"If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation. When girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous. The highest result of education is tolerance."
- African Proverb
Why Gender Equality in Education is Important
Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities for all individuals, regardless of their gender. This includes equal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, as well as the ability to live free from gender-based violence and discrimination.
In education, gender equality means girls and boys, men and women, have the same opportunities to receive education, with the same resources, and with the same expectations of success. Gender equality in education also means that the school system is inclusive, responsive, and empowering for all students, regardless of their gender.
Girls’ education, alongside improved sexual and reproductive health and rights, has often been cited as the world’s best investment. However, gender equality in education is not only important for empowering girls and women, but also has a positive impact on macroeconomic and financial stability. Gender equality in education can stimulate economic growth by increasing the number of educated and skilled workers in the labor force. In turn, this can lead to higher productivity and innovation. Additionally, having more women in leadership positions in the private and public sector can boost performance by increasing diversity and promoting better decision-making.
The Role of Education In Gender Equality
Education plays a crucial role in promoting gender equality. It is a powerful tool that can help break down gender stereotypes and empower women and girls to reach their full potential. For example, findings from the World Bank indicate that when girls have access to education, they are more likely to become leaders in their communities, start their own businesses, and make informed decisions about their health and well-being.
In many parts of the world, however, girls and women still face significant barriers to education. In some countries, cultural beliefs and practices perpetuate the idea that girls are not as valuable as boys, and as a result, girls are often denied the same opportunities for education and development. Additionally, in countries affected by fragility or conflict, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be kept away from education than boys. This is not only a violation of their human rights, but it also holds back their communities and countries as a whole.
The Benefits of Investing in Girls' Education
Investing in girls' education has numerous benefits for both individuals and society as a whole. Here are a few of the key benefits:
- Education as a tool for breaking down gender stereotypes
Gender stereotypes are often reinforced through the education system, which can limit the aspirations and opportunities of girls and boys. Quality education that is inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of all learners can help to break down these stereotypes and promote gender equity. By providing girls and boys with the same opportunities and resources to succeed, the education system can help to address the gender gap in education and promote gender equality.
- Education as a means of empowering women and girls
Girl's education is one of the best ways to empower women and girls and help them to reach their full potential. Educated girls are more likely to have better paying jobs and contribute to the economy. This in turn can lead to reduced poverty and increased economic growth.
- Education is an important tool in addressing gender-based violence
Education can help to reduce the risk of gender-based violence and promote gender equality in other areas of life. By providing girls and boys with education on healthy relationships and gender equality, the education system can help to reduce the risk of gender-based violence. School-based programs that address gender-based violence can also provide support and resources for students who have experienced violence and promote a safer and more inclusive learning environment for all students.
- Education has multigenerational impact
Investing in girls' education can have a positive impact on multiple generations. Educated girls are more likely to educate their own children, breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality.
- Education increases social and political participation
Educated girls are more likely to be active and informed citizens, and to participate in social and political activities.
Contributors to Gender Inequality in Education
Gender gaps in education and employment in the United States are small on average. However, for low and middle-income countries, these gaps are much larger and continue to persist despite efforts to address them. For instance, gender equality in education remains a significant challenge in many African countries. Moreover, Latin America and the Caribbean have the second highest rate of adolescent pregnancy in the world, leading to significant gender disparities in educational attainment.
Below are some of the main challenges affecting young people in terms of gender equality in education:
Gender disparities in access to education
Achieving gender parity in primary schools has been an important objective of many countries in recent years. And many have been successful in increasing the enrollment of girls in primary schools. However, though the gap in primary education between girls and boys has narrowed, disparities persist in secondary and higher education. Furthermore, many girls and women face additional barriers such as poverty, social norms, cultural beliefs and practices, and conflict, which prevent them from attending school and completing their education.
In many countries, girls are less likely to continue their education and more likely to drop out of school than boys. This is particularly true for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are often facing multiple barriers to education, such as poverty, cultural beliefs and practices, and conflict. However, "poverty and the need to work can lead boys to drop out,” according to Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO.
2. Discrimination and bias within the education system
Even when girls and young women have access to education, they often face discrimination and bias within the education system. For example, girls are often expected to take on domestic responsibilities and are not provided with the same opportunities and resources to succeed as boys. This can lead to higher dropout rates and lower educational attainment for girls.
In some cases, the education system is not inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of all students. Therefore, addressing gender disparities in access to education is not only a matter of increasing enrollment but also of ensuring that girls and young women have access to quality education, are able to complete their education and have access to the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
3. Insufficient funding and resources
In many countries, there is inadequate funding for education, which can limit the ability of schools to provide a quality education for all students. This is particularly true for girls and women, who often have less access to resources and support than boys and men.
4. Socio-economic factors
Socio-economic factors such as poverty, living in rural areas and lack of infrastructure, can limit access to education for girls and boys. Girls from poor families are less likely to attend school, and those who do attend often face additional barriers such as a lack of sanitation facilities and safe transportation.
5. Cultural beliefs and practices
According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, it will take 115 years to close the gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa. In many countries in Africa, child marriage and pregnancy often force girls to drop out of school. While The Marriage Act in South Africa allows girls to be married at the age of 15 with parental consent, the minimum age of 18 is maintained for boys. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and inequality in girls and women.
