PASSPORT TO DIGNITY
CRITICAL AREA OF CONCERN B:
EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF WOMEN
...from the Human Rights Instruments
26.(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
26(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among...racial or religious groups...
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26)
13.(1) The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace...
13.(2)(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all...
(International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Part III, Article 13)
28.(1) States Parties recognize the right of the child to education...shall…(a) Make primary education compulsory and available free to all; (b)…make…secondary education available and accessible to every child...; (c) Make higher education accessible to all…(d) Make ...vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children; (e) Take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.
29.(1) States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; (b) The development of respect for human rights...(c) The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values…
(Convention on the Rights of the Child, Part I, Articles 28 and 29)
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education...
(Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Part III, Article 1)
Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. Non-discriminatory education benefits both girls and boys and.. contributes to more equal relationships between women and men. Equality of access to and attainment of educational qualification is necessary if more women are to become agents of change. Literacy of women is an important key to improving health, nutrition and education in the family and to empowering women to participate in decision-making in society. Investing in formal and non-formal education and training for girls and women, with its exceptionally high social and economic return, has proved to be one of the best means of achieving sustainable development and economic growth...
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 69)
Education to foster a culture of peace that upholds justice and tolerance for all nations and peoples is essential to attaining lasting peace and should be begun at an early age. It should include elements of conflict resolution, mediation, reduction of prejudice and respect for diversity
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 140)
It is necessary for all individuals, especially women in vulnerable circumstances, to have full knowledge of their rights and access to legal recourse against violations of their rights.
(Beijing Platform for Action, Chap. IV, para. 227)
REFLECTING ON THE PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS
Is education is your society freely accessible to all?
If there are limitations, what are they?
Do girls and women in your community and country have access to free elementary schooling?
Do they have equal opportunities with boys and young men for secondary schooling? vocational training? university education?
What are the barriers to equal education encountered by girls and women in your country?
How does boys’ education differ from that of girls?
Do those differences contribute to inequality between women and men?
How does education in your society prepare boys and girls for economic survival and self-sufficiency?
Does the education your society prepare girls and women to participate in decision-making?
Does education in your society promote tolerance and respect of people’s dignity
Were you personally prevented from learning because you were a girl?
In which way?
Do boys or men ever encounter obstacles to their education?
Are they of the same nature as the obstacles to girls’ education?
Education is a Human Right
Education is a fundamental and universal human right, partly because learning is an essential part of being human. We are born to learn, un-learn, re-learn, alone and in the company of others, in response to the life around us and within us. Whether male or female, human beings are at their best when they are allowed to learn freely and to share with others the things they know in order to make a difference in their environment.
Human beings never stop learning, although the forms of their learning might need to change in response to the demands of their lives. The way we learn best is by having the company and guidance of caring teachers and peers who share what they know and respectfully listen to our contribution; by observing and using our own experiences, having freedom to explore, to ask and answer questions.
It is almost impossible to stop human beings from learning. We "read the world" as Paulo Freire put it, through observation, experience, reflection, dialogue, and participation in social life. However, our instinct to learn can be driven underground, put to sleep or diverted into dead ends by the lack of stimulation, excessive work, grinding poverty or by a repressive social system that neglects to provide education or actively represses knowledge. It is also very common for people to know much more than they are given credit for. Many people, especially if they are in subordinate positions in their family or in society, hide what they know, for fear of bad consequences.
Knowledge is power. Whenever one person or group has a monopoly on information, that person or group gains what might be unjust power over others. Substantial differences in level of education get translated into hierarchies of power. The more difficult it is for people to get educated, the less likely they are to become active participants in public life.
In modern societies, education means formal schooling, equal and adequate for all. It means reasonable access to continued learning throughout the course of life. It means being allowed to contribute one’s knowledge to the common work. Most significantly, broad-scale public education is the most essential requirement of democracy. No democracy can survive without education and equality.
Yet girls and women are almost universally denied equal access to education. Dropout rates among girls are generally higher than among boys. Almost two thirds of all illiterate people in the world are women. Where they are schooled, girls often receive lower quality education, especially in such fields as science and technology, and less of the advanced education that leads to power and influence in modern society. Non-discriminatory education benefits both girls and boys; ultimately it contributes to more equitable relationships between women and men.
Female literacy is an important key to improved health, nutrition and education in the family, to managing the community, and to governing the nation. It is the essential prerequisite to women’s empowerment for participation in public decision making at the beginning of the century.
There is significant evidence that women’s education is connected with lower birthrates, fewer infant deaths, higher quality of family life, more women in the formal work force and greater economic production. The education and participation of women are essential to development and a country cannot prosper when illiteracy and lack of training persistently condemn large numbers of women to poverty.
The last quarter of the twentieth century has seen significant standard-setting in education, inspired by principles of justice based on human rights and on the recognition that education is essential to break through the wall of inequality which separates the world’s deprived majority from its privileged minority, the latter of which is subjected to the supreme denial of human dignity: helpless poverty, ignorance and disease.
The Jomtien Declaration
UNESCO’s 1990 world conference (a gathering of 155 governments, 33 intergovernmental bodies, and 125 nongovernmental organizations convened at the initiative of UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank) aimed at the eradication of illiteracy by the year 2000 through the provision of basic education – defined as a level of knowledge attained by everyone, children and adults alike, after six years of schooling. Its final statement, the Jomtien World Declaration of Education For All , complemented by the Jomtien Framework for Action called for an expanded vision of basic education. Its essential ingredients were: early childhood care and development opportunities; relevant, quality primary schooling or equivalent educational opportunities for out-of-school children; and literacy, basic knowledge and life skills training for youth and adults were. The attainment of the proclaimed goals was predicated on a worldwide commitment to universal elementary female alphabetization.
Education For All Assessment2000
Reading their highly cogent plan of action ten years later is a sobering experience, for it points to the split between intentions and reality. In 1995 as many as 112 projects in 44 countries were undertaken as a follow up to the Jomtien World Declaration of Education For All. Governments and national and international agencies seemed fully committed to the goals of the declaration. Action Plans and programs were elaborately drawn up, funds were allocated more liberally, and pedagogical modules churned out. By 2000, the goals of the Jomtien Declaration remain a distant horizon; in some places, things have actually become worse in the years since then as a result of structural adjustment policies requiring governments to downsize educational expenses, compounded by economic crises, civil wars etc. Literacy rates, for both boys and girls, not only have not risen as expected, but have dropped in a number of countries. Many of the new-literates produced by literacy campaigns in the 1980’s and early 1990’s have drifted back into illiteracy due to insufficient followup, volunteer staff burnout, and the discouragement of the newly literate persons themselves at the lack of results in their day-to-day lives.
