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The 2030 agenda for sustainable development recognizes that gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential to achieving the goals. Gender equality can be defined as the same opportunities and respect between males and females when participating in society (Unterhalter, 2008). In discussing the importance of education for gender equality, I chose to focus on two aspects: a) monitoring gender norms, values, and attitudes, such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, as well as b) improving women access to employment.
Inequality in the labor market puts women at a disadvantage in employment
Across the globe, female participation in the labor market is meager. The participation rate of women aged 15-24 is only 8%, while men are 42% (PCBS, 2010a, 2011a). Besides, women are less likely than men to find decent jobs to get rid of poverty. Specifically, most women still undertake unpaid work in the family, and their income and promotion opportunities are less than men in the same occupation. The GEM report found that in many OECD countries, including South Korea, Switzerland, and Finland, the number of women in low wage is twice that of men (UNESCO, 2016). VET could enable women to have job skills and help them find decent jobs, which positively impact income.
Education would help to bridge the gender gap in pay and work
VET is defined as an essential step to achieve gender equality towards decent jobs and equal pay. According to social needs and women’s characteristics, the LWF-VTC optimizes VET’s provision and provides females with employment skills and knowledge. The results show that for girls who accept VET in Palestine, their labor force participation rate reached 61%, and women’s employment rate was 69% (MOEHE, 2011). VET mainly benefits women because females make up nearly two-thirds of the 758 million adults worldwide who lack literacy (UNESCO, 2016). Therefore, job market-oriented VET transformed the female resources into female talents resources so as to bridge the gender gap in pay and work as well as realize the equality of men and women in employment.
FGM, spousal violence, and child marriage are serious barriers to gender equality
Globally, there is at least 200 million females have experienced FGM. In Somalia, 98% of girls aged 15-49 were abused, while 97% and 93% of girls were abused in Guinea and Djibouti, respectively (UNESCO, 2016). Besides, the dropout rate due to child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is doubled that in South and West Asia (SWA). Child marriage leads to years of female schooling in the has been reduced by 5-6 years, and the literacy rate has been reduced by 50.2% and 22.2%, respectively (UNESCO, 2016). Meanwhile, about a third of women have experienced domestic in their lives. FGM, spousal violence, and child marriage are flagrant violations of females’ rights, which hinder the development of gender equality. The 2016 GEM Report shows that education can have a beneficial impact on eliminating FGM, spousal violence, and child marriage, such as SDG5 on gender equality.
Education could help address the problem of gender-based violence and child marriage
On the one hand, education provides literacy skills for women, allowing them to be more confident in identifying and challenging unequal norms and practices. Data show that women with secondary and higher education are less likely to suffer from FGM. In Kenya, 97% of uneducated females have experienced FGM, compared with 66% of higher education women (UNESCO, 2016). GMR showed in 2013 that if all girls in the country received primary education, child marriage would be reduced by 14%. This can ensure the equality of women’s right to education and increase their educational background by 0.54 years. Also, education has great potential to reduce intimate partner violence. According to the international survey on gender equality, men with lower education are more likely to have sexist views, and wives are more likely to suffer violence at home. In South Africa, an educational program called the “Fatherhood Project” encourages men to actively care for and protect children (UNESCO, 2016). The report said that male participants spent more time with their children and less violence against their partners. Education helps empower women to fight for their rights and, through its literacy role, promotes women’s access to information about social, legal rights, and welfare services.
Combining education with multi-elements to promote gender equality
As gender equality is a wide-ranging topic, the importance of education for gender equality appears to be complicated. I think that education is the catalyst for gender equality. However, it is not only education itself that determines gender equality, but also social and economic factors. For example, there is no quick solution to gender inequality in the workplace, even in education. While equalization of education means more employment opportunities for women, we should also raise questions about the many obstacles that may affect the type, quality, and safety of jobs for men and women. Only the combination of education and other factors can better reflect its importance and promote gender equality.