International Women’s Day (8 March) - a chance to tackle gender disparities in education
“This year’s International Women’s Day is inspired by the theme of ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.’ This goes to the heart of UNESCO’s mission.” (Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO)
Concerning equal access to education, how do women and girls fare? There has been undoubted progress – more girls are enrolled in school than ever before, from primary to tertiary education. Gender parity in primary school enrolment has greatly improved in the countries that started the decade with the greatest gender gaps. However, two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate adults are women and discrimination still continues: less than 40 percent of countries provide girls and boys with equal access to education and more than 55% of out-of-school children are girls. Special efforts – from recruiting female teachers to making schools more girl-friendly – are needed to redress the balance.
Girls’ and women’s education has a positive impact on the achievement of all the MDGs, from improved health and better prevention against HIV and AIDs to higher income. UNESCO emphasizes a gender-sensitive approach and works with Member States and partners to increase women’s literacy, develop curricula that challenge gender stereotypes and policies that promote of them participation in secondary and technical and vocational education. Learning materials about HIV and AIDS give girls and women the knowledge and skills to cope with the pandemic.
Most recently, UNESCO has promoted gender-sensitive approaches to literacy research, engaged in innovative new partnerships with the private sector and focused on the integration of girls into national technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes.