Why Education and training is a priority for attainment of gender equality

Why Education and training is a priority for attainment of gender equality

In 2020, we celebrate twenty-five years since the Beijing Declaration and  Platform for Action was operationalised, a framework that has globally set precedence on the need to exclusively empower women and girls everywhere. In the past two decades, women’s issues have gained momentum especially among the political class, with governments making deliberate efforts to ensure women and girls are included in the planning and provision of social economic basic needs.  

The women empowerment agenda has since taken a new high through the establishment of women focused global, regional and national mechanisms and frameworks. In Africa, the African Union adopted the Maputo Protocol in 2003 and launched the African Union’s African Women Decade 2010-2020. This paved a way for a dual top down and bottom up approach in accelerating gender equality in the continent including, establishing national laws, designing initiatives that safeguard the rights of women and are inclusive of their grassroots participation.

Globally, the Sustainable Development Goals  flagged off in 2015  and especially goal 5 bears emphasis on the elimination of the root causes of discrimination that still inhibit women’s rights in private and public spheres. Moreover, the G7 formation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC) in 2018 and its 2019 Declaration on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment exhibit the rise of political goodwill in tackling gender inequality and prioritising women centered investments for development.

As the world celebrated International Women’s Day this year under the theme “I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights” there is need to escalate efforts from just setting the agenda to living up to the promises and expectations of women empowerment.   

Whilst it is evident that the women empowerment and gender equality agenda is almost hitting optimum levels, the reality on women and girls access and enjoyment of their basic needs remains wanting. One such basic need that is still a struggle for reach is Education.

According to a UNESCO UIS 2017 factsheet on Global Literacy rates, despite the fact that literacy levels continue increasing from one generation to the next, women consist of the largest illiterate population in the world. The factsheet highlights that of the 750 million adults in the world; two thirds of them are women who still lack basic reading and writing skills. In addition, World Bank’s 2018 report dubbed Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls shows that 132 million girls between 6-17 years are out of school globally. If these girls do not get access to education, the illiteracy trend will certainly not change soon and will further deteriorate in other regions.

©UNICEF 

There are so many opportunities that women and girls stand to miss if they are not exposed to education and training opportunities. Right from childhood, education shapes how children think, act, perceive, interpret, and articulate ideas and experiences. Through education, children learn how to read and write, communicate effectively, perform scientific calculations, create art, design and innovate, understand climate change, negotiate for gains among other life changing skills. 

Women and girls are likely to marry early if they are not connected to education opportunities. They are also likely to deny their children an education that they did not experience or reap from in their adulthood. This leads to a vicious cycle of a restricted perspective on real growth and development beyond the confines of family setups.

Training of women on innovation enhances their ability to be job creators, take on leadership and effectively participate in the labour force. This kind of training should not be limited to  conventional areas of work such as nutrition or clothing and textiles that women have preferred to venture into largely due to dictated gender roles in social cultural setups. Encouraging women to take up science and research related courses augments their potential to reap from lucrative and uncrowded employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

In order for more women and girls to access education and training opportunities, we must address root and emerging causes of illiteracy such as; patriarchy, child marriage, Gender Based Violence, poverty, gender biased learning curricula and materials, minimal investment in education infrastructure, lack of guiding national policies and mechanisms to address gender equality and equity, violation of human rights laws among others.

Fortunately, there are reference frameworks that outline practical solutions to these issues that if integrated into national systems can transform the lives of women and girls in pursuit for education. The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016-2025) and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) and AU CIEEFA’s commissioned Gender Equality Strategy for CESA 2016-2025 (GES4CESA) emphasise on the principle of gender equity, equality and sensitivity as an anchor for the African Education and Training Systems. The GES4CESA compliments the CESA 16 -25 and presents a comprehensive account on the strategic and practical approach that African member states can take to address gender inequalities, the exclusion of females, in particular and vulnerable persons, in general. It also displays how governments can integrate gender equality into and through Education, from Early Childhood Development to tertiary levels, including technical and vocational education and training.

Globally, the Gender at the Centre initiative championed by France’ president Emmanuel Macron offers support to developing countries that want to strengthen gender equality in their education systems. The initiative aims at improving girls’ enrolment and retention at school and, in doing so, drive a virtuous circle for development such as higher living and health standards for families, improved economic growth, increasing marriage and pregnancy age and fertility management.

Through the basic yet significant provision of education and training, women stand a greater chance of becoming independent and equal contributors of development in all public and private spheres. If women and girls boldly explore opportunities that come their way and governments invest in all-inclusive provisions of basic needs of their human population, gender equality can be achieved..

 By: Juliet Kimotho

Juliet Kimotho is an Advocacy professional at the Forum for Africa Women Educationalists (FAWE) Regional Secretariat in Nairobi, Kenya. FAWE is a pan-African non-government organisation that empowers girls and women through gender-responsive education in sub- Saharan Africa. Juliet is responsible for implementing FAWE’s advocacy agenda of influencing action in favour of girls’ and women’s education and coordinating youth-led initiatives by FAWE beneficiaries.

 



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