Substantive Session of 2011
Geneva, 4-29 July 2011
Item 2 (b) of the provisional agenda*
High-level Segment - Annual Ministerial Review
Statement submitted by the Women's Federation for World Peace International, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council
The Secretary-General has received the following statement, which is being circulated in accordance with paragraphs 30 and 31 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
Following two very rich and substantive side events held by Women's Federation for World Peace International during the recent Commission on the Status of Women in New York on issues related to women's participation in higher education, some valuable insights and recommendations were identified.
Education is a right, equally to boys and girls, women and men. As with all rights, they carry responsibilities for the title bearer. Educating from an early age in human rights and responsibilities is important in maximizing the application education for the betterment of humanity and finding the will for implementation from within.
By understanding that women's access to higher and specialized education is a human right, Government and civil society become partners, complicit in seeing it provided. Young women realize that they are entitled to their most cherished life goals and professional aspirations. They would and should expect support in fulfilling their human responsibilities from family, social institutions and Government, without discrimination. They would be less easily discouraged.
Girls, as boys, should be encouraged to excel and not be entrenched in stereotypical ideas of gender roles that diminish aspirations to "make a difference", no matter what field they choose. Girls who have come to only expect their influence to remain in the home, have not been made aware that it is their human right to enjoy, participate and influence the cultural and political life of their communities. They, their families and the community suffer.
- Create strategies to offset the reluctance to direct girls to tertiary education, to access certain technical disciplines and to accept high dropout rates through Government/NGO partnerships.
- Focus globally over the last years of the MDG goals on the poorest, most marginalized and underserved communities in trying to meet education goals.
The basic education goals have been laid out in numerous national and international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They have been prioritized in the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals and in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, article 10 which goes so far as to oblige states to "take all appropriate measures" to ensure women and girls equal educational opportunities. But this can be taken a step further.
- From an early age, proactive incentives should be provided for girls to experience leadership, decision-making and advocacy-taking into consideration their vulnerability to disincentives.
The recent financial and economic crises have only served to underscore the need for broad and relevant education as a way to provide new solutions.
- Public investment in education, science and basic research, in particular, provides the seeds for future development. It will also be needed to foster the breakthrough technologies for dealing with critical emerging issues and global challenges.
- These commitments demand the vigilance of NGO's and civil society organizations to make them understood and to assure their implementation.
As reviewed in the Millennium Development Goals Summit 2010, there are "achievements to celebrate". Due to the innovative advances in technology, learning opportunities have greatly multiplied. Nearly 40 million more children have received education since 2000, most of them girls. Yet, in 2011, we are not even halfway to our target.
- It is only where there has been a sustained and concerted effort that noteworthy advances have been made. NGO's have been instrumental in small and large ways in galvanizing support and keeping the goals high on agendas.
One of the speakers, the director of a Women's Federation for World Peace high school in Kenya described the heavy constraints on girls from rural villages to remain in school due to the burden of household responsibilities. Beginning with 45 students, mostly boys, in 1998, the school currently enrols over 280 girls who regularly attend classes, many of those pursuing medicine and science-related careers. The high achievement was attributed to tuition-free education and the proactive decision to provide students with practical experiences in science through the building of laboratories. A second lab was requested by the Government when the high ratio of students seeking to continue their education in fields known to be so beneficial to the nation's prosperity was discovered.
- Tuition free education and other enabling measures should be made available to ensure ease of access for all students.
- Provision for improvement of educational tools and equipment (such as science laboratories) can provide students with strong incentives to pursue higher achievement.
Another voice from civil society, the President of a network of women's organizations in Taiwan Province of China described the adage, "woman's place is in the home" as being the prevalent deterrent to girls continuing their educations' and choosing careers in science and technology. The Women's Alliance there has been coordinating conferences and symposiums aimed at girls of high school age to provide understanding about careers in these non-typical fields. Many young female students were stimulated to adjust their goals and have found a whole new sense of self esteem and realization of the potential of their contribution to society.
- Government allotment of resources for instructors to be able to provide support to schools concerning career choices.
The first step is for societies to recognize that educating girls and boys is not an option; it is a necessity. The second step is the allotment of necessary resources, which have been estimated at around $9 billion a year worldwide. And with this, he quoted former Harvard University President, Derek Bok, but "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!". Another recommendation in this process of effective implementation came from the Vice Chair of the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Getting the desired result is not just a matter of stating the goals, but involves strategy and coordination. By providing advocacy training programmes to young women, their influence on policy and implementation will be greatly enhanced.
- Broadening NGO internship programmes for young women at the United Nations in order to experience and learn to advocate education related issues more effectively.
Another teaching strategy was reported during the events by the director of "Con Gen Project" in Washington, D.C. She described the effect on her women students as they create a stronger image of themselves as scientists by involving them in creative problem-solving processes from the outset of their enrolment. Rather than the instructor-driven lecture/study method, student's involvement was stimulated through research projects in partnership with the United States National Science Foundation. After 6 weeks of associating within the scientific community during summer internships, many students, especially women, made career choices that they may not have had the confidence to make without that experience.
- Both human and financial resources need to be allocated for high school/college mentoring programmes and project experiences that encourage high achieving career choices.
Better educated women are more productive and the accumulation of knowledge increases the rate of technological change thus accelerating economic growth. Education and training are instrumental in ensuring the supply of a skilled labour force in ever-changing markets and providing women with relevant skills to contribute to national economy. It lays the foundation for stronger families. But most important of all, education is the foundation for women's and girls' development as human beings, for self-realization and self-esteem.
Finding the will for implementation of our education related goals lies in the clear realization of what will be missing if we do not make it our priority.
Official document also on the UN website in 6 official UN languages: http://documents.un.org, click on "welcome", click on "simple search" and enter symbol: E/2011/NGO/36, and date of publication: May 12, 2011 then click "search".
* The present statement is being issued without formal editing.
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English - Original Text