FOLLOW UP OF THE INTER-AMERICAN PROGRAM
ON THE PROMOTION OF WOMEN'S HUMAN RIGHTS
AND GENDER EQUITY AND EQUALITY-
SEPIA III-GENDER AND Education
Washington, D.C., December 9-10, 2003
Proposals on Gender and Education
in the framework of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Education
I. Declaration of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Education
The Ministers of Education of member states of the Organization of American States, gathered on the occasion of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Education in Mexico City, August 11-13, 2003, undertook to promote “the principles of equity, quality, relevance, and efficiency at all levels of the education system, ensuring, by 2010, universal access to and completion of quality primary education for all children and to quality secondary education for a t least 75 per cent of young people, with increasing graduation rates and lifelong learning opportunities for the general population; and eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005,” in keeping with the mandate of the Third Summit of the Americas.
These objectives are consistent with the recognition that education is among the tools that make it possible to achieve greater social equity and overcome and, ultimately, eradicate poverty, as well as a means to facilitate the creation of human capital tailored to the demands of a globalized world. In addition, the Declaration refers to the necessary commitment of educational systems to democracy, social justice, and “individual dignity and avoiding all discrimination and intolerance.”
The Declaration points to the need to prioritize expenditure and investment in education, including scientific research, technological development, and the dissemination and preservation of cultural diversity, while also calling on governments to develop strategies to improve the funding of education in such a way as to involve political organizations, legislatures, and the media. The Declaration underscores how important it is for all sectors, particularly of civil society, to cooperate in order to achieve the objectives proposed.
The Declaration urges all countries to incorporate in their respective educational programs the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, especially those that have to do with “education as key to strengthening democratic institutions, promoting the development of human potential, and alleviating poverty and fostering greater understanding among our peoples.”
The Declaration emphasizes the part played by information in the process of improving education, particularly by moving forward in expanding and disseminating indicators of educational quality and quantity, while at the same time creating the necessary capabilities within the ministries for thus use of this tool.
Particularly to be underscored is the effort to focus on the most deprived groups in society in order to ensure equal opportunity for all sectors. The Declaration also reaffirms the commitment to implement different mechanisms to expand educational coverage, keep children in school, and reduce school drop-out rates.
Technical education is accorded an important place because it is a way to prepare young people for working life and enhance their innovative skills and initiative.
The Inter-American Commission on Education (CIE) is urged to continue to develop projects in the areas of equity and quality, education, training, evaluation, and teacher training, with cross-cutting use of the new communication and information technologies.
The Mexico Declaration underscores throughout that equity and quality of education are basic principles that are essential for an improvement in the general standard of living, particularly in the poorest sectors of society. It describes how it has been possible to eliminate gender disparities in relation to equal opportunity for both men and women in terms of access to primary and secondary education. It also emphasizes how important it is to avoid all discrimination and intolerance in educational systems.
From the gender point of view, equity in education is apparent – in addition to equality of opportunities in coverage for men and women at all levels of education – in other aspects which should be borne in mind when proposing the incorporation of a gender approach throughout the educational process.
One of these is the elimination of factors that have an impact on the drop-out rate of boys and girls from schools and which reflect traditional gender relations: girls drop out of school in order to help at home; the incidence of early pregnancy, also have a significant impact. Likewise, the main motive for boys to drop out of school is the need to enter the work force, to assume a role as secondary provider of goods needed by the family.
Another factor to note is that gender orientation influences the different ways boys and girls choose activities or careers. Generally boys are steered towards activities that have to do with science or technology; girls are usually steered towards service-related activities and, in particular, towards those that have to do with caring for other people - tasks that are perceived as feminine. This fact reproduces and exacerbates the sexual division of the labor market and translates into one of the main discriminatory factors in the labor market.
Teacher training is one of the areas in which the greatest change can be effected from a gender perspective in the education system. If teachers can pass on to their pupils values based on gender equity as expressed in the principles of gender equity and recognition of diversity, and behave in a non-discriminatory way in classrooms, they will be promoting fundamental changes in the way boys and girls learn to live together.
The Declaration highlights the importance of continuing and extending the Summit Project based on indicators. (Regional Project on Indicators in Education). This initiative should be enhanced by introducing indicators that make it possible to measure over time the comparative progress made amongst men and women in those issues that are particularly relevant to gender equity.
