Summary from UN educational equity group

From: Linda Purrington (
Date: Mon Nov 22 1999 - 00:15:49 EST

Women Education Moderators <>

Dear Members of the On-Line Working Group to Achieve Educational

The discussions over the last six weeks have been extraordinarily
valuable and interesting. Our understanding has been greatly enriched by your
contributions. You have generously provided insights gained from your
experiences and we have learned a great deal from you.

It is not possible to summarize so complex and rich a discussion in the
few words of this message. We would, however, particularly like to highlight the
following accomplishments of the Group:

1. In the area of basic education, you revealed that the most positive
developments relate to changes in school textbooks, to make them less
sexually stereotyped and to the use a non-sexist language. These changes
were, however, reported in only a few countries.

2. You pointed out that sexual harassment is a widespread problem in
schools. You warned that there are no programs addressing aggressive
male behaviors. You also highlighted the importance of the problem of teenage
pregnancy, and the lack of attention it gets in formal education
systems. School policies still tend to expel girls from regular school and fail
to provide them with alternative educational experiences.

3. You noted that teacher training programs to incorporate more
gender-sensitive content or to increase teachers' knowledge of gender
issues are practically nonexistent. The few teacher-training efforts
that have occurred have tended to be circumscribed to a few urban sites.

4. You presented several experiences that underscored the importance of
relying on multiple social actors (school authorities, teacher, parents,
and the mass media) to achieve successful implementation of public
policies seeking to create a girl-friendly educational content and environment.
Efforts in some African, Asian, and Latin American countries have involved
nationwide campaigns using radio to present messages in favor of girls'

5. You described occupational programs that are beginning to enable
women's access to training in information technologies, primarily computers,
especially in industrialized countries. You also explained that, as a whole,
there still remains a strong pattern of gender segregation in
vocational and technical education and limited financial allocations to
modify this situation.

6. You raised the important point that the number of refugees,
particularly women and children, is increasing considerably due to internal
strife in several countries. You noted that supports for these groups
concentrate on survival and basic-needs; thus, refugee girls and women remain in
dire need of educational assistance of all kinds.

7. You reported on several creative and innovative education programs
that are addressing such issues as sexual harassment, pregnancy, adult
literacy, and parental training in gender equity. These programs are for the
most part local and designed and implemented by women-led NGOs.

8. You examined the fact that poverty is a growing reality in many
countries, and the ways in which it impedes efforts to address both
education and gender issues. Poverty is widening the education gap
between girls and boys in rural areas. The use of school fees in densely
populated countries is a further obstacle for girls in rural and poor

During the six weeks that the discussion took place, there were a total
of 875 members in the on-line Working Group, contributing approximately 127
messages during an extremely vibrant discussion with a good geographical
representation of all the regions of the world.

Again, we would like to express our deep gratitude for the dynamism and
wisdom that you brought to this interchange, and your contribution to
our collective learning and stock-taking. We will produce a full report,
within the next few weeks, on the views exchanged within the Achieve
Educational Equality Online Working Group.

This report will feed into the preparatory process for Beijing+5 during
the 44th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, from 28 February
to 17 March 2000. It will also be presented at the Beijing+5 meeting to
take place at the UN Headquarters in New York, June 2000.

Although the Achieve Educational Equality Working Group is no longer
active, we strongly encourage you to remain subscribed to it so that we
can keep you updated on developments in the process of conducting the
mid-decade evaluation of the Platform for Action. We will let you know
when the final report becomes available and send you occasional updates on
preparations for Beijing+5.

Many thanks and all the best to you,

The WomenWatch Task Force to Achieve Educational Equality
Education Development Center Moderators

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