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THE ROLE OF EDUCATION IN ENSURING GENDER EQUALITY AND ITS EFFECT IN THE SOCIETY
The main thrust of the study was to examine the role of education in ensuring gender equality and its effect in the society. Specifically, the study was set out to find out how education has changed values and promote gender equality, determine how sex segregation in education is a risk to the society among others. Five research questions and five hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. Relevant literature were reviewed. Descriptive survey design was adopted for the study and the population of the study comprised all Lagos State civil servants. Simple and Stratified Random Sampling techniques was employed to select 165 participants. Questionnaire was the main instrument used for data collection. Some of the major findings were that there is a significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on the way education can change values and promote gender equality, there is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on sex segregation in education and its risk to the society. The study concluded by recommending among others that government should consider the interest, needs and priorities of both boys and girls children when providing education for the society, more equal opportunities should be given to the girl child as regards equal access to education and educational facilities.
1.1 Background of the Study
The concept of equality of the sexes is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the end of the nineteenth century, women were treated as the inferior sex and were excluded from taking part in public life, especially in areas pertaining to politics, education and certain professions. Resistance to the idea of gender equality drew its strength from Stoic and Platonic misogyny, which was reinforced and justified under different intellectual movements, from early Christianity through to the Enlightenment. The history of the movement for gender equality is therefore an intellectual, political, social and economic history of the changing relationship between men and women, rather than how it is often distortedly represented as a ‘pro-woman’ movement (James Bundage, 1991).
Despite the dominance of these misogynist traditions, some individuals during the Middle Ages and early modern period challenged the status quo and called for greater equality between the sexes.
Christine de Pisan (d. 1430), a successful Italian-born female writer of the French royal court was named “the first proto-modern woman” due to her treatise panegyrising the contributions of women to civilization, in her famous works, The Book of the Cities of Ladies. For Christine, gender inequality was not on account of any innate differences between men and women. Instead, she recognised the role of education and opportunities as the main cause:
“If it were the custom to send little girls to school and teach them all sorts of different subjects there, as one does with little boys, they would grasp and learn the difficulties of all the arts and sciences just as easily as the boys.”
Christine comprehensively critiques the tradition of misogyny underpinning literary, religious and philosophical discourses while at the same time reconstructing a ‘new’ canon of literature and history in which the contributions of women are included and applauded. Many have argued that by her life example (self-educated, supporting herself and her family through her writing, publicly engaging with contemporary debates) and by her arguments for greater appreciation, better treatment and equal access to education for women, she embodied and espoused one of the earliest formulations of gender equality.
Notable events in the fight for gender equality in the nineteen and twentieth century were the following: In the US: the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX and the Women’s Educational Equity Act (1972 and 1975), Title X (1970, health and family planning), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (1974), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and landmark Supreme Court cases overturning anti-abortion legislation ( Roe v Wade , 1973).
Education is chosen as the main target to attain the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG3): “To promote gender equality and empower women”. The target is: “The elimination of gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 and at all levels of education by 2015”.The rationale for a gender equality perspective in education implies a rights perspective as well as a development perspective. Education is a basic human right according to Art. 26 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. (United Nations, 2000)
The UN Millennium Development Goals: Goal 3 sees Education as essential for the ability to exercise rights and consequently for women’s empowerment. Education enables girls and boys, women and men to participate in social, economic and political life and is a base for development of a democratic society. The social and economic benefits of education are well-known since long; also, the advantages of education that girls and women can draw upon. Increasingly, interventions in development cooperation focus on the coupled approach of access to and quality of education, both related to gender equality. Gender inequalities also affect the structure and management of the education system, the practices and attitudes of teachers, learning materials and the content of the curriculum. Interventions in the education sector cannot solve the problems of gender inequality in society, yet education can have a major impact on the lives of girls and women, boys and men. Education can be crucial to changing attitudes into accepting gender equality as a fundamental social value. (United Nations, 2000)
Improving gender equity in itself may be a goal with clear, intrinsic value. However, a substantial body of research now suggests that gender equity and the achievement of other development goals, such as health, education, social and economic rights fulfilment, and even growth, are inseparable.(Terra Lawson, 2012)
For example, higher levels of female education and literacy have been found to reducechild mortality and improveeducational outcomes for the next generation. The presence of women in political leadership positions appears to increase schooling for girls. Children’s health is influenced by women’s bargaining power in the home. Lower fertility rates, also associated with increased educational attainment for women, can have a positive effect on growth, while gender inequality in education undermines growth. (Terra Lawson, 2012).