The World Education forum held in Dakar in April 2000 gave a bleak report of the changes since Jomtien. Much of the Jomtien vision has remained words on paper. Primary education has been the main focus of action in the last decade, yet the EFA (Education for All) Assessment 2000 initiated two years ago found that more than 125 million children, 82 million of them girls, never went to school, and 880 million adults are still illiterate. Gender inequities as well as poor quality of education and learning persist in educational systems.
In India for instance, fifty per cent of women remain illiterate. The literacy campaigns in several districts of the country created some exciting developments most of which could not be sustained. Gross Enrolment Ratios at the primary level increase substantially (90 per cent in 1997), but high dropout level bring the Net Enrolment Ratio down to a little over 60 per cent. The goal of universal enrolment remains a distant dream. Even the most backward regions of the country clamor for educational facilities, spurred on by the burgeoning literacy campaigns. In actuality, whatever education is provided is often inadequate, out of context, ill adapted to job requirements or to family obligations in the case of women. As noted by one expert on literacy:
mere education is not enough. Supply does not create its own demand, and the lack of demand can be seen in the large figures of non-attendance and dropping-out and low achievement levels. What has often been missing is the relevance of education to the lives of the people. Where there is relevance there could be no problem of demand (...) The same education that attracts the urban middle and even lower classes has little meaning for the marginal farmer and the landless agricultural worker. Education is often seen as a waste. It is so alien to the socio-cultural context that learning becomes difficult and uninteresting, adding to the meaninglessness.
(J. Ravaraghan, 1998 Education and cultural diversities; an opportunity for Adult Education in the postmodern world ILI Conference on Literacy (Asia)
India is by no means exceptional, and even the USA or European countries (although this is not always acknowledged) are grappling with growing rates of semi-literacy, functional illiteracy or ill-adapted education, the growing gap between different sectors of the population.
In the West, large sections of the work force have been marginalized by employers who provide them with short term contracts and no access to in-service training. 20 per cent of adults in the industrial world are functionally illiterate. Education has sometimes been called an artificial way to reduce unemployment, involving increased marginalization and inadequate learning opportunities for those who are not employed., in particular the growing population of young unemployed
Empowerment and Structural Adjustment
The empowerment of women as a concept was introduced at the 1985 World Conference on Women in Nairobi. Development based on empowerment became the slogan for the 1990s. But
as Prof. Anita Dighe points out:
(Anita Dighe 1997 Adult Education in a Polarizing World ILI 2d Conference on Literacyhttp://litserver.literacy.upenn.edu/products/ili/webdocs/dighe.html).
A review of the debtor countries’ experiences with structural adjustment loans shows that, while the adjustment programs had mixed effects on the national economies, they had particularly adverse effects in the human development sectors like education. As income and living conditions shrank during the process of adjustment, the demand for education underwent a decline.
Changes in the labor markets, rising unemployment, reduced levels of wage earnings and earnings differentials, and increased costs of education due to privatization all lead to a fall in the demand for education. This does not mean that there is no desire for education. Quite the contrary: Indian journalist Nitya Rao describes adivasi parents’ desperate desire to see their children educated– boys and girls alike; even the poorest of parents are willing to pay for education if it is available. As she also points out, it is to some extent illegitimate to blame child labor for non-education, to the extent that child-labor is often a substitute for an education that is only offered in official statistics. (Nitya Rao Education: Lessons To Learn in- The Hindu Vol. 17 #`16 8/ 5)
The enormous success, among women in particular, of the Total Literacy Campaigns in India was a testimony to their hopes, making it all the more tragic that, for structural reasons, many of the women who became literate during those campaigns are now illiterate again, for lack of support after the campaigns ended. The same is true of children who stopped attending schools when the teachers stopped coming because their salaries were not being paid, or because the school buildings were crumbling for lack of maintenance. A situation repeated to various degrees throughout the world including in some developed countries.
Mahila Samakhya (Education for Empowerment)
Poor women’s education is caught in the labyrinth of economic concerns, survival issues and livelihood pressures. Mothers attempting to get an education feel the pressure of family responsibilities: childcare, household chores, attending to the sick. So do single women who in many parts of the world are expected to take care of older relatives and younger siblings.
Equally important, women learners come to class with personal histories, learning styles and expectations shaped to varying degrees by their experiences as girls and women in societies characterized by male power and privilege. Due to male-dominated societal norms and mores, many women exhibit a marked lack of confidence when embarking on advanced studies. Some women stop attending school because they are intimidated by their male colleagues or by a tutor’s attitude.
In addition to the barriers posed by sex discrimination, many women are doubly or triply disadvantaged as members of ethnic minorities, as working class women, or as members of other marginalized groups. Ascertaining the sort of education and support services appropriate to their needs means taking the time to understand and know more about their experiences, the difference and diversity among them so that a learner-centered approach may be planned and implemented for them, using the 'midwife' model of education in which knowledge and ideas are drawn out by making the students’ own tacit knowledge explicit and elaborating it.
There must be an appreciation of female students’ study patterns, the way their schedules will be affected by their primary or sole responsibility as parents or caretakers, the availability of childcare, the possibility of bringing children to the school, the active support of husbands and relatives. Also needed would be a sensitivity to adults’ different pace of learning, the realization that the experience of trying to learn to read in adulthood is not always empowering, if the emphasis in literacy implicitly devalues (as it often does) all of a person’s previous life as an illiterate, or exposes her to shaming by her children.
Contextualized teaching methods and learning environments help learners see themselves as independent thinkers and constructors of knowledge, which in turn is more likely to lead to social action.But the dynamics can work the other way around. By gaining confidence in their ability to resolve their concrete problems through participatory research, the poor rural women in Mahila Samakhya’s (‘Education for Women's Empowerment’, a self-help women’s NGO in a rural area of India and carried over to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Palestine) become more confident, they develop a stronger voice. Rather than being passive recipients of education, they start reclaiming and integrating their own knowledge and meshing it with what others are saying and writing.
• Women have to consolidate their independent time and therefore the pace of the program cannot be hurried. You cannot take short cuts.
• Project functionaries are facilitators and do not act directively. In this way activists within government service or from outside can be appointed as coordinators. These women are used to work with women’s groups on an equal basis.
• Education should be understood as a process which enables women to question, conceptualize and seek answers. They act and reflect on their actions and raise new questions, exactly as Paulo Freire defined literacy: "illiterate people become aware of their situation and learn to do something about it."
• Women's priorities for learning must be respected. In Mahila Samakhya there is an acceptance that as an environment of learning is created, what women decide to learn first, may not be reading or writing.
Mahila Samakhya has given women a voice in the villages, provided legal and administrative support and has made systematic endeavors to improve women's access to the available educational and developmental facilities. In this manner, the Mahila Samakhya approach to education has become an integral part of the strategy for mobilizing women in development
In the project a change in gender relations is taking place. Women have proved to be effective in local political bodies and have sent their daughters to school. Families are embracing smaller family norms, women work and decide how to spend the money, they get their husbands to stop drinking and object to household violence.
