17th September 2019
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One commonly held view in some societies is that women’s primary role is to be wives, housewives and caregivers

One commonly held view in some societies is that women’s primary role is to be wives, housewives and caregivers. Such views influence education in several ways, including how boys and girls view school. Analysis of the sixth round of the World Values Survey, carried out between 2010 and 2014 in 51 countries, showed that half of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that ‘when a woman works for pay, the children suffer’. The idea was widespread in India and in Western Asian countries such as Jordan and Palestine, where more than 80% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement. The view that ‘being a wife is just as fulfilling as working for pay’ was held by 63% of respondents. More than 80% held this belief in countries of Central Asia, including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; Northern Africa and Western Asia, including Egypt and Yemen; Eastern Europe, including the Russian Federation and Ukraine; and Eastern and South-eastern Asia, including Japan and the Philippines.

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Such beliefs can lead to a vicious circle of reduced opportunities in employment and education. Japan has one of the lowest shares of women in school leadership positions, further fueling unequal perceptions of gender roles. In the case of migration, there is an expectation that women who migrate, as many Filipino women do, should enter domestic or home care work, even if this results in a loss of skills. Patriarchal norms that place little or no value on girls’ and women’s education restrict their chance of equal access to education. About 27% of World Values Survey respondents agreed that ‘a university education is more important for a boy than a girl’, with shares ranging from 2% in Sweden to 56% in Pakistan and 59% in Haiti (Figure 12). On average, men were about 10 percentage points more likely to agree with the statement, rising to 19 percentage points in countries including Algeria and Palestine, even though women are by far the majority of graduates. In the two countries with the most negative views of girls’ education, there was no gender gap in opinions held in Pakistan but a 35 percentage point gap between men’s and women’s views in Haiti.

Through The Eyes Of Ides Ofune – Women Shouldn’t Have To Choose Between Motherhood And Higher Education

Such discriminatory attitudes can constrain girls’ education opportunities, though the relationship is not straightforward. Some of the strongest negative beliefs are indeed held in countries with highly unequal access to tertiary education, such as Uzbekistan. But they are also held in countries that have recently expanded education opportunities to women, such as India. In other words, a move towards equalizing education opportunities in societies with unequal norms may or may not be a lever for shifting these norms. Challenging gender norms means working with adolescent girls and boys on gender role issues.

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According to research, gender norms are rules that apply differently to men and women, dictating expected behaviours or attributes. They are based on power relations and traditional views of roles and positions of men and women in society. They shape social attitudes, behaviours and practices; affect laws and policies; and prevent changes in education. The international recognition of gender inequality in education is based on the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which has been ratified by 189 countries. While most countries have ratified CEDAW, many have included reservations on some of its articles. 12 countries such as India, the Federated States of Micronesia, Niger and Qatar have included reservations in Article 2 that calls on parties to the convention to adopt legal and policy measures to eliminate discrimination against women.  

CEDAW stresses that the discrimination girls and women face in education is both ideological and structural. It calls on parties to modify social and cultural patterns of conduct that are based on ‘stereotyped roles for women and men’. Unless the negative gender norms, values and practices that permeate the very fabric of some societies are challenged, girls and women will continue to face discrimination, preventing them, as well as boys and men in certain cases, from exercising their right to education.

Culled from the Global Monitoring Report, 2019 Gender Report – Building Bridges for Gender Equality

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