International Women's Day 2011: “Equal Access to Education, Training and Science & Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women”

by Dr. Reeja Tharu on  March 7, 2011 at 3:10 PM Health In Focus
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International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated all over the world on the 8th of March each year.
This year, 2011, marks the Global centenary year of IWD.

This day was first celebrated on March 19th in the year 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland amidst a period of time when the industrialized world was going through great turbulence and rise in radical ideologies.

In the early days, IWD was used to voice the woes of women and to claim her rights.

Today, the tone has changed and the day stands more for celebrating successes than to highlight inadequacies. It is more an occasion for women to inspire and in turn be motivated; an occasion to celebrate achievements and to toast her climb on the social ladder.

What Happens Each Year

IWD has been ear-marked to applaud and celebrate the achievements of women of the past, present and future, in areas of economy, social life politics or science.

On this day a web of activities connect women around the world. They range from rallies, conferences and other net-working events on an international level to local crafts bazaars, gatherings, fashion parades and camps that are held to show case women and their causes.

Some Achievements
• Women are steadily working towards equal rights and equal opportunities and there seems to be a commendable improvement.

• More NGOs are addressing women and their causes. 

• Women are politically more active now and therefore more women- friendly laws have been formed.

• Women leadership has increased right from grass root levels.

• Education of women is, by far, at its best.

• The management of women's health has vastly improved. 6000 communities across Africa have abandoned female genital mutilation.  

Theme 2011

Theme for IWD 2011—"Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women"

Women & Education

Education is the all-in-all for women's empowerment. Besides, educating women contributes positively towards the betterment of families, communities and nations of the world.

The global economy too, is heavily dependent on a workforce that is excellent in scientific and technological knowledge in order to combat poverty and other global crisis, like climate change.

Therefore it is imperative that women, along with men, are adequately skilled in science and technology to take economic strides and also to make informed decisions on important life matters, including health.

Education: Deterrents  & Interventions

Significant progress has been achieved in the recent years but, sadly, this remains restricted to certain parts of the world.

The following factors restrict the education of the girl child or force her to abandon studies:

• Poverty

• Disabilities

• Living in rural areas / urban slums

• Belong to a 'minority' group

• Live in conflict-afflicted regions

• Early marriage

• Early pregnancy

• Child labor

Various steps have been undertaken in the developing countries of the world, to combat stereotypes and improve the quality of female education.

Few successful interventions include:

• School fees exemption

• Feeding programs in schools

• Free distribution of school uniforms.

• Betterment of school infrastructure and transport

• Awareness programs

Non-formal training and distance education to  girls who are not enrolled in schools especially in conflict-ridden areas.

Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes in textbooks and other areas of education can limit girl students' career choices with vast consequences, one of which is that there could be more numbers of women in low- paying sectors.

Women are grossly underrepresented in areas like engineering, computer sciences, research and development, as they are believed to be traditional male bastions.

Contributing factors include isolation in a male-dominated set-ups, difficulties in coping with work and family life and stereotypical views of women being less competent in these male-dominated fields.

Interventions to break gender stereotyping include the following:

• Revising educational materials,

• Exposing girls and boys to role models in nontraditional areas of study

• Sensitizing teachers

• Bringing about policies and reforms that promote women in these non-traditional roles

• Providing child-care support to working women

• Sensitizing people towards breaking these stereotypes.

Women in the labor market

Young women often find the transition zone between education and employment a difficult one to cross due to limited access to information channels, social networks and job -search platforms.

Some remedial initiatives include gender-sensitive counseling and providing placement services.

Entrepreneurship is another employment option for women. Providing technical / management education and marketing -skills training greatly enhance the entrepreneurship potential of women.


The twenty first century has ushered in a sea of attitudinal change in the society. Today a woman can have a family and work; she can be a doctor, an astronaut, a legal expert, a prime minister or even the president of a country.

Many of the younger generation feel that most of the battle has been won and there is really nothing more to claim. This is far from reality.

Some dismal truths:

Rape, sexual abuse and trafficking, involving women and girls, have increased globally

Rural women across the globe face inequalities in all life aspects

Genital mutilation and female infanticide are still rampant in some parts of the world

IWD continues to be a gentle reminder of all the inequalities and imbalances that need to be addressed and of the rights that still need to be fought for and won.

Global Data

• The ratio of girls' to boys' enrolment has steadily improved, reaching 97 girls per 100 boys at primary level, 96 girls per 100 boys at secondary level and 108 women per 100 men at tertiary level in 2008.

• In 2007, 72 million children of primary-school age were out of school, 54 percent of whom were girls. Similarly, 54 percent of the 71 million adolescents who were out of school in 2007 were girls.

• Women make up nearly two thirds of the world's 759 million illiterate adults.

• At the tertiary level, women now dominate in some sub-fields of science, particularly life sciences and social sciences. Less progress has been made in engineering. In 2007, the global median share of female university students was 21 percent in engineering, manufacturing and construction.

• Female labour force participation was estimated to be 52.6 percent in 2008, compared with a male participation rate of 77.5 percent.

• Among the 20- to 24-year-old population, women continue to lag behind men in labour force participation in all regions.

• On average, across 121 countries with available data, women account for 29 percent of researchers, and only 15 percent of countries have achieved gender parity.

Sources: UNESCO Global Gender and Education Digest, 2010, World Bank.

Source: Medindia

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While looking for empwerment of women on many fronts in the developing countries miserable conditions of women in the places where conflict situations [both of international and noninternational characters] prevail should be addressed in the arena if IWD. Their being trapped in helplessness depriving of basic rights in the hands of engaging entities is to be attended by the bodies initiating IWD celebrations. BHubol Sougrakpam, Manipur


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