Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women.

On 8th March every year the world marks the International Women’s Day (IWD), a day recognized by all the member states of the United Nations. The IWD provides an opportunity to review how far women have come in the struggle for equality, peace and sustainable development. This year, the day is particularly special because it marks 100 years since the first International Women’s day was commemorated in 1911.
The theme for this year is: Equal access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to decent work for Women. The theme could not have come at a better time than now when limited access to quality education and training opportunities continues to hinder women’s equal participation in decision making, leadership and in the economy. Despite the fact that equal access to education has been a long term vision of the United Nations since it adopted the Right to education (Article 26) in 1949, as one of the fundamental human rights of individuals, the efforts for equal access for boys and girls; men and women have not yet resulted in gender parity at all levels including in adult education programmes. The Beijing Platform for Action stresses education as one of the most powerful and effective tool for women empowerment in Africa .
The relevance of this year’s theme is further justified by findings in a recent study conducted by Professor Grace Chibiko, from theUniversity of Nigeria . The finding indicates that every girl child needs education because the degree and quality of participation in society depends to a large extent on the degree and quality of her education. The study further observes that by getting access to quality education, the girl child will be able to perform her political and other citizenry duties as well as exercise her rights.
There are some positive strides that have been made by African Governments regarding recognizing the importance of educating women and girls. This is evident from initiatives undertaken by several African governments of facilitating access to education for girls from elementary to tertiary levels. However, despite the positive steps, certain factors like forced early marriages, girls remaining at home to provide domestic labour as opposed to going to school, continue to hinder the progress in education and training of women in some African communities. As a result, the majority of illiterate populations in most African countries are women.
Accessing the Internet and modern technology is one of the greatest challenges in many parts of Africa . In the academic sector, the science and mathematics courses continue to be perceived as male oriented, as evident in the academic performances, even though the number of female students pursuing courses in these fields is gradually increasing. During the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the African Women’s Caucus did acknowledge that most African countries have taken initiatives to adopt pertinent policies and programs, geared towards achieving basic education for both boys and girls.
Countries like Kenya , Uganda and Ghana have adopted affirmative measures that create a favorable level ground for girls to continue with their post secondary education either in tertiary colleges or universities. For instance, this year the Kenyan University body, Joint Admission Board (JAB) lowered the cut-off points by two- from 63 to 61, to allow for the admission of more female students. FEMNET applauds this move because an additional number of 1,600 female students were admitted to the university as a result of such affirmative action. We call on other African governments to emulate the three countries by increasing the number of women accessing university education.
Allowing women to access quality education and training and especially in the scientific field, is the pathway to getting full employment and decent work in the job market. This is because the scientific related courses and skills provide a solid foundation for the best career opportunities that are well rewarding. African Governments should increase opportunities that encourage more women to venture into the scientific fields by offering scholarships to pursue such courses at higher levels.
As we celebrate the 2011 International Women’s Day, FEMNET wishes to congratulate African governments that have continually recognized the role and importance of women in political, economic, science & technology and sustainable development. The contributions made by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) towards women empowerment cannot be ignored. It is important that CSO initiatives are embraced by governments in order to realize the main objective of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) which is to facilitate women’s empowerment and articulate concrete actions that should be taken; to accelerate momentum in implementation of all protocols and agreements that support gender equality and women empowerment in Africa .
FEMNET is appealing to African leaders to ensure that they devise clear work plans for implementation of the African Women’s Decade so that by 2020, equal access to education, training and science & technology will be a pathway to decent work for women.

Happy Women’s Day! The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) Tel: +254 20 2712971/2 Email:  communication@femnet.or.ke

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