To address these challenges, African countries need to invest in programs and policy interventions that promote gender equality in education,
Strategies for Promoting Gender Equality in Education
Promoting gender equality in education can be achieved through a variety of strategies. For instance, schools can work to provide equal access to resources and opportunities for girls and boys, such as providing equal funding for girls' and boys' sports teams or offering girls the same opportunities to participate in STEM education programs.
Other strategies include:
1. Gender-responsive teaching and learning
Gender-responsive teaching and learning involves using teaching methods and curriculum that are inclusive and responsive to the diverse needs of all students, including girls and boys. This can include using gender-sensitive language and images, providing girls and boys with the same opportunities and resources to succeed, and providing education on gender equality and healthy relationships.
2. Inclusive education policies and practices
Inclusive education policies and practices involve creating an environment where all students feel valued and respected, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. This involves providing language and cultural support, providing accommodations for students with disabilities, and creating a safe and inclusive learning environment.
3. Engaging communities and families in promoting gender equality in education
Communities and families play a critical role in promoting gender equality in education. By engaging with families and communities, schools can work to address cultural and economic barriers that prevent girls from attending school. This usually involves working with families to provide girls and boys with the necessary resources to attend school. Likewise, working communities to promote cultural change and eliminate practices that discriminate against girls.
4. Addressing socio-economic factors
Addressing socio-economic factors such as poverty, living in rural areas and lack of infrastructure, can increase access to education for girls and boys. This can be achieved by providing:
- building schools in rural and remote areas
- providing safe transportation for girls and boys to school
5. Investing in teacher training
Investing in teacher training can ensure that teachers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide a quality education for all students, regardless of their gender.
Additionally, teacher training in addressing school-related gender-based violence will help to create a safer and more inclusive learning environment for female and male students. By providing teachers with the appropriate training and resources, they will be better equipped to recognize and address gender-based violence in the school environment and provide support for affected students. This not only creates a safer and more inclusive learning environment for all students, but also helps to break the cycle of gender-based violence and promote gender equality in education.
For more information on this topic, check out our article on how education and training can support decent work and economic growth.
Organizations and Initiatives Working to Promote Gender Equality in Education
Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed to promote gender equality and empower women by working to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education, and to ensure that girls and boys have equal access to quality education. The target for this goal was to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and to achieve gender equality in education by 2015. SInce then, MDGs have been replaced by Sustainable Development Goals. But, how far have we really come in terms of achieving gender equality for male and female students?
The Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa region have made much progress in achieving gender equality in education and health outcomes. Despite some improvements in reducing the gap in educational attainment, the average participation rate of women in the labor force in the region is still low at 31 per cent. Additionally, in some countries, the pay gap between men and women is significant, with women earning on average less than a quarter of what men make. Furthermore, across the region, there is a lack of representation of women in decision-making positions, such as boardrooms, parliaments, and cabinets. This lack of representation limits women's ability to participate actively in shaping policies and decisions that affect their lives. To address these issues, policymakers introduced a number of initiatives in the region.
Gender Equality in the UAE: Political and Economic Representation
The UAE has established parity of representation in its parliament, the Federal National Council, and has appointed a number of women to serve in its cabinet. Additionally, the UAE has implemented policies to increase the representation of women on the boards of listed companies.
Another notable example of a successful initiative in the region is the UAE's mission to Mars led by Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology, Sarah bint Al Amiri. The mission was notable for the large percentage of women in leadership roles. Furthermore, Al Amiri's position as the chairperson and lead scientist of the team served as a powerful role model for girls in the UAE and beyond, showing that women can excel in traditionally male-dominated fields such as science and technology.
Overall, while there is still much work to be done in the region to achieve gender equality, these initiatives demonstrate that progress is being made and that policymakers are taking steps to address the issue.
The Akshara Foundation
The Akshara Foundation aims to empower disadvantaged young women in India by improving access to education and fostering a culture of gender equality. Through scholarships and capacity-building workshops, it aims to break the cycle of poverty and inequality. Additionally, the foundation's "Youth for Change" program educates both young men and women on the importance of gender equality for all.
The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative
The Women for Peace & Gender Equality Initiative is an organization that aims to promote gender equality by empowering young women in Nigeria. Through its uniform platform of advocacy, the initiative addresses social issues and works to eliminate inequalities at the grassroots level to bring about policy-level changes. In addition to providing skill and leadership training for adolescent boys and girls, the initiative also conducts research on gender-based violence.
Education plays a crucial role in achieving gender equality. It is a powerful tool that can break down barriers and empower individuals, especially women, to reach their full potential. However, it is important to note that ongoing efforts are needed to address the various challenges facing gender equality in education. This includes addressing issues such as lack of access to education, gender-based violence and discrimination, and inadequate resources and support for marginalized groups. By continuing to work towards gender equality in education, we can create a more equitable and just society for all.
Let Us Do The Heavy Lifting
Want to be a part of the solution? Invest in GGI and let's work together to achieve gender equality in education. Your support will help us provide access to education, resources, and support to marginalized groups. Together, we can break down barriers and create a more equitable society. Let's talk about how you can make a real impact.