Written by Alexandra Druegscu-Radulescu
Education is a fundamental human right. It allows people to ensure their survival, enhance their skills and grow their passion. Unfortunately, not everyone has an equal chance of accessing educational facilities. There is a noticeable discrepancy between the educational rights of women and men. Despite the existence of the Convention against Discrimination in Education, ratified by 109 states and recognized by international law, empirical evidence illustrates that boys are more likely to be enrolled in schools. The convention states, amongst other things, that primary school should be free and compulsory and secondary education in different forms accessible to all. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of prohibiting gender inequality. Unfortunately, girls suffer from systematic setbacks, whether we talk about being discouraged from choosing careers in stereotypically masculine domains such as STEM, or issues such as child marriage. UNESCO tries to promote this through various projects and movements. One of its latest releases is Her Atlas, an interactive meant to spread awareness on access to education for girls in various states of the world. It is part of the strategy for Gender Equality in and through Education, and it has as its primary goal monitoring and increasing public understanding of the hardships women face in various countries.
Her Atlas is a database of all countries in the world. It follows 12 indicators based on which each state receives a score. While some parts might seem technical, anyone can understand the main points. You can either download the databases on an Excel sheet or pick a specific state you are interested in and you will see graphs on the item of interest. With a very easy to get around interface, it can be a great tool for academics and curious minds alike. Some of you might wonder: “Why should I care about Her atlas?”. The answer to this question is relatively complex. If you work in the field of human rights, having a place where all the needed information on the status of access to education for girls is centralized is particularly convenient. If your work does not require the use of such knowledge, this tool remains relevant. Despite education being a central part of our development, girls are deprived throughout the world of it. Taking a look at Her Atlas can give any individual a better comprehension of the state of the world and dismantle urban myths, such as the fact that our world reached complete gender equality. The reality is that girls and women are a vulnerable category, facing discrimination due to an inherently patriarchal society, that has preconceived ideas about girls embedded.
Her Atlas analyses 12 indicators to rate states on a scale from 1 to 5. They are all relevant for offering a relatively comprehensive analysis of the inclusion of girls and women in education. [i]The rest of this article will briefly summarize these indicators.
Party to UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education
This convention is relevant since it is the first legally binding international document related to the right to education. All signatories have the obligation under international law to respect the provisions of it.
Party to UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women
Unlike the previous convention, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women primarily offers recommendations to signatory countries, instead of imposing implementation. However, it is considered one of the most comprehensive documents on the topic, summarizing the fundamental principles of overcoming discriminatory practices against women.
Constitution enshrines the right to education for all girls and women
Besides international documents, constitutional rights play a crucial role in ensuring that girls have proper access to education. The constitution is the fundamental law of every state, meaning that the existence of protective measures for girls contributes to the proliferation of further such legislation.
Legislation enshrines the right to education for all girls and women
Through legislation, the Constitution is implemented at the practical level. This indicator ensures that the data collected in Her Atlas includes the real-life implementation of the indicators.
The legal framework guarantees compulsory education (9+ years)
Compulsory education ensures that everyone regardless of gender, social status, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation can complete their studies. Therefore, such an implementation decreases the chances of discrimination against girls and women when trying to attend school.
The legal framework guarantees free education (12+ years)
Free education ensures that school does not become a luxury that only a few can attend. If given the option, impoverished families might be inclined to choose to educate the boys, leaving the girls at home. If classes are free and compulsory, families would be encouraged and more willing to send their girls to school.
The legal framework guarantees free and compulsory pre-primary education
Pre-primary education could play a role in the future development of children. Ensuring that every girl can attend would relatively level the playing field between boys and girls, giving them the same preparation from their early beginnings.
The legal framework guarantees equal access to post-secondary education
Post-secondary education, whether vocational or academic, increases the chances of employment of an individual. Unfortunately, especially in developing countries, a gap is identified between the number of women and men attending post-secondary schools.
The legislation sets the minimum age of marriage for girls at 18 years
Child marriage is one of the biggest threats to a girl’s education and development. This discriminatory practice usually leads to girls dropping out of school to raise children. Prohibiting child marriage can decrease the percentage of girls forced to put a stop to their educational preparation.
The minimum age of employment is aligned with the end of compulsory education
The minimum employment age ensures children are not forced into choosing to work instead of finishing their studies. This happens primarily in impoverished areas, where children become a means of supporting the family. Girls are particularly vulnerable to child labor, given the embedded idea that a girl`s education is not as worthy of an investment as the education of a boy.
The legal framework protects from violence within educational institutions
Violence affects children regardless of gender, but it is used as a form of gender discrimination. It is paramount to ensure a safe environment for children for proper development.
The legal framework protects the right to education of pregnant and parenting girls
Pregnancy and raising a child are one of the causes of school drop-out among girls and women. Offering specific rights to people in such instances, the chances of finishing their education increases.
As seen previously, Her Atlas analyses various factors in its database. Regardless of your profession, it is worth checking out the website. It could answer some questions about the state of women`s rights and maybe even give a broader perspective on how countries situate themselves in the fight for gender equality.
[i] https://plus.google.com/+UNESCO. (2019, June 25). Her Atlas. UNESCO. https://en.unesco.org/education/girls-women-rights