During the UN Millennium Summit in the year 2000, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieving equal rights for women and girls by approving Goal 3 on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. It was not the first time that such a pledge had been made.
Before the UN Summit, all but one of the countries involved had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Right of Children. They also made similar commitments at the ILO, approving conventions and resolutions including those on Maternity Protection, on Labour Rights for Women, and on Pay Equity. Solemn promises regarding Education for all women and girls were also made in Jomtien and Dakar. In 1995 at the UN Conference of Beijing, the international community took an important step forward by approving the Platform of Action (PFA), which could be considered the most important international document ever produced on women’s rights. In all these events and their associated documents, Education is presented as one of the most important tools to ensure Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. However, rarely is a deadline reached without an apology from a government, an excuse for a lack of action and a new deadline for implementation set. In 2005, the MDGs +5 were marked by the failure to achieve the goal…”To eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005”. Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women will require fundamental changes and political will in the distribution of resources, equal opportunities and power; starting with adequate resources to ensure a public quality education for all, women and men. Education is fundamental because education is a process of empowerment in itself - research shows that increased education is associated with the empowerment of women. Yet education alone does not guarantee women’s empowerment. The positive impact of education on the status of women is highly dependent on its context. Factors including the level of economic development, characteristics of the labour market, and degree of gender stratification all have a negative impact on the situation of even highly educated women. The UN has recognised 7 strategic priorities which national governments (education authorities included) could use as a framework for action on Goal 3 - Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women:
- Strengthen opportunities for post-primary education for girls while meeting commitments to universal primary education
- Guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights
- Invest in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls’ time burden
- Guarantee women’s and girls’ property and inheritance rights
- Eliminate gender inequality in employment by decreasing women’s reliance on informal employment, closing gender gaps in earnings, and reducing occupational segregation
- Increase women’s share of seats in national parliaments and local government bodies
- Combat violence against girls and women
EDUCATION INTERNATIONAL wants to celebrate this International Women’s Day by highlighting the importance of these seven priorities for action and encouraging all member organisations to commit themselves to their implementation at national and regional level.