burkina Faso, and self-reliant livelihoods in West Bengal, India. Unbound Visual Arts, of which I am a founding member artist and on the Council of Advisors, has been sharing the findings with academia, the political arena, and local communities through inter alia exhibitions at Boston City Hall, the Harvard Allston Education portal and the Boston Public Library.

I have been teaching Gender and International Development at BU’s Women’s Studies, at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management, and for the UN’s Virtual Development Academy, and am now focusing on related research and activism to promote gender equality.

Works in Progress:

Gender Perspectives in Case Studies Across Continents, Volume II, Brenda Gael McSweeney, Editor (forthcoming 2014, Paris and Buenos Aires: UNESCO). Overarching themes explored by colleagues from UNESCO Chairs and Networks worldwide include gender gaps in education, women’s political empowerment, economic livelihoods, and combatting exploitation in countries as diverse as Cyprus, Poland, Iran, Burkina Faso and India. More here on

A volume co-authored with Scholastique Kompaoré, Burkinabe pioneer of female education, on our work, research and advocacy for equal access of women and girls to education in West Africa. More on our body of work in Burkina Faso at

Selected Publications:

Gender Perspectives in Case Studies Across Continents, Gloria Bonder & Brenda Gael McSweeney, Editors (Paris and Buenos Aires: UNESCO, 2013).

“Another View of Africa: A Photo Essay on Female Education and Empowerment in Burkina Faso/ Un Autre Regard sur l’Afrique: Un essai photo sur l’éducation et l’autonomisation des femmes au Burkina Faso” by Brenda Gael McSweeney & Scholastique Kompaoré with Cassandra Fox (Buenos Aires and Paris: Global Network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender & UNESCO Headquarters, 2013).

“Patriarchy, Power, and Paradox: Dreaming Gender Equality & Development in South Asia, 2060” by Shahla Haeri & Brenda Gael McSweeney, in South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures, eds. Adil Najam & Moeed Yusuf (London & New York: Anthem Press, 2013).

“Srihaswani or Creative Manual Skills for Self-Reliant Development (CMSSRD): A gender case study, 1996-2012” by Krishno Dey, Chandana Dey & Brenda Gael McSweeney (Paris: UNESCO, 2013).

Women’s History Initiatives: Gender, Culture, People-Centered Development: Brenda Gael McSweeney, Editor (Paris: UNESCO, 2010).

Another Side of India: Gender, Culture and Development, Brenda Gael McSweeney, Editor; Foreword by Gita Sen (Paris: UNESCO, 2008).

Development Cooperation: Some Personal Thoughts on Challenges and Direction (New Delhi: United Nations Development Programme, 2003).

Publisher, Burkina Faso: Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, 2009 – present

Publisher, UNESCO/UNITWIN Network: Gender, Culture, Development, 2007 – present       

More books and papers by Brenda Gael McSweeney: here.

Main Fellowships & Awards:

Designated a “Legendary Local” in Legendary Locals of Allston-Brighton, in light of contributions to global development and human rights (Charleston: Arcadia, 2013)

Granted a United Nations career lifetime Award (Medal of Honor First Class), by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bonn: 2008)

Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa, Lackawanna College, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania & Commencement Speaker (Lackawanna, Pennsylvania: 2007)

Appointed to the Advisory Board for the UN Development Programme’s Third Regional Cooperation Framework for Africa, 2007-11 (New York: 2007)

Awarded the Médaille de Chevalier de l’Ordre National from the Government of Burkina Faso, in tribute to the leadership and work of the United Nations Volunteers (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: 1997)

Doctorate of Humane Letters Honoris Causa, Monterey Institute of International Studies; Commencement Speaker & appointed to the Institute’s Board of Directors (Monterey, California: 1994)

Prime Minister of Jamaica’s Medal of Appreciation (Kingston, Jamaica, 1988)

Fulbright Grantee, Institut d’Etudes Politiques, University of Paris (1967-1969).