Access and participation of women and girls to education and training, science and technology, including the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work
Commission for the Status of Women 5th Session (CSW55)
The challenges to productive economic engagement of women continue in spite of a great deal of advancement for women in areas such as education and government /organisational initiatives. There continues to be a disparity between lifetime earnings between men and women, with superannuation being almost half that of men, though generally women have a longer lifespan than men. The amount of liveable income required by women varies according to a multiple of factors and while Australia has legislated for a minimum wage, many women continue to struggle to live with dignity and security over their lifespan. Women’s economic empowerment is the biggest social change of our times; however it presents social consequences particularly for families.
Higher education is expensive for many women who juggle demands of families and community. Single mothers especially face high costs of childcare that adds to financial burden. Youth allowance is low and many do not qualify as they enter into university study and remain dependant on their parents. Female head of households with large families find they have few options to study due to family and work pressures. For many refugee women who fall in this category, they become unable to move ahead economically and feel socially isolated from mainstream Australia. Women with disability face considerable access issues in attending higher education.
Despite advances in education (including scholarships) to increase the participation of women and girls in science, technology and what are often called “non traditional” professions (such as plumbing, engineering etc) severe gaps remain between women qualifying in professional degrees and uptake into the professions.
To address the specificities of systemic and historical discrimination against women within the international human rights framework, there is need to ensure the full implementation of women rights agreements which must be understood as integral to and a prerequisite for the advancement of women. While these conventions, treaties and agreements will not immediately change the situation for many women and girls, they form a strong structure to begin to address discrimination that in many cases prevents women and girls from achieving their full potential as economic actors.
These Conventions, Treaties and Agreements include;
< BPfA (Beijing Platform for Action) & BPFA + 5 Outcome Documents
< CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women)
< Millennium Declaration
< International Labour Organisation (ILO) Decent Work Agenda
These Conventions, Treaties and Agreements all provide a more comprehensive picture of progress towards decent work and feed into the goal of decent work within the agreed international development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Allocation of adequate resources to the commitments made by governments to advance economic empowerment of women is fundamental to strengthen economic strategies and bring about policy coherence among economic, development, trade, migration, social and gender policies.
Throughout 2009 and the early part of 2010, JERA International coordinated a national review and appraisal of the BPFA. Throughout this review key three key areas were highlighted as key areas of concern:
- Lack of specialised support services for women and girls from disadvantaged groups.
- Lack of leadership pathways and opportunities for women working in vocational education.
- High cost of higher and post-school education is a key barrier for women.
Strategies to address these concerns were:
> To work with State Governments to increase support to mothers to complete their education and access to post school education and training; considering their special needs, programs and childcare provision.
> To support the implementation of plans and programs of action to target gender discrimination and gender stereotypes.
> To address issues of women and girls with disability, through the implementation of a National Disability (Education) Partnership Agreement that approaches from ‘birth or diagnosis of disability to the grave’ including through ‘learning or earning’ programs
> To develop an integrated strategy, which includes flexible alternatives and venues for higher education, improves pathways to TAFE for refugee women and girls through adult literacy and literacy competency provision and expands existing programs for Indigenous girls and young women in post school education
> To consider specific educational funding and support programs related to the promotion of vocational training to women and girls considering training for a career in non traditional employment
> To implement a VET based on gender analyses to inform a training framework able to provide opportunities for women at different stages of their life cycle and appropriate to their needs and circumstances. Such analysis must include attention to issues of intersectional issues and related disadvantage.
JERA worked with broad and interactive communities and women’s organisations, women and men, throughout Australia in 2009–2010 in defining these outcomes and statements.