Quality Education: Transforming the Lives of Girls & Women in Latin America
19 September 2014, 18:00 – 20:00
Museum of Women – República de Bolivia 17, entre Brasil y Argentina, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc, C.P. 06020, México, D.F.
LATIN AMERICAN EXPERTS AGREE THAT THERE IS STILL MUCH TO DO IN WOMEN AND GIRLS’ EDUCATION
On 19 September 2014, IFUW, representatives from UN Women, the Ministry of Public Education (SEP), the Mexican Federation of University Women (FEMU) and the Women’s Museum, Mexico City, held a seminar on “Quality Education: Transforming the lives of girls and women in Latin America”. They explored the challenge of creating access to quality education for girls and women in the region. Panelists concurred that although progress has been made in education coverage in the region, the quality of education is still precluded by social, cultural and economic conditions.
Danièle Castle, IFUW Executive Director, outlined that in Latin America, women represent 55% of the total number of illiterate adults and that female unemployment is higher than that of males. In the labour market women do not have equal access to leadership positions; they suffer discrimination and workplace violence and they are pressured by society to remain in the home and care for children. For these reasons, it is important to invest in education, especially in financial education which empowers women to lead and set up companies, to achieve economic independence.
Rebecca Caballero, teacher in Pedagogy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), agreed with the need to change public perception and modify the private space with regards to time allotment. The 2009 National Time Use Survey showed that Mexican girls from 12 years onwards invest about 15 hours per week, versus 4 hours for men, in food preparation and service for their family members. In addition, the survey revealed that women invest on average 82 hours a week in taking care of family members, compared to the 46 hours dedicated by men. As Ms. Caballero affirmed, in Mexico the literacy rate of 98.5% for women between 15 and 24 years old is of little use because the practice in homes indicates the presence of obstacles in the transformation of the lives of women and girls. She recommended a revaluation of and change in the distribution of activities, which would be reflected both in education and in the lives of women and girls.
Dr. Claudia Alonso, Director of Gender Equality in the Ministry of Public Education (SEP), outlined that talking about quality education means both having access to it and having the continuity and completion of studies.The Mexican Government thus has a debt, because it does not provide the required economic conditions to make women continue their education, as they drop out and are incorporated into the home rather than the labour market. It is more difficult for women than men to access the labour market with an incomplete education. At an educational level, the prevention of the reproduction of stereotypes has yet to be nurtured, including in the choice of degrees. Women mostly study subjects related to nursing, preschool education, accounting and secondary and higher education; among men the most common degrees are computer systems, civil and mechatronics engineering, and architecture. Claudia Alonso recognised that Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia have dedicated budgets to invest in education with a gender focus; the new challenge is to transform them into practical actions regarding access, continuity and conclusion of the education for women and girls.
Dr. Paz López, UN Women Specialist in Gender Statistics and Public Policy, agreed that education gaps prevent women and girls from exercising their rights. She underlined that a change of legislation is not enough if there is still inequality in salaries. If the gender division of labour changed, it would represent 22% of GDP in Mexico, if women were remunerated. The UN is highlighting gender inequity through methodical data collection in the Latin American region, so that governments can take action based on data. Lack of data has been a longstanding issue: an example of this is the 1995 Beijing World Conference during which there were no statistics about the inequalities that women and girls were suffering.
The workshop moderator, Dr. Patricia Galeana, founding president of FEMU, emphasised that there is still much to do to improve women’s education: “Girls do not miss school for lack of intellect, but because there is social deprivation”. Moreover, the gender focus present in the legal and educational framework prevents them from reaching management positions. The panelists concurred that a change in mentality in the whole society is needed, so that education creates a joint social responsibility: from the teaching of women and girls’ empowerment and the re-education of parents, teachers and managers, to the change of the social, political and economic structures.
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