and men

Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results

Chapter III

The Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: A Women´s Agenda for the Twenty-first Century

2 Education and Training of Women: Discrimination must be eliminated everywhere

"Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace". In real life, this human right invoked in the Platform applies less to women than to men. The Platform proves in its analysis of access to primary and advanced education and training for girls and women that discriminatory mechanisms exist in all countries, either generally or selectively.

Primary education for millions of women and girls not yet attained

More than two-thirds of the 960 million illiterate adults are women. Roughly 100 million children are as yet without access to primary schooling, including "at least 60 million girls". Discrimination is also the result of gender-biased curricula, reinforcing one-sided role models.

More than 660 million female illiterates

Even at a very early age, there is a double burden for girls of both educational and domestic responsibilities. This often results in poor scholastic performance. Girls drop out from school prematurely with early marriages and pregnancies. In education and training the same mechanisms apply that also bring about the lack of good health among women and girls and restrict their development opportunities.
Illiteracy and generally less adequate access to education is above all a problem persisting in development countries. Women are often excluded from studies in science and technology. This is due to the educational system itself: discrimination is the result of curricula, teaching methodology and stereotyped roles. They undermine girls´ self-esteem because they are largly denied the chance of acquiring knowledge and skills, in particular in mathematics and science. Science curricula are particularly gender-biased. "Science textbooks do not relate to women´s and girls´ daily experience and fail to give recognition to women scientists". This reinforces gender-specific barriers for studies in science and technology. The number of women in research and in the development of new technologies is therefore negligeable. It is essential to provide for equal access in the corresponding disciplines in order to actively integrate girls and women into technological and industrial developments. This "necessitates a diverse approach to vocational and technical training".

Discrimination is systemic

Strategies and actions to be taken

In line with the general demand of addressing the gender-specific impacts of all levels of the educational system, the six strategic objectives and fifty-seven actions to be taken commit Governments to:

  • ensure equal access to education
  • eradicate illiteracy
  • eliminate barriers within the educational system
  • improve girls´ and women´s universal access to education
  • be accountable for what has been achieved.

Eliminate all external and internal barriers

By the year 2000, universal access to basic education should be provided for all children and completion of primary education ensured for at least 80 percent. Universal primary education should be provided in all countries by the year 2015.
Structural adjustment and rehabilitation programmes should not be implemented at the expense of educational investment. On the contrary, funds should be increased whenever possible.

Phased plan for primary education by 2015

Full and equal participation of women in educational policy- and decision-making must be ensured. This also applies to the design of curricula and the organization of career education programmes to encourage girls to widen their future career opportunities. It is necessary "to ensure that women of all ages can acquire the knowledge, capacities, aptitudes and ethical values needed to develop and to participate fully under equal conditions in the process of social, economic and political development".
Curricula should contribute to shared responsibilities between boys and girls of caring for their family and promote mutual respect between them. Boys must also have responsibility for and cooperate in the household.

Iranian women doing the entrance test at the University Amir Kabir


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© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997