Gender Issues

Gender Issues

There is little denying the fact that investing in human capital is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty and encouraging sustainable development.

Yet, women in developing countries usually receive less education than men. More so, women in general enjoy far less employment opportunities than men the world over. This essay focuses on There is little denying the fact that investing in human capital is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty and encouraging sustainable development. Yet, women in developing countries usually receive less education than men.More so, women in general enjoy far less employment opportunities than men the world over.

This essay focuses on the advantages of educating girls and women. It also points out some factors that have lead to girls and women generally lag behind in educational attainment especially in Zambia. Educating girls and women is one of the best investments a society can make. This is because an educated woman acquires the skills, the self-confidence and the information she needs to become a better parent, worker and citizen.

Specifically, female education has powerful effects on the total fertility rate (and hence on population growth), the infant mortality rate, the female disadvantage in child survival, and on child health and nutrition. By contrast, statistical analysis shows that male schooling has relatively much smaller effects on these important social outcomes. In becoming a better parent, women improved their maternal health (a concept that encompasses preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care).The goals of preconception care can include providing health promotion, screening and intervention for women of reproductive age to reduce risk factors that might affect future pregnancies and lower incidences of HIV/AIDS are but some of the positive outcomes when a girl is educated. Indeed education of women improves child health because of educated mothers’ greater knowledge of the importance of hygiene and of simple remedies. All this lowers infant mortality, which in turn means that a family does not need to have a large number of children in order to hedge against the possibility of premature death of some children.

Furthermore, it appears that education of females increases the age at marriage (or at cohabitation) and through this delay, lowers the total fertility rate, i. e. number of children ever born to a woman. Camfed an NGO promoting girl education has observed and fostered on the ground: girls who complete primary and secondary education tend to marry later, have smaller families and earn significantly higher wages. Girls’ education has been posited as a “vaccine” against HIV/AIDS, with comparative analysis of data from Zambia, for example, of non-educated and educated women showing a substantial difference in infection rates.

A large body of microeconomic evidence shows that, increase in women’s education generally lead to increase in their labour force participation as well as in their earnings. Educated women’s greater participation in labour market work and their higher earnings are thought to be good for their own status (economic models say “bargaining power”) within the household, and are good for their children because it appears that a greater proportion of women’s income than men’s is spent on child goods. Limited evidence suggests that children whose mothers work have just as good or better educational outcomes than children whose mothers do not work.Education may also change women’s preferences about the quantity versus the quality of children, with educated women choosing fewer children but of better “quality” is a great value and hence a great benefit to nation. This could drastically reduce the number of street children which come as a result of unplanned families. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, recent research suggests that a greater proportion of women’s cash income than men’s is spent on child goods, so that women’s education and the consequent increase in women’s income would appear to have particular benefits for child quality.

Such kind of care could bring out responsible children and eliminate all kind of bad behavior such as burglary, robbery and so on. The truth in the context of Zambia is lack of education has forced many women into the risky “informal” economy as street traders, domestic servants, home workers, seasonal laborers and commercial sex workers. This in turn reflects a continuing belief that there is little benefit in educating a girl when she could be working in the market place or fields.This indeed would lower the development of the nation because the woman potential continues to remain untapped. In order to see how more girls can be educated, it is essential to ask what holds them back from gaining education currently. There are many reasons why women’s education seriously lags behind men’s education, particularly in Zambia.

The foremost factor limiting female education is poverty. Economics plays a key role when it comes to coping with direct costs such as tuition fees, cost of textbooks, uniforms, transportation and other expenses.Wherever, especially in families with many children, these costs exceed the income of the family, girls are the first to be denied schooling. In the rural areas the girl child is made to perform household and agricultural chores. This is one of the many factors limiting girls??? education. Cleaning the house, preparing the food, looking after their siblings, the elderly and the sick, grazing the cattle and collecting firewood are some of the key tasks they have to perform.

Households are therefore reluctant to spare them for schooling.Physical safety of the girls, especially when they have to travel a long distance to school and fear of sexual harassment are other reasons that impede girls’ education. Furthermore, in most rural societies many parents continue to envisage a strict gender division of labour. If for most of her adult life a daughter will be a housewife, it seems pointless to educate her. The immense contribution that education can make to women’s efficiency in child rearing and in domestic tasks is insufficiently recognized.In some parts of the country, societal norms such as early age marriage or the dowry system militate against girls’ education.