II. The framework for incorporating a gender perspective in education
The Priority Action Areas of CIM’s Strategic Plan of Action states that gender-sensitive education is the way to shape new values and change attitudes. It is essential for guaranteeing women’s full exercise of their rights, to enable them to participate in political activities at all levels, enter and remain in the labor market and improve their quality of life. In education, the CIM proposes working towards producing and inducing socio-cultural change, and breaking down stereotypes in domestic and labor roles in order to create an awareness that men and women should share both public and private responsibilities. It will concern itself in general with the education of women at all stages of life and give special attention to training programs for population groups who have habitually been ignored by the educational system, such as minority groups, rural populations, marginalized urban populations, indigenous peoples, and other ethnic groups.
The Inter-American Program on the Promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equity and Equality in its specific objective no. 5 urges the member states of the OAS to promote gender equity and equality and women’s human rights, among others, by achieving full and equal access to “education at all levels and to the various fields of study.” This appeal is reaffirmed (specific objective no. 8) with the “elimination of cultural patterns or stereotypes that denigrate the image of women, particularly in educational materials…” The same program calls for the adoption of measures needed to encourage the agencies of the inter-American system to incorporate a gender perspective in their work, along with other actions to be taken by the General Secretariat of the OAS.
CIM’s proposal to incorporate the gender perspective in education is based on the premise that, in addition to being a mechanism for social and economic mobility and integration, and a means of overcoming poverty, it is an exceptionally good arena in which to promote cultural changes that may facilitate the achievement of gender equity and equality. Although equal access by women to all levels of education represents a fundamental step forward, there are other factors related to the potential gains from educating boys and girls in the values of equity, tolerance, respect for diversity, and a civic spirit.
Education with a gender dimension is conceived as the molding of boys and girls from their earliest years in the principles of equity and equality between the sexes. This makes it possible to overcome major barriers based on gender inequity, including equal access to the labor market; it sets in motion a process of cultural change both for men and for women such as responsible fatherhood and equal distribution of domestic chores, and furthermore creates the conditions for the empowerment of women and finally the construction of a more just and equitable society.
The meeting on SEPIA III studied the Mexico Declaration. The following deficiencies were noted, for emphasis, with a view to their consideration and incorporation in subsequent activities to follow up on the Meeting of Ministers, and to ensuring that they are incorporated in education policies in all ministries of education in the member states:
Education and employment
Dropping out of school as a result of pregnancy, motherhood, or sexual harassment.
Training and continuing education in gender within the educational community
IV. Proposals for incorporating the gender perspective in education
The incorporation of the gender perspective requires an overall approach to ensure that initiatives in different areas are mutually reinforcing. Complementary proposals arise from each specific area, which act in parallel to narrow the gender equality gaps and reduce sexual discrimination in education.
To ensure the practical application of proposals aimed at achieving gender equality in education, spheres of action have been established based on the guidelines of the Third Meeting of Ministers of Education and targets for meeting these requirements have been identified, along with the actions needed to achieve them.
1.1. Ensuring equal opportunity for men and women in access to all levels of the educational system.
Women and girls are referred to as vulnerable groups eligible to receive priority attention. However, this prevents them from receiving specific treatment. In particular this applies to women in the rural sectors who, in various countries in the Hemisphere, still lag behind in terms of literacy and general level of education. The need to overcome this is even more urgent when the multiplier effect of the education of mothers is taken into account both in relation to children attending and staying in the education system and in improvements to family health and, in particular, in combating poverty among the poorest households in the region. It also has a major impact on other aspects of social development, such as maternal and child mortality, the health, nutrition, and education of new generations, population and environmental control, social integration, and the development of a sense of civic pride and spirit.
On the other hand, the school drop-out rate has been identified as one of the most serious problems affecting education systems. If this phenomenon is analyzed by sex, one finds that the sexist patterns in society are reproduced. Household surveys carried out periodically in the countries of the region investigating the causes of failure to complete the secondary cycle show that the causes differ significantly between the sexes.
Males leave primarily to work or to look for work, while females leave because of family problems. The main causes of drop out rate of women include: poverty, early pregnancy or motherhood, paid and unpaid domestic work, sexual harassment, child prostitution, migration in search of work, as temporal workers.
