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Call for ‘diverse voices’ to promote gender equality

Without partnerships between a number of representatives across different societies progress is unlikely to be made, says education expert.
NEW YORK, NY, 25 February 2008 – There is a pressing need for leadership beyond bureaucracies if gender equality in education is to be achieved, argues Ramya Subrahmanian, a social policy specialist at UNICEF India.
“Policy-making processes need to be made more transparent and inclusive at all levels to ensure both that resources are allocated to meet priority gaps and needs, and that diverse voices are heard in the promotion of social equality,” writes Dr Subrahmanian, who is also a former Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK.
Her comments appear in a handbook for policy-makers and stakeholders – ‘Gender in Primary and Secondary Education’ – recently published by the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is part of the Secretariat’s series on Gender Mainstreaming, or integration, which looks at how all of a society’s or an organisation’s policies and programmes can work towards achieving gender equality. The book is being released today at the side event, ‘Financing Gender Equality in Education’ sponsored by The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), the UNICEF Gender and Rights Unit and Education Section, and the Working Group on Girls of the NGO Committee on UNICEF on the occasion of the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) held at the United Nations Secretariat in New York.
The author argues that this challenge of gender integration goes beyond building schools and ensuring access, to sustaining these gains and securing the future of education for girls. Thus, she observes, gender mainstreaming in education needs to address the more strategic questions of the relationship between education and wider development and change, and of the relationships between men and women, boys and girls.
Dr Subrahmanian states that there are three main messages that can be taken from a review of theories about female education. First, “advocacy for education” is necessary “for the promotion of girls’ education to be sustained.” Second, she asserts that education must be go hand-in-hand with other areas crucial for human well-being including health and nutrition. Finally, Dr Subrahmanian points out that the indicators need to be developed for effective analysis of progress towards gender equality.
About 30 million Commonwealth children do not go to primary school and the majority of these are girls. And whereas progress has been made in closing the gender gap particularly in primary education, disparities still exist in secondary and higher education levels.
“Gender differentiations in society and their reflection in the education processes affect not only girls but also boys – both try to conform to typical gender roles and stereotypes – which hinder the development of their full potential” notes Dr Jyotsna Jha, Adviser, Gender and Education in the Commonwealth Secretariat. She adds, “This Handbook should be useful to all those trying to work towards brining greater gender equality in and through education”.
The Secretariat is, therefore, currently working to implement the Commonwealth Plan for Gender Equality (2005-2015), endorsed by all Commonwealth Heads of Government at their biennial meeting in Malta in 2005. In the area of education the Secretariat is focussing on impacting gender related practices in classroom and schools so that schools act as transformative institutions rather promoting the status quo.


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Gender in Primary and Secondary Education: A handbook for policy-makers and other stakeholders