For themselves they want to understand their situation and bring change in their status in society. they want to learn to read and write when they are not too tired in the night. For me it is in that order: once a process of empowerment is set in motion, literacy in its broadest definition will follow.
Literacy Problems in Post-Socialist Societies
Post-socialist societies present the paradox of societies with exceptionally high and gender-equal rates of literacy until the breakdown of the Socialist block. The state-run educational systems broke down at the same time as their economic structure and political system were undergoing major, often chaotic, transitions. The following are examples from two very different subgroups in those societies, one: Mongolian herdswomen forced to retrain themselves in the absence of educational infrastructure; the other: highly educated Bulgarian women trained to hold civil service jobs that no longer exist, and having to deal with unemployment and retraining without the social services once provided by the fallen regime.
New problems of illiteracy in Mongolia
Women’s Education as a Liability in post-Socialist Bulgaria
One of the successes of Socialist societies had been the relatively greater equality of access to education for women, and the relative equality of their access to the professional job market. By contrast, one major effect of the collapse of socialism has been the rapid increase of the gap between men and women’s wages. Further effects were the shrinking of one large employer of women: the public service sector, including the childcare and educational sector. The cutbacks in high quality childcare which used to be an earmark of Socialist societies mean that mothers’ lives are even more difficult: not only are they more likely to be unemployed and forced to retrain for a changed job market, but the availability of a support network has shrunk at the same time. This is reflected in the paradox offered by the report below.
REFLECTING ON POSSIBILITIES
According to the most favorable projections, nearly one third of the world’s women will remain illiterate into the 21st century. Take a moment to reflect on what that means in concrete terms.
Do you know illiterate people? What is the effect of illiteracy in their lives? is illiteracy an obstacle for them?
What kinds of job possibilities does it close to be illiterate?
Does it influence participation in decision-making?
At what level and in what capacity can an illiterate person hold positions of responsibility?
Has illiteracy always been an obstacle to social effectiveness?
How does illiteracy affect other people’s perception of person?
How does it affect a person’s perception of him/herself?
Generally speaking, what is the status of the education in your society?
Prepare an inquiry to local school authorities or the Ministry of Education. What is the literacy rate in your country? What percentage of the illiterate are women? Until what grade level is free education available? Is it equally available to girls and boys?
Are boys and girls given the same curricula? Are each allowed to choose freely from all school offerings? Are there differences in school leaving age between girls and boys?
What vocational and special training programs are available in your community? What is the basis for admission to such programs? Are women admitted to training programs on a fair and equal basis with men?
Once employed are they employed in positions that match their actual education?
Does your country have a governmental body responsible for equalizing educational opportunities for men and women? How does it work?
What percentage of advanced students (university and professional studies) are women?
Are they able to use their advanced degrees in their professional lives?
African Efforts to Educate Girls
Africa has some of the most tenacious and effective women activists for education. Notable among them is the Forum for African Women Educators (FAWE). Following the Jomtien Declaration, five female Education Ministers from Africa were motivated to initiate a deliberate and concerted effort to end a tradition of discrimination against girls in education. They firmly believed that women in decision-making positions had the potential to make a significant difference in their countries’ policies and practices regarding the education and training of women and girls.
This would require setting up an ongoing mechanism to enable senior policy makers to talk to each other, share views, exchange experiences, explore alternatives and pool intellectual resources. In addition to providing a forum for exchange of ideas, the network would support members and their institutions and strengthen their capacity for influencing policy formulation and implementation. The result was the creation of FAWE , with branches in all African countries. According to their website:
Underpinning FAWE's work is an explicit effort to close the gender gap in education, not only in access but in persistence and achievement at all levels [...]FAWE was based on four premises:
The need for political commitment - recognizing the need for political commitment and the creation of an environment conducive to the achievement of gender equity in education.
The need for a conceptual framework and vision - FAWE could become a source and channel/medium through which ministries of education and other organizations concerned with education could access and share timely information to make informed choices.
The importance of demonstration - Innovative projects make concrete the concepts by demonstrating what can be done to close the gender gap and the most cost-effective ways of doing it.
The need for participation - the need to bring together different skills and outreach to communities, teachers, parents.
Upon birth, girls enter an unfriendly, even hostile world. From the start their potential is either ignored or suppressed, and their ability is neither recognized nor appreciated. Traditionally, in Africa and elsewhere, socialization has always been a means of social control ... whereby one group dominates another. Such domination has traditionally favored adults over children, men over women, and boys over girls. The present state of girls' education points to domination over girls, by parents, by teachers, by the community. If we are to change girls' education, we must change the pattern of domination through empowering education.
Empowering education makes girls aware of their potential and allows them to realize their abilities to the full. Empowering education equally changes boys, their attitudes and values, making them socially responsible. Ultimately, empowering education prepares girls and boys for mutually supportive roles and for nation building...The question may be asked: who stands to benefit from any positive change in girl's education?
Obviously, the girls themselves will be the first beneficiaries of an empowering education. They stand to gain in many ways, both as individuals and as members of the society. Empowering education will enable them to occupy their rightful place first in school, and at home, and later in the community. But ultimately society at large will benefit from any improvement in the education of girls and women. Empowering education for girls - and women - will directly improve family health and nutrition. It will also improve opportunities for income-earning by women, thereby enhancing their role in socioeconomic development. Furthermore, empowering education tends to lower infant as well as maternal mortality. It will also lower fertility rates and increase life expectancy for both women and men. In short, better education for girls, will prove to be beneficial to all.
Empowering girls requires...a new way of educating. The pedagogy of difference must be replaced by pedagogy of empowerment. Involving teachers, school heads, writers and publishers, policy makers, educational planners, parents, donors and funding agencies, boys and above all ...the girls themselves.
(FAWE website Girls’ Education an Agenda for Change http://www.und.ac.za/und/ccms/fawe/edu.htm)
Girls' Academic Achievement: The Untold Story
The following handout is part of a series being provided FAWE for educators . The series deals with various topics in the education of girls and women, presenting in simple terms the obstacles to girls’ education. The series is designed to sensitize educators to the role they and other members of society can play in promoting female education.
"Girls are not as bright as boys!"
"Girls simply don't work as hard as boys!"
"It is not worth giving girls secondary or university education."
How many times have you heard or made comments like these in your professional or personal life?
These comments unfortunately seem to be based on fact; the statistics (seem) very clear; girls do not perform as well as boys.
Girls just simply seem to lose interest in school in general. The problem is even worse in mathematics and science subjects where it appears that girls not only do poorly in these subjects, but very few study them at all. Only a small number opt for these subjects at secondary level, let alone university.
Yet, as an education professional you know that the state, their families and communities have a great deal invested in these girls. Schools are built, teachers trained and hired, books written, produced and distributed at great cost, not to speak of the resources involved in management of the system. Why, one asks, can't these girls take greater advantage of their opportunities?
