UNESCO and partners host high-level meeting and discussed the advancement of gender equality and inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean

Paris: Two studies on gender equality and inclusion were presented today at a high-level event comprising of experts and authorities from the Latin American and Caribbean region.

The first report, Todos y todas sin excepción was produced by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) and the Laboratory of Education, Research and Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean (SUMMA). The Report urges countries in the region to prioritise disadvantaged children and young people, to promote inclusion in education, not least in the face of COVID-19. The report shows how gender intersects with poverty, ethnicity, and location to exacerbate disadvantage and its impact on education.

The second study produced by the GEM Report, entitled: A New Generation: 25 years of efforts for gender equality in education shows that globally, 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary education since 1995. It takes stock of progress in girls’ education over the last two and a half decades since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a landmark commitment by 189 countries to advance the rights of girls and women.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, there has been good progress in girls’ education with nearly all children going to primary school. In Guatemala, for example, the rate at which the poorest girls are finishing primary school increased by nearly two and half times in just 15 years, almost closing the gap with boys.

Great progress has occurred at the upper secondary level in countries like Mexico where the percentage of girls enrolling increased from 38% in 1995 to 84% in 2018. Costa Rica has also seen a big increase in secondary school enrolment for girls – from 38% in 1995 to universal access in 2018.

However, there are 6 countries in the region where less than half the women complete upper secondary school: Haiti, Guatemala, Suriname, Honduras, Uruguay and Nicaragua. But large gender disparities persist particularly for disadvantaged learners. In Belize, for instance, hardly any poor rural young women have completed upper secondary school. But overall, it is young men who are more likely to be disengaged from education and leave school early.

Globally, three times more women are also now enrolled in universities than two decades ago. There are now less men than women enrolled in tertiary education in practically every country in the region.

“The world has changed a lot in the past 25 years, when girls were struggling to have their right to education fulfilled. Today, more girls enrol in schools and universities than boys. Does this mean we have achieved gender equality in education? We may have come a long way but parity does not mean equality” said Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report. “A gender equality in education agenda for the next 25 years requires a fresh approach, including in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Much of the slow progress in gender equality in education is due to persistent negative gender norms in society. In rural areas of many low- and middle-income countries, girls are often expected to get married and to take on domestic roles, which act as a barrier to their education, as among indigenous girls in Guatemala and Mexico.

Javier González, Director of SUMMA, added: “Entrenched gender norms in our Latin American societies are often detrimental to the education of both girls and boys. Unfortunately, schools often perpetuate this vicious circle from one generation to the next, rather than breaking it. Our study detects the existence of gender discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes in curricula and textbooks in many countries. To address this situation, we must not only address these elements, but also train and support our teachers to promote a more inclusive culture.”

The report calls for action in the following areas:

Eliminate gender disparity in education access, participation, and completion in countries where girls are less likely to be enrolled and complete school.
All pregnant girls and young parents must be supported to go to school. Despite the global decline, early pregnancy rates remain high across the region.  In Argentina, a holistic approach combining two laws, flexible learning programmes, nurseries in schools, re-entry programmes for vulnerable children and non-formal alternative secondary education programmes has helped protect pregnant girls’ and young parents’ right to education; meanwhile the adolescent fertility rate fell from 61 in 1995 to 49 in 2018.
All teachers and career counsellors must have training to prevent negative gender stereotypes spilling over into teaching and students’ subject choices. Globally, the percentage of females studying engineering or ICT is below 25% in over two-thirds of countries. In Colombia for example only 10% of girls expect to work in science and engineering professions compared to 25% of boys. Few women pursue careers in ICT.
Curricula and textbooks must represent females in a way that does not perpetuate gender stereotypes. Textbook reviews in many countries found that text and images do not portray women in active social and economic positions but in traditional home-bound roles. In Peru, despite initiatives, such as the use of inclusive language in communication guidelines and improved balance in representations of men and women, textbooks still reproduce traditional gender roles.
All students must have access to comprehensive sexuality education, which has been shown to prevent school-related gender-based violence by promoting understanding and respect of students’ gender identities. It also leads to a reduction of the prevalence of early pregnancies. Grassroots organizations in Nicaragua work on the intersection of gender and disability, providing comprehensive sexuality education and training on responses to gender violence.
Encourage more women in leadership positions to help change social and gender norms – and act as role models for female students. Negative stereotyping of women as unsuited to be leaders are reinforced by a scarcity of female teachers in higher education. Globally, women make up 94% of teachers in pre-primary but only 43% in tertiary education. Even fewer women hold leadership positions in universities and in education administration. Overall, Brazilian women are as qualified as men, or more so, to occupy leadership positions in tertiary education, yet only 28% of federal university presidents were women in 2018.

 

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