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigeria has a National Gender Policy that focuses on women empowerment while also making a commitment to eliminate discriminatory practices that are harmful to women. JICA (2011) However, significant gender gaps in education, economic empowerment and political participation remain in Nigeria. While progress towards parity in primary school education has been made, there remains a significant wage and labour force participation gender gap ,( World Economic Forum, 2011).Discriminatory laws and practices, violence against women and gender stereotypes hinder greater progress towards gender equality. Nigeria has a particularly high maternal mortality rate and women access to quality health care is limited, particularly in rural areas, CEDAW (2008a).
Sections 15(2) and 42 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria prohibits discrimination on the grounds of Sex, but customary and religious laws continue to restrict women’s rights. As Nigeria is a federal republic, each State has the authority to draft its own legislation. However, any law that is contradictory to Federal Law or the Constitution can be challenged in a Federal Court. The combination of federation and a tripartite system of civil, customary and religious law makes it very difficult to harmonise legislation and remove discriminatory measures. Moreover, certain States in the north follow Islamic (Sharia) law, although not exclusively and only in instances where Muslims make use of Islamic courts( US Department of State 2012). Adherence to Islamic and customary law reinforces practices that are unfavourable to women, including those relating to freedom of movement, marriage, and inheritance. Although an ‘Abolition of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in Nigeria and other Related Matters Bill’ was considered in the mid- 2000s, the National Assembly did not pass this bill nor a related national bill prohibiting violence against women.
Nigeria ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, and the Optional Protocol in 2004. The country ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2005. (African Union 2010)
The researcher was attempting to access the level of impact of education in enhancing gender equity in the society.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this present study is to investigate the role of education in ensuring gender equality and its effect in the Nigerian society.
1.4 Research Objective
This study was carried out with the following objectives:
a) To find how education can change values and promote gender equality
b) To determine how sex segregation in education is a risk to the society
c) To find out the extent on how the society has embraced gender equality
d) To find out the benefits of gender equality in the society
e)To identify the role of education in empowering/enlightening people to know and exercise their human rights
1.5 Research Questions
This research was carried out to answer the following research questions:
a) How can the role of education help in changing learning experiences that will foster gender equity in desired outcomes?
b) How can education change values and promote gender equality?
c) How does sex segregation in education risk to the society?
d) On what level has the society embraced gender equality?
e) What benefits/effects has gender equality had on areas it has been accepted highly?
1. There is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on the way Education can change values and promote gender equality
2. There is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on sex segregation in education and its risk to the society.
3. There is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on the extent to which society has embraced gender equality.
4. There is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on the benefit gender equality have had in the society
5. There is no significance difference between the mean responses of male and female respondents on the role education has played in enlightening people to know and exercise their rights in the society.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Gender Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of sex and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to males and females.
Gender equality is the view that all genders, including men and women, should receive equal treatment, and should not be discriminated against based on their gender.
Gender differences refer to socially defined differences between men and women.
Society is a group of people involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations.
Education is the process of facilitating learning. Knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits of a group of people are transferred to other people, through storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, or research.
Social status is the relative rank that an individual holds, with attendant rights, duties, and lifestyle, in a social hierarchy based upon honour or prestige.
The workplace is the physical location where someone works.
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