What do we expect from girls?
Have you ever asked yourself or others these questions? Unfortunately, the answers you
have received probably include the following, which we now know to be false:
Girls, particularly after puberty, are only interested in finding husbands.
Girls are not as intelligent as boys.
Girls realize that they will be able to depend on their husbands so they do not
make the effort to work hard.
Girls are not strong enough.
As a professional educator, how satisfied are you with these answers? Have you everattempted to assess the truth and relative strength of answers like those above? When we look at the research that has been carried out in Guinea and other countries in Africa, as well as around the world on what causes or is associated with the low achievement of girls in primary and secondary schools the answers we get are somewhat different from those above.
What affects girls performance in school?
FAWE website http://www.und.ac.za/und/ccms/fawe/achieve.htm 2/1998)
One of the founders of FAWE was Gennett Zweide under whose guidance the educational system of Ethiopia was rebuilt following a long period of chaos.
(...) Gennett Zweide is Minister of Education of Ethiopia, Chair of FAWE (Federation of African Women Educators) and former lecturer at the university of Addis-Abeba. Education is her life. And education of girls is her passion. In both her political and professional lives, she has worked hard to overcome formidable challenges. As a member of an underground opposition political party she spent four years in various prisons, with starvation and mental and physical torture her constant companions.
Those four years were part of Mengistu’s 17-year reign of terror. The country crumbled under his heavy fist and the accompanying thuggery and corruption. Roads, schools, hospitals and social services fell to ruin. Ethiopia’s civilization came to a virtual standstill.
Schools were particularly hard hit. Children were conscripted into the armies. Enrolment plummeted to a mere 19 percent. ...In institutions of higher learning, teachers and students alike were packed into the jails – or forced to flee... for voicing dissenting opinions.
With courage, determination and great personal drive, Gennet led the effort by Ethiopia’s democratically elected government to pull the education system back from the brink. As the only woman in the cabinet (and one of 11 women elected to the Parliament), she has been heavily involved in formulating policy for the entire education sector.
Under her guidance the percentage of children in school increased to 36 percent in 1996, up from 19 percent four years earlier. The participation of girls rose significantly over this time from a dismal 9 percent to 25 percent. This achievement ... has taken place against a background of not only economic deprivation, but also an array of social and cultural obstacles against education for girls.
Higher education has similarly grown. In 1998, admission to Ethiopia’s colleges and universities rose from 6,000 to 8,900, an increase of 46 percent. Perhaps as importantly " the government has put in place democratic practices that ensure freedom in all sectors and at all levels, including universities. Lecturers and students enjoy a wide latitude of liberties that were unknown in the previous regime
(From Pramila Patten 1998 Human Rights and Women’s Education report PDHRE)
The educational system in South Africa was characterized by significant disparities in educational levels on the basis of both race and gender. The new South African government articulated policy and implemented structures aimed specifically ateradicating these disparities and ensuring equal education for all. A full-time Gender Equity Commissioner was created at the Ministry of Education and a permanent Gender Equity Unit within the Department of South African Education. The function of the Gender Equity Unit is to advise the Director-General of Education on all aspects of gender equity in the education system, including, for example: possible mechanisms to correct gender imbalances in enrolment, subject choice, career paths, and employment, responses to sexism in curricula, textbooks, teaching, and guidance; and strategies to eliminate sexism, sexual harassment, and violence throughout the educational system.
As to the effects of these measures, an extensive report was contributed to the WomenWatch Beijing+5 electronic working group on Women and Education:
South Africa’ s enabling legislative environment in terms of gender equality and women's educational development, government has accomplished the following:
The education system accommodates about 12,5 million learners, one third of the total population and employs one in three civil servants. At 26,6 percent of non-interest spending, education is the largest single component of government spending. The government's medium-term expenditure framework is a three-year rolling spending plan for central and provincial governments intended to improve efficiency, control spending and reform the budget, so that 60 percent of public spending occurs in the provinces. In year-end education's share of total budget spending will rise from 21,2% in 1997/8 to 21,8%
[...]alphabetization, basic education and informal education are only allocated 1% of the total education budget even though this is a sphere in which a large percentage of women, in particular black rural women operate [...] The government has embarked on a national Early Childhood project ... It funds NGOs to train women from impoverished
communities to become Early Learning Practitioners. Many of these women were themselves functionally literate or illiterate and through this training program were brought to grade 9 level)... evaluations of one of the pilot centers show visible positive results. Many of the women have begun to establish centers and generate a modest income by charging parents a fee.
[...] Each of the nine provincial departments has a gender forum, tasked with the challenge of addressing gender discrimination and latent problems that perpetuate discrepancies between boys and girls participation in educational development. The Forums are also active in proposing possible mechanisms to combat these obstacles and are also active in implementation of gender educational programs.
[...] At national level, the Further Education and Training (FET) Act was passed in 1998. Although the Act was not primarily intended to address gender inequality within education, it does deal with women's educational inequality. It creates a ladder of in-between affordable education, enabling the millions of young unemployed youth (mainly black youth— the majority of them women) to enroll at a tertiary institute to acquire the relevant skills for financial sustain-ability...
labor market and leave school better equipped to gain employment, educate their children and to pursue their lives aware of their basic rights. Less than 2 per cent of white women are unemployed whilst 53 per cent of black women are unemployed. 55% of black women are self-employed and from this pool less than 5% have higher education. In the corporate world, in particular black women, through their less competitive stance (poor educational and skills qualification) and resistant management thinking, continually are faced with challenges. 38% of black women who work in the corporate world are involved in menial work such as tea making. However, a significant percentage of these women are educated, some with higher diplomas. Thus although education results in women increasingly aware of their rights, better equipped to educate their children, better skilled etc, evidence from South Africa would also indicate that this is not enough. In many instance white women obtain jobs even when they are less qualified and experienced than black counterparts. In February 00, the Commission on Gender Equality in South Africa will be launching a compulsory feedback mechanism, for companies to report on training, and development of women, in particular black women.
Total training expenses for women are on average significantly lower than the composition of female employees[...] private companies perceive basic education to be synonymous with philanthropic activities rather than
A partnership program (The Education Quality Improvement Program-EQUIP) has been started between government and the private sector and facilitated by the National Business Initiative+5 ele"Nuked!..."
The intentions of the Jomtien Declaration were left unrealized for a number of reasons, one of them being insufficient funds. While the mechanisms for gender equity are in place, actual performance is not necessarily a top governmental priority. Like social needs in general, the needs of women and girls rank low on the charts of public spending. Military spending on the other hand is a perennial high-ranker. Sometimes this effect is compounded by other political factors, as is the case with nuclear weapons testing by India, or financing strategies involving the agendas of both local and international actors. This is the story of a literacy program that was considered highly successful.