But, most importantly, when people live on low incomes as in rural areas of Zambia – it is the mismatch between the costs and benefits of girls’ schooling that causes the gender gap in education to persist. Another general observation shows that, male children still provide old age support to their parents but female children do not, any benefits of a daughter’s education being reaped by her in-laws.Thus the expenditure on boys’ schooling results in benefits for the parents but not expenditure on girls’ schooling. In other words, there is an asymmetry in parental incentives to educate sons and daughters. Low levels of women educational attainment can also be traced to low levels of school enrolment.

For example, the enrolment rate of female is 48% compared 52% among the males in institutions of learning. Male enrolment at secondary school level is 63% compared to the 37% of females. In the teacher training institution 55% are males and 45% are females.In technical or trade colleges 40% of the enrolment is taken up by males. At the two universities, it is the same story, there are more males enrolled in science and mathematics than females. Records show that the same is true in professional areas such as engineering, Medicine and others although the picture has changed for the better in recent years.

This situation may be attributed to having no definite gender policy in our education institutions (although a few institutions like the University of Zambia have a 30% quota reserved for female applicants in the student admission process.Secondly, there is no specified policy of how to involve both sexes at different levels of educational attainment. Thirdly, we have been using a gender blind approach to planning. The prevailing approach tends to ignore or leave out the interests of women.

The education sector has been the biggest culprit in as far as gender insensitivity is concerned. Beside, most educational planners for a long time have been males and knowing traditionally the attitude of men on women and indeed beliefs about them is that they are of low significance.It is very difficult for these planners to be gender sensitive because their orientations are influenced by their present roles, beliefs, biases and stereotypes. They tend to be segregative in the curricular.

In a number of our schools the curricular is gender biased. For example, boys are given technical and other more challenging subjects such as Woodwork, Metal work, Technical drawing and so on, while girls are given Home economics, Typing and related subjects. Perhaps the only exception is David Kaunda Technical Secondary School and a few others.However, even there bias still exist where, though girls have been co-opted they may not take technical subjects as boys do but instead continue with the same curricular as in non technical schools. On the other hand, the teaching materials and apparatus are mostly designed by men and are gender biased. They portray females as weaklings, under-achievers, inferior and other negative stereotypes while boys are portrayed as high achievers, hard workers, and more focused.

Prof. Tembo (Special collection at the University of Zambia Library) points out that text books used at primary and secondary are gender biased.They portray girls negatively and boys positively, for example pictures in one primary text book shows Mulenga kicking a ball while Jelita is cooking. This indeed has implication for image formation.

The formation of negative images, therefore, starts right from the early beginnings of our education system. In most teaching materials females are under represented while the most characters portrayed to the advantage are males. Females are portrayed in the kitchen feeding children and so on, while males are portrayed in leadership or positions of authority and in roles that society admires.Hence, males tend to have role models while females??? role models are scarce. The teaching methods also transmit various stereotypes and gender roles in society where some students are put at an advantage.

For example teachers??? attitudes values and expectations play a crucial role in this because different teachers expect students to behave in a certain way. The attitudes of teachers are influenced by their traditional orientations. Hence they may believe that only boys should be first in class, this may definitely have negative effects on the girl child.Sometimes the absence of female teachers does put girls at a disadvantage.

For example, girls are predominantly exposed to male science teachers. They consequently, come to believe that only males are capable to teach science or mathematics. They may therefore set negative goals for themselves towards these subjects. Furthermore, the rapport that teachers establish with their students plays a big role in opinion formation of girls.

For example, when girls go to class and are told by their teacher ???just sit for your grade 12 and go home to get married???, may demoralize them.Girls do not usually get support and encouragement they need from such teachers. Encouragement can make them excel discouragement makes them lose hope, get disillusioned and perform poorly. In conclusion, sending girls to school is foremost a matter of equity it is a basic moral obligation. But educating girls is not just a moral imperative.

It is also an economic one. When girls are not educated, a society constrains its productivity and ultimately, its rate of growth. It is high time Zambia should change its attitude towards girls and women and work to earnestly in educating them.Reference

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