Every Woman’s Right to Learn
NIACE is co-ordinating a manifesto for women's learning. We hope you support our vision whoever and wherever you are.
Imagine a world where the ambitions, dreams, talents and skills of girls and women are not limited by the barriers they face simply because they were born female. Imagine how the world would benefit from all their energy, creativity, brain power, passion, and 'know how'. Continuing gender inequality is an unacceptable source of large-scale injustice. But it's also an unacceptable waste of women's hidden potential. We know things can, and should, work differently and that learning is the key to unlocking a better future. That's our vision. We hope it will be yours and that you'll join us in making it a reality.
Marking the centenary of International Women's Day in 2011 gave NIACE the chance to think about all those women who fought, and are still fighting for women's equality. Much of that fight has been for equality of access to education, and the improvements that women know it make to their lives, families and communities.
In the past century, women won the vote, the right to go to university and the right not to have to resign from work when pregnant. Universal child benefits, more access to childcare and comprehensive education opened up educational opportunities and a new world for women. We now have women professors, ministers of state, judges and even, occasionally, women plumbers and engineers.
But we still have more to do to win full equality for women. And there is a danger that some of the gains will be lost.
The cuts we are already facing, as the economic crisis bites, will impact on all of us, but there is no doubt that they will hit the poorest people, families and therefore, women, the hardest. Even today, with the growth in shared childcare and a rise (but not equality) in women's earning potential, the major role in looking after children falls to mothers, just as the major role in caring for older people falls to women; they earn less - 17% less; they are overwhelmingly in the public sector, in poorly paid work, in part time and temporary work. The emphasis on so-called STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - at university will tend to favour sustaining the employment differential between women and men because these subjects lead to higher paid jobs. And the impact of the changes in the way that post 16 education is funded in England and Wales will disproportionately fall on women - because women fall disproportionately into the categories outlined above - as carers, part time low paid staff, speakers of other languages not receiving 'direct benefits', late starters choosing Arts and Humanities subjects.
This manifesto is born out of a desire to say 'we have come so far, let's not lose it all now'. We want a million women's voices to join ours in a call for action for women's rights to learn.
This is a draft manifesto, open for discussion - we want women from all over the UK, and from all over the world, to help us to shape this into something that we can launch on International Women's day 2012. It was compiled from the different material produced at events in London and Cardiff that marked the centenary of International Women's Day. We also want to link our manifesto demands to support materials - strategies, documents, DVDs, examples of practice and stories.
Tell us what you can do to support Every Woman's Right to Learn: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manifesto is for all involved in adult learning.
The purpose of the manifesto is to:
- regenerate existing knowledge and stimulate some new thinking about women in adult learning
- encourage decision makers at all levels to address women's equality;
- encourage and support educators to address women's inequality through all aspects of their work; and
- support women who want to learn to aspire and achieve.
1. Lead a debate on women and learning
Adult learning should become a place where gender equality is raised, debated and at the heart of new thinking, decision making and practice.
2. Inspire women to widen their horizons and achieve their dreams
Adult learning should build on the culture that inspires and encourages women to aim high and enables them to achieve their hopes and dreams.
3. Involve more and different women in learning
Creative recruitment and outreach approaches must be used to attract women from different backgrounds and circumstances to take part in learning.
4. Make sure that adult learning promotes gender equality
Adult learning should actively promote gender equality through policy, practice, curriculum content and support.
5. Make sure that learning is affordable and accessible to all women
Adult learning should be planned to take account of potential barriers to women learning such as caring and domestic responsibilities, costs and travel distance. It must recognise the ways that gender, class, ethnicity, disability and sexuality can combine and challenge any oppression and discrimination that is an obstacle to women entering learning.
6. Make sure that work related learning expands opportunities for women
Adult learning should debate and offer alternatives to learning for traditional gender occupations in apprenticeships and other programmes.
7. Make sure that Information, Advice and Guidance opens up the full range of possibilities for women
IAG should actively challenge gender stereotypes and promote a wide range of options. It should recognise the priorities and demands of different life stages to support women to make choices and decisions.
8. Train all members of the workforce to understand and advance gender equality
Adult learning managers, staff and volunteers must be trained and supported to understand gender equality and promote this in their practice.
9. Demand equal participation in adult learning decision making
Adult learning must review its practices and structures to make sure that women participate equally in decision making, planning and evaluation.
10. Campaign for gender equality across all adult learning providers and partners
Adult learning should raise awareness of gender equality and provide the resources to support adult learning partners.
Tell us about the positive action we can all take to achieve this manifesto email@example.com