Draft Platform for Action
B. Unequal access to and inadequate educational opportunities

71. Education is a basic [human] right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. Non-discriminatory education benefits both girls and boys, and thus ultimately contributes to more equal relationships between women and men. Equality of access to and attainment of educational qualifications is necessary if more women are to become agents of change. Literacy of women is an important key to improving health, nutrition and education in the family and to empowering women to participate in decision-making in society. Investing in formal and non-formal education and training for girls and women, with its exceptionally high social and economic return, has proved to be one of the best means of achieving sustainable development and economic growth that is both sustained and sustainable.

72. On a regional level, girls and boys have achieved equal access to primary education, except in some parts of Africa, in particular sub-Saharan Africa, and Central Asia, where access to education facilities is still inadequate. Progress has been made in secondary education, where equal access of girls and boys has been achieved in some countries. Enrolment of girls and women in tertiary education has increased considerably. In many countries, private schools have also played an important complementary role in improving access to education at all levels. Yet, more than five years after the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990) adopted the World Declaration on Education for All and the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs, 11/ approximately 100 million children, including at least 60 million girls, are without access to primary schooling, and more than two thirds of the world's 960 million illiterate adults are women. The high rate of illiteracy prevailing in most developing countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa and some Arab States, remains a severe impediment to the advancement of women and to development.

73. Discrimination in girls' access to education persists in many areas, owing to customary attitudes, [early marriages] and pregnancies, inadequate and gender-biased teaching and educational materials, [sexual harassment] and lack of adequate and physically and otherwise accessible schooling facilities.

Girls undertake heavy domestic work at a very early age. Girls and young women are expected to manage both educational and domestic responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and early drop-out from the educational system. This has long-lasting consequences for all aspects of women's lives.

74. [Creation of a healthy educational and social environment, in which all human beings, men and women, boys and girls, are consistently encouraged to foster moral and spiritual values, would be extremely effective in the elimination of causes of discrimination against women and inequalities between men and women.]

75. Women should be enabled to benefit from an ongoing acquisition of knowledge and skills beyond those acquired during youth. This concept of lifelong learning includes knowledge and skills gained in formal education and training, as well as learning that occurs in informal ways, including volunteer activity, unremunerated work and traditional knowledge.

76. Curricula and teaching materials remain gender-biased to a large degree, and are rarely sensitive to the specific needs of girls and women. This reinforces traditional female and male roles that deny women opportunities for full and equal partnership in society. Lack of gender awareness by educators at all levels strengthens existing inequities between males and females by reinforcing discriminatory tendencies and undermining girls' self-esteem. [The lack of sexual and reproductive education has a profound impact on women and men] [taking into account the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and other persons legally responsible for children and consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child].

77. Science curricula in particular are gender-biased. Science textbooks do not relate to women's and girls' daily experience and fail to give recognition to women scientists. Girls are often deprived of basic education in mathematics and science and technical training, which provide knowledge they could apply to improve their daily lives and enhance their employment opportunities. Advanced study in science and technology prepares women to take an active role in the technological and industrial development of their countries, thus necessitating a diverse approach to vocational and technical training. Technology is rapidly changing the world and has also affected the developing countries. It is essential that women not only benefit from technology, but also participate in the process from the design to the application, monitoring and evaluation stages.

78. [It can be ascertained that, particularly in the developed countries, a substantial improvement in the situation of girls at all levels of education, including the higher level, is one of the factors of their continued progress in professional activities. Nevertheless, it can be noted that girls are still concentrated in a [too] limited number of [the higher] branches.] Even at a higher level of educational qualification, women encounter more prejudices than men in a number of sectors, which makes it difficult for them to maximize the use of their degrees.

79. The mass media are a powerful means of education. As an educational tool the mass media can be an instrument for educators and governmental and non-governmental institutions for the advancement of women and for development. Computerized education and information systems are increasingly becoming an important element in learning and dissemination of knowledge. Television especially has the greatest impact on young people and, as such, has the ability to shape values, attitudes and perceptions of women and girls in both positive and negative ways. It is therefore essential that educators teach critical judgement and analytical skills.

80. [Resources allocated to education in many countries are insufficient and where structural adjustment programmes are in place, are sometimes further diminished. This has a long-term adverse effect on human development, particularly on the development of women.

81. In addressing unequal access to and inadequate educational opportunities, Governments and other actors should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes, so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.

[Ensure women's access to quality education and training for self-reliance at all levels and in all fields and sectors]

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