Gender Equality In Education Vital To Achieving SDG 4
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development asserts a strong narrative towards achieving gender equality, acknowledging it as a guiding principle linked to the realisation of the right to education and stating that women and girls should be equally empowered in and through education.
At the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), we believe that gender equality is a human right and a requisite for achieving broader social, political and economic development goals, as stated in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Equally important, is the recognition that the gender dimensions related to access to quality education faced by girls and boys, women and men, are different and so are their needs.
Gender equality is intrinsically linked to the right to quality education for all and to achieve this, we need an approach that ensures that girls and boys, women and men, access, complete and are equally empowered through quality education.
In Latin America, the issue of gender equality is felt in many countries. Generally, countries in the region are both facing concerning challenges and celebrating important progress.
In a complex and polarized regional context, we keep fighting for a more equal, inclusive, peaceful, and democratic education for all. The Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE) and its members have been at the forefront of efforts to deepen gender equality in education in the region.
Peru: important battles won, and the fight continues!
“The gender equality approach is not a perverse ideology, as certain groups mistakenly point out. It is a tool that makes visible unhealthy relationships. It aims to eliminate inequalities of rights between men and women, to promote a culture of equity and to deal with the different types of violence and discrimination that we face”, highlighted the Citizen Movement for Gender Equality, in a statement signed and supported by the Peruvian Campaign for the Right to Education (CPDE).
Significant strides have been made towards achieving gender equality in education in Peru. Following years of strategic civil society advocacy and lobbying, a National Gender Equality Policy was approved and the Supreme Court in the country ruled in favour of the inclusion of gender in the National Basic Education Curriculum.
Civil society in Peru has also organised itself under the banner of the Citizen Movement for Gender Equality composed of more than 128 civil society organisations, including the Peruvian Campaign for the Right to Education, to advance the struggle for gender equality in education. This involves exerting more pressure on the National Congress and the Ministry of Education to support a gender approach in education.
The Citizen Movement also initiated a dialogue and shared learning campaign with different stakeholders in the country (families, teachers, students, and citizens in general) to break myths, lies and fears about the importance of the gender equality approach, and to reinforce the urgency to ensure comprehensive sexual education.
Journey towards gender equality in education in the Dominican Republic
“The Ministry offers us an opportunity to deconstruct the collective imaginary around masculinity and femininity“, says Pedro Acevedo, Executive Coordinator of the Socio-educational Forum (FSE, by its acronym in Spanish).
The Dominican Republic is laden with high levels of inequality. Following enormous pressure from civil society, the government, through the Ministry of Education, published a departmental order last year, which establishes the design and implementation of a gender policy in schools.
Central to this order is the notion of promoting pedagogical tools that redefine gender perspectives towards a non-sexist education and a deconstruction of gender stereotypes. Similar to Peru, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay, civil society in the Dominican Republic has a mammoth task of presenting arguments and information about the importance of discussing gender equality in education, against fundamentalist religious and conservative groups that are lobbying and driving an an anti-gender equality perspective.
Pedro further highlighted that progress made towards gender equality in education has been a result of years of lobbying and advocacy, including open dialogue with the Ministry of Education, specifically the Gender Directorate. The FSE will remain in dialogue with the government to support and contribute to the implementation of the gender policy in education.
Challenging patriarchy and misogyny in Bolivia
The Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education organised an International Forum, rich with gender paradigm shifting presentations and exchanges, which created space for experts and citizens from the region unpacked varying ways gender can be part of education across Latin America.
Romina Ferrer, a writer from Argentina, shared views on non-sexist communication challenging the traditional binary way of classifying girls and boys through gender defined roles. For Romina, challenging patriarchal tendencies should begin at a young age and society at large should play a significant role in ensuring girls and boys are treated equally.
Emphasising inclusive education through the lens of gender, Brazilian Wagner Santana, Technical Coordinator of the NGO Mais Diferenças, illustrated the need for schools to offer an open environment that enables girls and boys to strive equally.
For the indigenous and feminist activist from Bolivia, Adriana Guzmán, gender equality in education cannot be an issue that can be confined to the classroom alone. The issue of gender should include what takes place in the broader society.
Lastly, Marynés Salazar, researcher of education and psychology, revealed that while all educational centers in Bolivia recognise the need for gender equality in education, many do not have policies and frameworks explicitly guiding the delivery of gender mainstreamed education. Read more about the event here.
In addition, in July 2019, the Bolivian Campaign joined civil society demonstrations in rejection of statements made by a conservative leader during a visit to Bolivia, which reinforced gender equality and discrimination against girls, women and LGBTI people.
Moving backwards: Censorship against free thinking and diversity in Brazil
Government censorship of the right to education in Brazil is unparalleled. The governor of the state of São Paulo, João Doria, ordered in September last year the withdrawal of 330,000 books on science from public schools because they addressed issues on gender identity and sexual orientation. Doria tried to justify his attitude with the allegation that the publications “are contrary to the Common National Curricular Base (BNCC)”. The term “gender” was excluded from the BNCC in 2017, due to pressure exerted from conservative and fundamentalist groups.
Following protests organized by civil society and the presentation of a Popular Action (lawsuit) against the governor of São Paulo’s decision by members of the National Campaign for the Right to Education (CNDE, by its acronym in Portuguese) and allies, a Court ordered the return to distributing the censored books.
Since 2016, CNDE has denounced to international human rights entities the risks of the “Escola Sem Partido” (School Without Party) project and its negative impacts to teachers’ freedom and the realization of the right to education for all.
The “Escola Sem Partido” conservative movement was founded in 2004, to promote the prohibition of the approach on issues related to gender, diversity, sexuality and political debates in education. The advocacy and disinformation campaigns launched by this movement resulted in the withdrawal of the reference to gender from the National Education Plan, the BNCC and many local education plans. There are similar conservative movements in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, that coincide under the slogan “Con mis hijos no te metas” (“Do not get involved with my children).
As another example of the current conservative and fundamentalist context in Brazil, during a literature fair in Rio de Janeiro, this city’s mayor, Marcelo Crivella, ordered copies of the book “Avengers” to be removed from the event. The reason: the publication contains an illustration that represents a kiss between two men.
After 3 days of extensive pressure from civil society and social organisations and movements against these censorship measures, a judicial decision was achieved against the mayor’s actions. For more information, read the article here.
Fabíola Munhoz, Communication and Mobilisation Coordinator, Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE) and Philani Ndebele Communications Officer, Global Campaign for Education (GCE).