In respect to education, Rajasthan, the largest state in India, was also the most backward. Of the 45 million inhabitants only 20% of the women and 40% of the men knew how to read. 67 per cent of girls and 58 per cent of boys dropped out of school before reaching Grade 5. Remoteness, poverty and tradition made daily survival more urgent than education.
In 1998 , Rajasthan seemed about to break loose from its backward position, with a statewide program involving 171 formal schools and more than 1000 non-formal education centers. The program, which had been going for six years, emphasized social mobilization and collaboration between the central and state governments, NGOs and local communities, covered one third of the state .
The innovative Lok Jumbish program was initiated in 1992 under decentralized management with the aim of bringing 'Education for All' to Rajasthan according to the commitment made by India at Jomtien. At the top level, it was administered by the Government of India and the State of Rajasthan. At the next level, Rajasthan was divided into twenty-five blocks with full power to authorize action as suggested by village committees. Each block further was divided into clusters of twenty-five to thirty villages, each with its own "mobilizing agency", generally an NGO, and at the individual village level, a team of eight or nine volunteer mobilizers and instructors. Some twenty-five NGOs played an active role in making Lok Jumbish work: they functioned as a link between villages and government by mobilizing people at the grassroots, and they provided training for instructors in the Non Formal Education centers.
Residential camps imparted non-formal education. Highly motivated volunteers got the villagers involved in the project, thus bringing in accountability and transparency while removing bureaucratic red tape. Some volunteers would go around the villages in scorching heat sometimes walking as much as seven kilometers in the desert to motivate people and keep the schools going. The involvement of the villagers was essential. After the formation of the core team in the village, it is they who decided about the educational facilities and build them themselves.
Informal education centers targeted mainly girls, half of who were already married and busy with housework. The centers offered flexible hours and a focus around practical life skills, but otherwise followed the same curriculum as formal schools. Another feature of the program was the six-months residential camp held exclusively for girls and young women. The girls, drawn from interior villages were put under direct supervision of women teachers who spend the entire six months with them.
One success of the project was its involvement of the Meo community that until then had remained quite aloof from literacy ventures.
It was a problem, which troubled Imam Moulana Abdul Sattar no end. How to get the girls of his Meo community, in northwest India, a regular education and yet retain their distinct Muslim identity?
Literacy rates in northwestern Rajasthan state, where the Meos live, were among the lowest in the country and estimated at 56 per cent for men. The literacy rate for women is 20 per cent and that for Meo Muslim women negligible.
Traditionally, Meo girls were allowed only Din-e-Taleem (religious education) offered at the mosque and denied Duniya- ki-Taleem (general education),'' the Imam (religious leader) explained. Across India, girls are discriminated against when it comes to schooling thanks to patriarchal attitudes so that the average national literacy rate for women is 37 per cent against 64 per cent for men. Gender discrimination is worse in the rural areas.
The Imam's dilemma was compounded by the fact that his villagers, in the state's Bharatpur district, firmly believed that the Hindi-medium education offered in local government schools was unsuitable for Meo girls because the language was associated with Hindus.
[... [Lok Jumbish (People's Movement), ... came up with a workable solution: Urdu (associated with Islam) as a medium of education.
[...] According to Anil Bordia, founder and former chairman of Lok Jumbish, officials charged with implementing government education programmes in the district never cared enough to reach out and find solutions. What made the difference were the several rounds of discussions with religious leaders and parents that allowed appreciation of each other’s problems and concerns. A broad agreement arrived at, advertisements were placed for Urdu teachers. Recruitments from among the powerful moulvis (religious teachers) gave them a stake in the new system. Before long, Meo children began joining the mainstream education system and, in fact, doing better than we expected,'' Sattar said. ''Many of the girls rapidly made up for lost years.''.
At the Kaman block of Bharatpur district where the Meos form 70 per cent of the 150,000 people and where Lok Jumbish concentrates its activities, the impact has been truly dramatic.
''I longed to go to school but never dared ask my parents,'' said Nazneen who isin the fifth class and regarded as among the more promising of the first batch of formally educated Meo girls... Nazneen said she still has to tend to the family's cows and her parents expected her to help with household chores such as fetching water and collecting firewood.
''But my parents are happy that I can read and write letters, important noticesand the destination boards on buses.'' she said.
A teacher at Kaman, Naim Ahmed, has bigger ambitions for his wards and waitsfor the day when the first batch of Meo girls passes through Class Eight. ''No Meo girl has ever crossed that level,'' he said.
Kaman block is today a showpiece for Lok Jumbish which began its activitiesin 1992 with the aim of bringing 'Education for All' to Rajasthan according to a commitment made by India at Jomtien in 1990..
As former education secretary, Bordia knew that the success of the project would depend on limiting the negative influence of the bureaucracy and political elites which feared the social processes that would inevitably be unleashed. ''From the start, the emphasis was on people's participation in terms of involvement of beneficiaries as well as functionaries in decision-making,''
[...] Lok Jumbish quickly emerged as the ideal mix between non-governmental organizations, local community, government and international donors and by 1998 had established 1,500 non-formal centres with 20,000 girls and 10,000 boys enrolled across Rajasthan.
In Kaman block, people's participation meant not only introducing Urdu-medium education but also making the language compulsory in the syllabus for all pupils -- a move which helped remove artificial barriers between people.
Lok Jumbish also emphasized gender equity and went beyond girls’ enrolment and retention in schools. ''An attempt was made at feminizing the education system by encouraging the formation of groups for adolescent girls and women teachers,'' Bordia said.
As a policy, Lok Jumbish preferred recruitment of women workers and two-thirds of its staff now consisted of women whose presence serves as an additional incentive for the enrolment of girls..
[...] village groups undertook house-to-house surveys to register all children in the 5-14 age group .... the register greatly discouraged dropping out and absenteeism, includingabsenteeism by teachers, and this made for accountability[...] School-mapping ... helped Block Education Management Committees (BEMCs) decide who needed what and how much.
At Kaman, school-mapping helped, BEMC discovered that one reason why themoulvis resisted sending girls to government schools was the poor quality of education imparted there. ''The moulvis also complained of discrimination against Muslims by local teachers -- we effectively addressed that problem at Lok Jumbish,'' Bordia said.
(Ranjit Dev Raj Changed mindsets get Muslim girls into schools Inter Press Service in- Unesco News http://www2.unesco.org/wef/en-news/india.shtm )
The Pokharan nuclear tests delivered the first major blow to Lok Jumbish. As an expression of the international community’s disapproval of India’s nuclear venture, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) decided to withhold its support for Phase III of the program.
Without the funds ( SIDA, the Centre and the Rajasthan government had agreed to share costs at the ratio of 3:2:1), Lok Jumbish was soon gasping for breath. Schools which had already been approved could not start and salaries for existing teachers became irregular. SIDA provided an interim grant of about Rs 20 crore for the 1998–1999, and the state government coughed up an additional Rs 8 crore.
