Education as a Means for Empowering Women
Publisher: Routledge, London
Publication Date: Aug 2002
Education is often seen as the key to women's empowerment. This chapter discusses how the concept of empowerment has been applied in formal schooling with young students, and in non-formal education programmes with mostly adult populations. Girls' access to schooling in many developing countries is often so low that the term empowerment has frequently been used to mean mere participation in the formal system. This is problematic because it assumes that the experience and knowledge attained in schooling automatically prepares girls to assess their worth and envisage new possibilities. Moreover, while several governments have taken steps to modify school textbooks and provide teachers with gender-sensitive training, a gender-sensitive education is not the same as an empowering education. Empowering girls should mean offering them courses with content that not only attacks current sexual stereotypes but also provides students with alternative visions of a gender-equitable society. At present, women's empowerment reaches its highest forms in non-formal education programmes. The alternative spaces provided by women-led NGOs promote systematic learning opportunities through workshops - on topics such as gender subordination, reproductive health, and domestic violence - and provide the opportunity for women to discuss problems with others. The positive effects of these spaces for developing women's confidence cannot be overstated.