PARIS, March 8 (IPS) – In September 2020, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women’s Rights celebrated its 25th anniversary. However, it was a bittersweet memorial, mixing joy at the progress in equality achieved since 1995, and the stark insight into the multidimensional divides waiting to be addressed and the new divides brought about by the social consequences of covid-19.
In 2021, UNESCO estimated that 11 million girls were at risk of not returning to school following the disruptions in education caused by the pandemic. Although the educational disruption accelerated the path to innovative learning methods, including distance and online learning, it was not an equal reality for all social groups, as those who were already marginalized were also overrepresented in the offline population, including girls and women, and especially those living in poverty and on rural areas (ECOSOC, 2021).
In 2020, worldwide, 57 percent of women used the Internet, compared to 62 percent of men (ECOSOC, 2021). In the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs), Africa and the Arab States, the gender gap in Internet use remains wider.
For example, in the least developed countries, only 19 percent of women use the Internet, which is 12 percentage points lower than men. Similarly, in Africa, 24 percent of women use the Internet compared to 35 percent of men, while in the Arab States Internet use is 56 percent, compared to 68 percent of men.
Girls and women kept without access to the internet and digital literacy will not benefit from the technological revolution that is currently changing all areas of life, most centrally in the education sector and labor markets.
While innovation and technology for girls’ and women’s education is undoubtedly a critical topic in today’s scenario, we should note that innovation itself extends beyond the boundaries of the digital world.
To further explore the field of innovation in education, the UNESCO Young People on Transforming Education Project (YPTEP) focuses on innovative learning methods – technological or non-technological tools and techniques – initiated and led by students themselves for meaningful and transformative engagement in their own educational journeys.
A highlight of the project is about understanding gender-sensitive methods from girls and women.
Girls and women around the world have long been innovative in fighting gender barriers and creating their own initiatives and community strategies to access learning even when they are excluded from internet access and other forms of innovation.
A female leader who creates an economics course for mothers, while providing collective care for their children, is innovating in education. A girl who creates a book club with her friends to read and debate publications about feminism is innovative in education.
Women in STEM, participating in research and development groups, although still underrepresented, are innovating in education.
So here we are – right at the crossroads where education, innovation and gender inequality meet. Failure to pay attention to these issues will only exacerbate past gaps, hindering the progress of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
To contribute to this debate and avenues for solutions, the UNESCO team of the Young People on Transforming Education Project (YPTEP) at the UNESCO IESALC hosted a Fireside Chat on “Women and Girls, Innovation and Higher Education” on March 6, 2023 to reunite women and girls from different countries and regions and celebrate their successes not only in overcoming challenges, but also in becoming change makers in the field.
During the chat, we had the opportunity to meet ten female storytellers who shared their stories of innovative learning and expanded our understanding of innovation, creativity and transformation in education.
Narratives approached, in a broader sense, innovative ways to access higher education; innovative learning methods to move through education and achieve learning goals; innovative tools and techniques that have enhanced their experiences as learners both in and out of the classroom; and study and work initiatives to design new technologies and broader forms of innovation for education.
Participation in the Fireside Chat is also open and expected from anyone who wants to share their experiences about innovative learning and higher education. We have organized interactive activities and will have “open chat box” and “open mic” for anyone willing to present your own writing and tell your stories live.
Global Education Monitoring Report Team & UNESCO. (2021). #HerEducationOurFuture: keeping girls in the picture during and after the covid-19 crisis; the latest facts about gender equality in education. UNESCO.
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