However, it became clear in the process that the integrated literacy program with its eight year buildup of grassroots commitment and experience was less important to officials of the state than was their relations with the World Bank and its affiliates ... Eventually Lok Jumbish was handed over to the World Bank and amalgamated with its DPEP programs.
Of the many criticisms that India's World Bank-funded District Education Programme (DPEP) has endured, one that sticks is poor encouragement of community effort.
In many districts [...] the DPEP culture is completely alien and actually negates the spirit of volunteerism ..[Observers pin blame on] DPEP's heavy reliance on highly paid private consultants [...] many of them without even a nodding acquaintance of rural-based school education or pedagogy and child development
One argument in favour of setting up the externally funded DPEP was that it would be immune to political and bureaucratic interference but experience has belied this. [...] What, in fact, happened was that a whole new bureau was created in the central ministry which has resulted in the fracturing of primary education into two blocks -- one based on internal and the other on external funding.[...]
Worse, while the DPEP talked of ''decentralised grassroots micro-level planning’’ , it actually crowded out well-established community- based efforts towards UPE such as the by then well-known Lok Jumbish programme and Eklavya in central Madhya Pradesh.
''Educational expertise is concentrated and allowed to trickle into the field... participatory functioning becomes a mere token ... The result has been the abysmal (drop in achievement levels) nationwide."
[...] The PROBE report says that there is a general tendency for communities to acceptconditions in government schools yet records several dramatic examples of community resistance to inertia. For example, early last year, the children of a remote region of western Maharashtra state trekked 66 kms over hilly terrain to the town of Nasik to complain to authorities of a headteacher who came in only on weekends, and the lack of drinking water...
(Ranjit Dev Raj, Community effort lacking in WB-funded programme in India
Inter Press Service on Unesco News ite www2.unesco.org/wef/en-news/india.shtm)
FROM REFLECTION TO ACTION
Do you know how your country’s educational budgets compare with its military budget?
Within the general budget, what proportion is going to programs helping groups that have been the victims of race, gender or other prejudice?
Who controls the decisions about those budgets?
Which agencies are involved in the decision-making?
If you or a group you work with wanted to make some input into this process how would you go about it?
How have monetary policies or structural adjustments impacted your society’s commitment to gender equity?
Make your own assessment of the needs for the achievement of gender equity in your community.
Begin to think about projects you and your group could undertake directly to improve education and training opportunities for girls.
Prepare a statement asking that the Human Right to Education and in particular Women’s Human Right to Education be given higher priority. Remember to include:
Send copies of your rationale and program to PDHRE as well as to authorities
Schooling or Education?
Formal basic schooling is important, and indeed indispensable in the long run in order to have substantial impact in the future development of society. It is a violation of human rights principles for anyone to be deprived of the ability to attend schools to the highest level that person can attain.
The BPFA calls attention to another dimension of education: the ability to analyze, understand and draw conclusions from the concrete things of life, an ability which a good formal education will enhance and utilize, while a bad education will undervalue it and not allow the person to put it to use. It is the illiterate person’s fully legitimate and high-powered way to acquire and process information.
To the extent that women have been kept out of formal processes, this form of knowledge is sometimes considered’ feminine’. It may also be called ‘indigenous’. It is an important source of self-esteem and sense of achievement. It is knowledge that has survival value, not just nostalgia value. It has collective value, not just personal value. The Platform calls for increasing attention and respect to this knowledge. Women all over the world, in global negotiating fora as well as in their own neighborhoods, are enriching and democratizing civil society by their increasingly well-organized, informed and confident participation. We are showing below an example from South Asia in relation to Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
At the foundation of IPM we find the idea of context-related methods. Integrated Pest Management is based on the specific occurrence of a particular set of relationships (local weather, stage of crop growth, level of water etc.). It is counterproductive to give a uniform message for all farmers over wide areas. Indeed many of the environmental problems which we are currently experiencing throughout the world are precisely the result of the blanket application of one set of instructions handed out by the experts.
Extension workers know that every farmer makes his or her own economic decisions, in the light of a range of specific considerations many of which are based on long experience. The Field Schools are designed to use to the maximum degree farmers’ own understanding of the agro-ecological relationships, to improve their capacities to systematically observe, document, and interpret these.
The goal is not simple prescriptive control (e.g. "don’t use chemical sprays") but pest management based on an informed understanding of the ecological processes. In many parts of the world women have been and remain the most astute crop and environment managers, and the Field schools described here are designed to use women’s knowledge to the maximum.
The major benefit of this approach to the environment, the household and health is a marked reduction in the use of chemical insecticides. The benefits to civil society are proving to be of equal value: poor women and men, many of them illiterate, are empowered to take greater control of their lives, contributing to improvements in household welfare and strengthening community interaction.
In Tamil Nadu, where the case described below occured, women play a major role in agriculture But they are illiterate and often unappreciated or even oppressed. The subtle educational effects of a program based on personal learning rather than on formal instruction, are of particular importance. Mrs. Ghowri attends one such school:
Mrs. Ghowri’s Field School is one of 4 specially organized for women, out of 30 established in the 1994 - 95 season in 18 selected Blocks (sub-districts) in the Madras area of Tamil Nadu. Her husband had heard about the schools from his friends in an adjoining village and he was very keen for her to learn ... when the opportunity came for them both to attend a school in their own village. Both of them work in their rice field but usually at different times of the day. Mrs. Ghowri goes to the field early after cooking breakfast and walking the children to school. For the rest of the day she works on home-based sewing. Her husband goes to the field towards the end of the day after he returns from his laboring job in a near-by brick-making business. Both have only a few years of schooling and before they started the Field School, they assumed that all scientific knowledge and information had to come from those who had education, such as the extension workers. They both refer to their growing excitement at learning to rely on their own powers of observation, informed judgement and experimental capacities as one of the chief benefits of the school, an enthusiasm shared by farmers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where IPM has been taken up by Ministries of Agriculture. Mrs. Ghowri feels confident enough in her new understanding to extend IPM principles to the management of her home vegetable garden. She no longer uses purchased chemical sprays to control pests. She removes the eggs or larvae of pests by hand, or uses a neem spray that she makes herself. This she has proven is not harmful to the beneficial insects by first testing its effects in her insect zoo[...]
TANWAP’s commitment to experiential learning makes a special contribution to the growing self confidence of the largely illiterate women farmers. It helps them to become independent knowledge-seekers, capable of defending their new knowledge, to subject their findings and observations to peer review and to put their ideas to the test. (...) Farmers typically continue to meet after they have received this kind of training because they find the networking, and on-going sharing of ideas and experiments, of proven value. There are a growing number of cases where farmers who have experienced an official Field School themselves organize field schools for members of their extended families and friends in neighboring villages, without the support of organized programs. As one farmer explained at a meeting in Pudyval: "Before, just one or two people would learn something new from the extension worker. Then we would all try to copy exactly because we thought must be best. Now we all learn together but each one can decide for himself what to do."
