Human Rights Day

Today we mark the UN Human Rights Day. This is the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. We share a few paragraphs from the recent MSc dissertation by Anna Freidenfeld who was on placement with us last summer. She makes some comments about how we might work towards the Global Goal of Gender Equality.

“In order to overcome education barriers rooted in patriarchal norms, wider communities need to be educated on the importance of girls’ education (1). Intersectional ‘gender sensitisation education’ could reduce the marginalisation and discrimination faced by girls – especially those with disabilities, young mothers and orphans of HIV/AIDS – which can push them to drop out of school. Furthermore, NGOs need to employ local women in positions of power to mirror the gender equality they are working towards in the wider world within their own structures (2). NGOs should also focus on helping reduce the cultural reproduction of gender hierarchies within schools (3,4). Accordingly, women need to become more involved in the management of schools. Mothers’ Groups are a good example of community collectives that are increasing women’s involvement in educational management. If NGOs work with local women they can better work towards ‘transformative gender mainstreaming’ in education-policy (5).

The best approaches to overcome education-barriers in Northern Malawi tend to be more holistic, combining multiple tactics and recognising the different education-barriers faced by different individuals. Clearly, the operations of NGOs need to be continually examined so they can work to improve their approaches. Notably, more education-barriers are bound to emerge in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, future ethnographic research in Northern Malawi is needed to provide different perspectives and explore further barriers and enablers to education.”

References:

1 Abane, H. (2004) ‘The girls do not learn hard enough so they cannot do certain types of
work.’ Experiences from an NGO-sponsored gender sensitization workshop in a
Southern Ghanaian community’, Community Development Journal, 39(1), pp. 49–61.

2 Duraiappah, A.K., Roddy, P., & Parry, J. (2005) ‘Have Participatory Approaches Increased Capabilities?’ International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (online). Available at:
https://www.iisd.org/publications/have-participatory-approaches-increased-capabilities 

3 Bourdieu, P. (1973) ‘Cultural reproduction and social reproduction’, pp. 71–112, in Brown,
R. (Ed.). Knowledge, Education and Cultural Change. London: Tavistock.

4 Arnot, M. (2002). Reproducing gender? : essays on educational theory and feminist politics. London: Routledge.

5 Mukhopadhyay, M. (2004) ‘Mainstreaming Gender or “Streaming” Gender Away: Feminists Marooned in the Development Business’, IDS Bulletin, 35(4), pp. 95–103.