The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Pledge for Parity”, a call to step up progress towards achieving gender parity quickly in all areas.
In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take almost 80 years (2095) to achieve global gender parity, but realized a year later that efforts to achieve gender parity have slowed, meaning that the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133, a hundred years later.
Improving women and girls education is a strategic investment with development rippling from self to family to community and to the wider society. Girl’s education contributes to healthy families, delayed marriage, economic empowerment and national economic development.
Education is a human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international conventions such as the MDGs and Education for All (EFA) goals. Even more importantly, it is a Constitutional Right.
Our national Constitution’s First National Goal and Directive Principle: ‘Integral Human Development’ embraces ‘Education for All’ and that every child and every citizen to be engaged in personal Integral Human Development in relations with others.
In relation to particular Education for All (EFA) Goals, the Global Monitoring Report found that
- PNG is one of 30 countries ‘at serious risk’ of not achieving the adult literacy target by 2015 because very low literacy rates are not increasing fast enough and
- PNG is one of 24 countries ‘at risk’ of not achieving the gender parity goal either at primary or secondary school by the year 2015.
Today, PNG is on track with global targets on girl’s education and gender equality with more girls in school. The Government’s 2016 budget has brought the Education budget to 11% closer to the global goal of 20% agreeing to the EFA declaration.
However, there has been an imbalance in the education of Papua New Guineans. The past 20 years has seen total neglect in educating adults and out-of-school youth who makes up the bulk of our population. It is therefore imperative that as we embark on the sustainable development strategy, it must begin with a literate population who are self-reliant and can independently make choices for their lives and communities.
The National literacy status as self-declared by PNG is at 56.4% however, studies done by Papua New Guinea Education and Advocacy Network (PEAN) in six provinces show that the literacy rates are lower at 41% or just over 3 million people.
The PNG Education Advocacy Network argues that Adult Literacy remains the missing link between the work of civil societies and overall government plans.
A key recommendation to addressing the many challenges highlighted in provinces is the inclusion of literacy programs in district plans and budgets.
Adequate political will and Government inclusion of the needs of adults to be literate is not articulated in the mid-term or the long term development goals of PNG. Strengthening coordination and increased accountability and transparency by the non-state actors to the Government could contribute towards effective, efficient, and sustainable delivery of Adult Literacy programs. On the other hand, the Government’s incapacity to effectively coordinate with literacy service providers, gathering literacy qualitative and quantitative data, and plan with the Adult Literacy Providers has resulted in leaving the work of Adult literacy solely to Non State Actors.
These informal systems without adequate support from the government has further led to inadequate funding for the literacy work thus affecting their livelihood and the health of our societies.
The UN’s appeal to ‘Leave no one behind” in the new development agenda, seems far from been achieved in PNG. In 2015 alone, a staggering 202,400 children sat for the Grade 8, 10 and 12 national exams with a small fraction advancing to the next level of education, leaving over a hundred thousand young and productive population disillusioned and added to the pool of illiterates and unemployed.
Gender parity can be achieved when we focus on building the capacities of adult literacy programs at district and local levels to up skill, empower, and build communities from the bottom up.
So let’s take a pledge for adult literacy. It is a sector that embraces men, women, young people and children as young as 3 years, who have a desire to learn, as equal. Interestingly, it is this enlightening of equality that permeates into individuals, families and communities. Men who become literate become advocates for Women’s Rights and Agents of Change for Gender Equality.