[...] The women who work as CARE field trainers are still a controversial, if no longer a rare, phenomenon in the non-government sector, in a culture where the norms of purdah (seclusion) are deeply embedded. Secondly, as crop or water management decisions seldom can be made by an individual farmer acting alone, because of the complex interdependence among socio-economic, political and agro-ecosystem factors, the collective aspects of learning take on special importance. CARE has developed experiential learning methods through which, for example, groups of farmers can develop and explore options for introducing fish ponds into rice fields by working with physical models made of mud to simulate the rice-fish environment. Further, as one of the delighted women attending an IPM training program in Sri Lanka exclaimed: "You don’t have to have an agricultural diploma to understand all these things." The science underlying the success of the approach has, as it were, been unpacked and repackaged as an opportunity for learning key principles and processes, thus making the approach accessible to a wide range of individuals and organizations who might lack specialist expertise in agricultural science. There is surely a lesson here for those concerned about the ‘scientific illiteracy’ of civil society as the world enters... the information age and the era of ‘knowledge based’ economic development.
The experiences related briefly here focus our attention on three attributes which seem characteristic of any struggle to enrich and develop civil society: acts of courage, the will and determination to persist in the face of entrenched and powerful economic interests, and the development of new personal and societal competencies. The key in the case sketched above has been to find a methodology compatible with the democratizing and empowering potential inherent in what might appear at first glance as a purely technical activity: pest management. The development of the science-based knowledge underlying the program is essential but not sufficient. It is the experiential learning approach that has placed science-based knowledge in the hands of ordinary men and women, and does in a way that augments their capacity to manage their own development. Larger claims might be made. If alternatives to authoritarian control are to be found, then we must together develop mechanisms in which the interests of individuals and of the state in the public good can be reconciled. In the absence of informed understanding and a diversity of ways in which ordinary men and women can express - and make effective - their interests, it is only too likely that the ‘public good’ comes to be defined by the interests of the wealthy and the powerful.
(Janice Jiggins Women and the re-making of civil society in Forest Trees People (FTP) Newsletter http://www-trees.slu.se/newsl/30/30/jiggins.htm )
Human Rights Education
Unquestionably, the BPFA and the proclamation of the Decade for Human Rights Education have acted as an incentive for governments everywhere to include some form of human rights education in school curricula, professional trainings etc. Whether on paper or in reality is another matter, but certainly the provision of human rights education is becoming an accepted standard. It is by now becoming fairly common for official programs to conceive of gender-sensitive education as a human right; again, on paper, if not always in concrete reality. It is no longer uncommon for school curricula to include a more or less intensive human rights education curriculum, with a section devoted to gender issues.
It is, however, a step further to provide human rights awareness, and to provide concrete guidelines for a dialogue about the reality of human rights as relevant to daily lives.
Human Rights Education for CEDAW –learning and training
To introduce and familiarize communities, groups and authorities to CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, PDHRE - people’s movement for human rights education –the publisher of Passport- has produced a dramatic video series of eight short compelling stories on the human rights of women called: Women Hold Up the Sky. The Video includes, eight engaging true stories rendered in short narrative dramas, which capture and celebrate the complexity, strength and vibrant determination of women living in a globalized, patriarchal world. A manual accompanies the Video between their stories and our realities...for discussing CEDAW and its relevance to women’s daily lives.
The video and the manual aim to bring CEDAW alive for women and men around the world as a powerful tool for action. The series is the fruition of a first-ever solidarity effort by human rights educators and filmmakers in the: USA, Latin America and Africa. Four NGOs acted as producers: Instituto de Genero, Derecho y Desarrollo, Rosario, Argentina; NGO resource center, Zanzibar, Tanzania; TOSTAN of Senegal and PDHRE, New York, USA.
The dramas were based on actual life stories selected from around the world and filmed in four countries. The specific drama does not necessarily depict a situation in a specific country but is used to demonstrate universal phenomena: how patriarchy affects the lives of women and girls.
The manual was prepared as a set of guidelines for the training of trainers to adapt to their own national and local needs, and to introduce CEDAW across their societies. Even though the video series and the manual are about CEDAW, the producers of the series feel they can be used as excellent education tools for learning about the human rights framework, from a gender perspective as it relates to all people’s daily lives.
The video series and the manual are available in English, French, and Spanish. Free copies are available for organizations and communities in developing countries.
Education for human rights in the family
Education for Human Rights starts at home, as Rosanne Auguste, of the Haitian women’s grassroots organization SOFA (Solidarite Fanm Haiti) explained in an interview to the Peace Brigades International:
(Rosanne Augsute Interview in Peace Brigades International Newsletter October 1998
Peace Brigades International website http://www.PBI.org)
Women's Human Rights Education Program in the Muslim World
Among the organizations that have systematically placed women’s issues within a human rights framework there is SIGI’s work in the Middle East and Central Asia.
The purpose of (SIGI’s) human rights education model is to facilitate transmission to grassroots populations in Muslim societies of the universal human rights concepts inscribed in the major international instruments. Because the prevailing economic, social, cultural, and political conditions affect the transmission process, the institute (SIGI) aspires to offer a multidimensional model -- although no model can reasonably be expected to accommodate all the problems that occur in real situations.
The model purports to develop a framework that grassroots populations can easily use to convey universal concepts in association with indigenous ideas, traditions, myths, and texts rendered in local idiom.
Since 1995, SIGI has been actively designing, developing, and testing a flexible, culturally relevant women's human rights education model. This model, reflected in the manual Claiming Our Rights: A Manual for Women's Human Rights Education in Muslim Societies, has been developed specifically to respond to the needs and conditions of the Global South, and seeks to provide some of the groundwork for new and innovative human rights education both in theory and in practice.
[...] The themes reflect the concerns articulated in Beijing , carefully worked through to reflect the modes of expression and frames of reference that would be fmiliar to women living in Muslim environments. They include:
• women's rights and responsibilities within the family
• women's rights to subsistence
• women's rights to autonomy in family-planning decisions
• women's rights to bodily integrity (confronting domestic violence ,assisting victims of rape and punishing the perpetrator ;resisting violence: making the law work for women
reconsidering participation in public life
• women's rights to education and learning
• women's rights to employment and fair compensation
• women's rights to privacy, religious beliefs, and free expression
• women's rights during times of conflict
• women's rights to political participation
The goal of Claiming Our Rights is not to convey a "right" answer. Rather, the goal is to provide a forum where women, regardless of their intellectual sophistication or political and social awareness, define, discuss, and reinterpret their rights in the context of their respective personal and public spheres of life.
