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UNESCO's Medium-Term Strategy 1996-2001 designates Women and Africa as priority target groups for action. In this context, a Special Project on Scientific, Technical and Vocational Education of Girls in Africa was launched in 1996 as a joint project of the Sections for Science and Technology Education and for Technical and Vocational Education. The project is linked to the FEMSA project of the ADEA Working Group on Female Participation covering activities in 12 African countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia).

THE OVERALL OBJECTIVE of the project is to assist in improving girls participation in scientific, technical and vocational education (STVE) and related careers. Specific objectives include to attempt to break the barriers for girls in secondary school, notably by improving the quality and effectiveness of STVE, to make an impact on the attitudes and stereotypes which prevent girls from taking advantage of current opportunities in science and technology, and to promote a positive image of women in scientific and technical careers.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

At the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) it was generally agreed that the need for an increased number of girls and women in science education and technical professions and the need for women's increased participation in improving technology in development issues, should be re-assessed to ensure that more progress is made in these areas. In its Agenda for Gender Equity, UNESCO commits itself to encourage 'equal access to knowledge in all fields, notably within science and technology' and aims at 'substantially increasing the participation of women in science and technical education programmes and encouraging their access to scientific and decision-making bodies'.

Two recent international meetings co-organized by UNESCO also underlined the importance of girls' and women's full participation in scientific, technical and vocational education. The Second International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education (Seoul, 1999) included a specific theme on technical and vocational education for all. In its Framework for Action, the World Conference on Science (Budapest 1999), stressed that special efforts should be made 'to ensure the full participation of women and girls in all aspects of science and technology' and to this effect 'promote within the education system the access of girls and women to scientific education at all levels'.

 ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN:

 SURVEYS:
- National surveys completed in 21 countries (Benin, Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

PUBLICATIONS:

The publications can be opened with Acrobat Reader (.pdf files)

- Background and recommendations

- Summary analysis of 21 country reports

- Guidelines for programme planning

- Science experiments for girls

- Motivating girls through comic strips, an example

- Articles included in 3 issues of CONNECT.

- Innovations in Science and Technology Education (Volume VII).

MEETINGS:

- Financial support to an international workshop for improving the access and achievement of girls in science and technology, Mauritius, 17-22 June 1996.

- Organisation of a Sub-regional workshop on STVE of Girls in Africa, Zimbabwe, 8-12 September 1997.

- Technical support to the Lutsango Conference on Women in Science and Technology, South Africa, September 1998.

- Support and collaboration for the organisation of GASAT 9, Ghana, June 1999.

- Co-organisation of the African Forum on Women, Science and Technology, January 1999 as a preparation for the World Science Conference.

- Participation in the FEMSA Regional meetings, 1997-1998.

- Support to the African Women in Science and Engineering, Kenya, December 1999.

- Various national workshops organized through UNESCO field offices.

 CURRENT ACTIVITIES

The strategy to be employed in the last biennium of the Special Project is based on recommendations from various meetings held and needs expressed by partners.

 SCHOOL LEVEL INTERVENTIONS:

Not only are girls disadvantaged when it comes to access to education notably in the scientific, technical and vocational fields, but also in terms of the quality, relevance and appropriateness of the education and training received which reinforce the negative attitude of girls towards scientific and technical subjects and related careers.

Since major reform in curriculum, textbook, examination and teacher training is unlikely to be undertaken in the short-term, and since teaching approaches are heavily influenced by the current nature of the education system, interventions will start with micro level interventions.

a) The cooperation with FEMSA will continue in 12 countries (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, undertaken by FEMSA with technical support from UNESCO HQ and Field Offices. Interventions will be supported in selected primary and secondary schools and teacher training institutions addressing problems within the context of existing syllabuses and examinations. The interventions will at the same time point the way forward for more relevant and gender equitable approaches.

b) UNESCO will use the draft working document 'Science experiments' published in 1999 in national workshops with teachers and education specialists in order to develop a resource kit on supplementary gender-sensitive science experiments and activities. This activity will be undertaken in close coordination with the Special Project on Women, Science and Technology of the Science Sector.

AWARENESS AND MOTIVATION RAISING:

Socio-cultural barriers have been identified as being among the greatest impediment to women's access to scientific and technological education, often due to unconscious influences in the home from parental/family opinions, cultural and social norms and lack of positive role models.

a) A major regional meeting with full media coverage is planned to take place in Lusaka, Zambia, June 2001, for which agreement in principle for collaboration has already been obtained from the Science Sector (Special Project on Women, Science and Technology), FEMSA, Palais de la decouverte (Paris).

b) Technical support will be provided for the organization of science/career fairs and camps.