Objective 1.1. Promoting equal access and continued attendance of boys and girls in preschool, basic, and secondary education
Objective 1.2. To increase the educational level of women, in particular, those who are in situations of greater vulnerability.
To carry out programs directed at:
2. 2. Promoting non-sexist education
A high percentage of young people pursue careers that reproduce traditionally feminine roles, such as careers in education and health, which are precisely those that carry lower status and pay less. The signals sent by teachers to boys and girls alike from the primary level upwards are reflected in the choices made by the young. In general, more attention is given to educating boys, rather than girls, in the sciences. At secondary school, career guidance directs boys and girls towards interests pre-established according to their sex. In this way, the hidden curriculum, which distinguishes between the treatment and guidance of boys and girls, defines the preferences of each group.
The images that appear in school texts also play an important role in this respect. Although some countries have now started to revise school texts from a gender perspective, in the framework of the educational reforms being implemented, many stereotypical images of men and women according to traditional gender roles persist. In some cases, women are depicted as less important than men.
A sexist vocational direction starting in the school system excludes a large population of women from the science and technology labor market. They are thereby marginalized in terms of productive state-of-the-art activities, which are those in most supply now that markets are being transformed as a result of economic integration and globalization.
In higher education, the segmentation of university careers is still visible and results in some courses attracting a high percentage of women while in others they are in the minority. Proposals for redirecting higher education must aim at expanding career choices for men and women by encouraging both groups to explore careers in which they have not been equally represented.
Another aspect to take into account relates to the rapid changes and innovations arising from technology, connectivity, and communication, which must be made to serve the cause of education, and especially, put an end to the poor quality of education in the most isolated and vulnerable sectors. Traditionally, fewer women have been found in areas linked to the use of technology because of sex-based role attribution. The use of technology in education must aim especially at attracting young and adolescent girls towards innovations and avoid sexist orientation.
The challenge to create educational environments conceived as learning communities naturally falls also to teachers, who in this scenario are responsible for promoting democratic values, equity, and tolerance as opposed to authoritarianism and rigid hierarchies. Thus it is necessary to incorporate principles that promote these values in teacher training, particularly the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of gender at all levels of the educational system.
Objective 2.1. Eliminate gender discrimination in educational curricula and introduce new topics
· To review curricula, incorporating a gender perspective at all levels and areas of knowledge in the activities, spaces, language, materials, classroom relationships, career guidance, and school organization and administration. Emphasis should be placed on reforming teacher training curricula and ongoing professional development courses.
Objective 2.2. Promote egalitarian career guidance for men and women
The increase in basic education coverage and in the number of students enrolled in secondary education has not yielded the expected results in terms of the entry of young people –men and women- into the labor market. Given that only a small percentage of young men and women reach higher education, any redefinition of the direction of education from the basic level should be geared towards appropriate training- for the labor market and, consequently, increasing the human capital of the countries of the region. For women, this education requires particular attention insofar as their work options are limited by prevailing stereotypes in relation to male and female jobs, the latter being more restricted and less valued in the labor market. In many instances, the choices available to women are limited to low productivity, informal employment or domestic employment because inadequate training for other better paid occupations that would give them the necessary financial autonomy to allow them to maintain themselves and their families.
Objective 3.1. Increase the employment potential of women
The modernization and strengthening process advocated by the ministers of education is an opportunity to include the principles of equality of opportunities. In this context, coordination through national mechanisms for the equality of women in the respective countries is fundamental, both with respect to drawing up joint programs and monitoring advances in education from a gender perspective.
Objective 4.1. Promote inter-institutional coordination for achieving gender objectives in education
Objective 4.2. Evaluate on an ongoing basis gender gaps in education
5. Eliminate sexist messages and materials in the media and encourage the media to educate society on gender equality
The media perform an educational function and through the material they make public they can either help to establish a multi-faceted image of women and their contributions to culture or reinforce sexist approaches. For that reason it is important to sensitize those who influence and manage the media to encourage them to promote gender equity and equality. An effort should also be made to foster dialogue between the institutions responsible for the educational system and the media to enhance training and information about gender equity and equality.
Objective 5.1. Encourage the media, as educators in our society, to contribute to the elimination of sexist messages
© 2007 Organization of American States.