Bridging the Gender Gap in Education
Kathmandu, 20 Dec 2012 - “Jaha Stree, Tyaha Shree” as soon as UNICEF Nepal Representative, Hanaa Singer, remarked these golden words (translated as good luck dwells where females reside) the programme hall echoed with claps and appreciation from the audience. The national Conference on Gender Equity in Education that started on the 19th began with the same sentiment that if females are included from the primary to the top most level in education, the country has better chance of prosperity.
Mr Suresh Man Shrestha, Secretary of Ministry of Education (MoE), chaired the inaugural ceremony where Prof. Shiva Kumar Rai, Member of National Planning Commission and representatives from other civil societies and Ministry of Education also attended.
With advocacy from UNICEF, the government of Nepal (MoE), in 2008, assigned one resource person to each DEO (District Education Office) to work as a Gender Focal Point (GFP) in their respective districts. In collaboration, UNICEF and UNESCO have provided capacity building to these focal persons whose main function is to ensure girls’ access and retention in education.
The two- day conference focused on identifying the key issues raised by Gender Focal Points and Gender Networks* for a better and inclusive gender- friendly education for children. Though the government of Nepal has set high priority on gender equity through gender based budgeting system and by placing gender focal person in all government offices, challenges still remain. Education Pages, one of UNICEF’s partners helped organise the workshop with the purpose of sharing several good experiences from districts that can be expanded and replicated to other districts.
Even today, in many districts of Terai and some remote hilly ones, gender disparity in education is a sad reality. 57.4% of women are literate compared to the 75% of men being literate. It is also sad that even today girls get married at a very tender age and then drop out of schools. Recent census data show that 11.5% of the population is married below the age of 14. 58% of them were girls and half of children were married before they reached their 11th birthday. It means that children are getting married at an age when they should be graduating from primary schools and transit to lower secondary schools.
Hanaa Singer congratulates the Ministry in taking positive steps by building stronger legal frameworks, however, stresses the need for a better, impactful implementation: “There needs to be a movement to make a real difference in the lives of adolescent girls living in the nooks and crannies of this beautiful country. For this change to take place, we need to move beyond the central level to the local level. Now steps need to be taken to build the capacity of these Gender Focal Points and provide them with sufficient resources so that they can be creative in their job.”
*UNICEF has also supported the government to establish a Girls’ Education Network Group in 7 Terai districts: Parsa, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, Rautahat, Mahottari, Siraha, and Bara, where girls’ education is still an issue.