The Women's Human Rights Education Program in the Muslim World is aimed at empowering women to evaluate and reinterpret their religious and cultural texts, myths, traditions, and folklore, in a manner which enables them to defend their basic human rights. It is also directed towards strengthening the capacity of women's rights organizations to promote and protect women's human rights in the target countries. Initially established in six countries (Bangladesh, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, and Uzbekistan) in 1998 SIGI expanded its programs to five more countries - Azerbaijan, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Syria.
SIGI facilitators are conducting workshops with participants selected to reflect a variety of geographic, educational, economic, and social backgrounds. Based on the experiences of facilitators and workshop participants in the different countries and localities, SIGI adjusted the manual, Claiming Our Rights, according to language and local cultural/religious requirements. The text of the manual was revised and edited in several languages, including Arabic, Azeri, Bangla, Hindi, Malay, Persian, Russian, Urdu, and Uzbek. Everywhere, workshops have een open to men, and women have been eager for their presence, on the assumption that their understanding of the human rights framweork would be essential to the sustainability of the changes required on the part of the women and of the men.
In Lebanon, the "Legal Literacy and Human Rights Education" workshop was attended by sixty Muslim and Christian participants including NGO leaders, social workers, academics, lawyers, and judges from several Lebanese cities. Farida Bennani, scholar and professor of Islamic law in Morocco, conducted sessions on the links between Islam and women's human rights. Arsanios reported that, "Dr. Bennani did a marvelous job in making us really understand our own religion and be proud of belonging to Islam. We felt empowered . . . . She equipped us with the right tools and methods for arguing with mullahs and interpreters of the Qur'an and the hadith."
Participants in SIGI's workshop in Malaysia included many single mothers . Surprisingly, they already had a very advanced understanding of basic human rights concepts, and freely entered into discussions about religion and human rights. They benefited most from their discussions about Islam and Islamic law. Many reported that their husbands had used religion to instill fear and obedience in them. Consequently, they began to study the Qur'an and with the help of more enlightened teachers they discovered verses that protected their rights... the women were empowered by their efforts to link the Qur'an's moral imperative of equality for all to the rights of women.
In Jordan, workshops were adapted to fit the needs, education level, social background, and cultural expectations of different groups of women. Participants were from women's rights organizations, refugees, university students, and many of the workshop leader’s own clients who were victims of abuse and human rights violations.
In Egypt, many participants brought their infant children with them to the workshops, and some had their teenage daughters attend the sessions as well. The most important topics for both groups were those that dealt with violence against women and girls. Very often discussions of other sets of rights would eventually revert back to the issue of gender violence. The session on political participation was also very powerful. At the end of the session participants decided to register to vote so that they could participate in upcoming elections.
In India, to address the concerns of male government officials and the more traditional elements in local government, the workshop director, the organizers routinely invited male officials to participate in certain sessions, and even to address the meetings. In this way, she was able to get the program's most likely detractors invested in the workshops.
Many of the workshops are taught in rural areas to reach more traditional communities. These include refugee camps and mountain villages, where many participants were exposed to human rights information for the first time. The manual's case studies effectively stimulate discussions among the rural women about their human rights, and the participants also contribute their own local proverbs and stories.
The Azerbaijan workshop... created a forum in which it was expected that women would participate and contribute to describing and shaping the conditions of their own lives. Not only were the human rights concepts very new to the workshop participants, but many were exposed to the dialogical and participatory method of teaching for the first time...as the workshop sessions progressed, participants adjusted to the expectation that they were part of the discovery process. Many who at first felt it was not their role or right to speak about their opinion of their human rights, eventually became very vocal.
(Excerpted from Sisterhood Is Global Institute-SIGI website http://www.sigi.org/PROGRAMS)
Tajwar Returns Home -
In early 2000, more than 260 Afghan women learned how to "claim their rights" thanks to the Afghan Institute of Learning's (AIL) offering of SIGI's Human Rights Education Program in Peshawar, Pakistan. An additional 200 women were on AIL's waiting list for future workshops.
(...) AIL has presented 13 workshops since the start of its Human Rights Program in 1998. AIL was alsoworking on the translation into Farsi of Safe and Secure: Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in Muslim Societies, also published by SIGI, and will offer two workshops in August and September using the new material.
Founded in 1995, AIL exists to provide expanded educational and health opportunities in many different areas for all Afghans, provide educational assistance to the most needy Afghans and to foster self-reliance and community participation among Afghans. Today AIL serves more than 40,000 Afghan women and children through refugee schools for girls, preschools, home schools, teacher training, basic health services and health education, a variety of enrichment classes teaching income-generating skills, computer training and human rights training, including a human rights resource center.
( JoAnn Amicangelo A SIGI Partnership: Afghan Women Empowered Through Human Rights Workshops in SIGI News -- VIII/ I Fall 2000)
At one point , Tajwar Kakar Rahim was herself a refugee from Afghanistan. SIGI announced her decision to return home after twenty years.
(Patricia Giles Tamwar Returns Home in SIGI News --VIII / I Fall 2000 )
It is by now well recognized that the most effective approach to literacy training of adults is closely connected with the realities of the learners’ lives. Paulo Freire’s name has become a synonym for such an approach, drawing as it does on the learners’ critical analyses of their own lives and their use of the themes thus revealed as the armature of the whole learning process. Literacy, in turn, becomes itself a tool for social transformation. In a similar vein, the international NGO Women In Literacy establishes partnerships with grassroots organizations that apply a women-centered approach combining literacy and community action. Among the examples of this integrating approach given by the organization:
Literacy for Social transformation: The Tostan Basic Education Program
Tostan, meaning Breakthrough in Wolof, is an international NGO based in Senegal, West Africa. The Tostan education program was developed on the assumption that literacy skills alone are insufficient to prepare learners for active participation in the economic, political, and cultural decisions related to the development of their community and country. Tostan therefore developed a fully integrated approach to learning, i.e., a comprehensive curriculum in the national languages including reading, writing and math, but also life-skills and the improvement of the participant’s socio-economic condition. Innovative pedagogical techniques inspired by African traditions and local knowledge have made the sessions relevant, lively and participatory. The Tostan program has been implemented in more than 350 villages in nine different regions of Senegal. One of its triumphs, which has made it famous, has been successful application of the Tostan approach to the human rights education itself leading to the ending of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) by the women and men of 45 villages in Senegal.
. The approach to math teaching put great emphasis on mathematical language and logic. Thus the notion of ‘base’ was introduced at the very beginning using concrete objects to understand semi-abstract and abstract concepts. Tostan trainers studied local knowledge of math and counting in the Senegalese environment, compared written and oral numeracy, studied numeration syntax, and on a practical level adapted the method to the rural environment by connecting the lessons with project implementation, agendas, calendar-making.
Most subjects were taught using a community-directed 5 step approach
• Reinforcing the new knowledge through discussion
(TOSTAN Breakthrough in Senegal– Ending Female Genital Cutting Dakar 1999)
For more information, please contact PDHRE: