Education for all is a fundamental human right. So also is equality of women and men. In the educational field, both sexes still continue to focus on traditional gender roles which strongly steer and reduce their choices of education, occupation and life concepts, thus reinforcing the male norms in society, the unequal power relationship of the sexes, the sex-segregation of the labour market, the sex-specific allocation of family responsibilities, the violence against girls and women.
Gender equality is vital for achieving sustainable development and protecting the environment. For example, research suggests that women express more concern for the environment than men, and countries with more women in parliament are more likely to ratify environmental treaties. Women constitute almost two-thirds of the 758 million adults who are unable to read or write a sentence a vast pool of people we are not empowering to help us fight environmental shifts. Education can equip individuals with skills and knowledge to understand environmental problems and help tackle them. Equal representation in leadership and community decision-making is more likely to build better resilience, improve risk management and advance environmental preservation.
Basic education can also help women access their social and legal rights, and enable them to participate in politics. When education provides women with literacy and numeracy skills, it helps them acquire critical knowledge for everyday life such as understanding political platforms and voting, which many of us take for granted.
Childbearing and motherhood have a considerable impact on women’s activities. Knowledge of this, as also the sharing of responsibilities in the home and with the raising of children, should be a basic part of the school curriculum for boys and girls.
Gender equality in education can only be achieved by meeting the needs of employed women, especially those working in the educational fields, and by counteracting the existing discriminations. The educational authorities in all countries should do all they can to achieve fixed and regular school timetables and provide mothers with support, such as child-oriented timetabling and provisions for child care.
What happens in classrooms is crucial for challenging gender gaps in leadership. Quality schooling can offer young people opportunities to learn about and practice leadership roles through school clubs and committees. Female role models can attract girls to school and improve their learning outcomes. Yet female teachers make up 94% of pre-primary teachers, 64% of primary school teachers and only 50% of upper secondary school teachers. Men are more likely to ascend to leadership positions in schools, even where the majority of teachers are women. Transformation of the education sector including the structures and composition of school management, governance, and education ministries is needed to create a gender equitable environment.
Ensuring representative leadership, decision making and equitable participation in all areas of life is vital for sustainable development. All girls, boys, women, and men must become change agents to ensure that a fairer and more sustainable world is achieved for generations to come.
Article by: Busayo Tomoh