The objective of the present joint general recommendation/general comment is to clarify the obligations of States parties to the Conventions by providing authoritative guidance on legislative, policy and other appropriate measures that must be taken to ensure full compliance with their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child to eliminate harmful practices. 

The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence tries to determine why 15-year-old boys are more likely than girls, on average, to fail to attain a baseline level of proficiency in reading, mathematics and science, and why high-performing 15-year-old girls still underachieve in areas such as mathematics, science and problem solving when compared to highperforming boys. In 2012, 14% of boys and 9% of girls surveyed by the PISA exercise did not attain the PISA baseline level of proficiency in any of the three core subjects. On the other hand, in the top-performing economies in PISA, such as Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China and Chinese Taipei, girls perform on a par with their male classmates in mathematics and attain higher scores in mathematics than boys in most other countries and economies around the world.

As the evidence in the report makes clear, gender disparities in performance do not stem from innate differences in aptitude, but rather from students’ attitudes towards learning and their behaviour in school, from how they choose to spend their leisure time, and from the confidence they have–or do not have–in their own abilities as students. In fact, the report shows that the gender gap in literacy proficiency narrows considerably–and even disappears in some countries–among young men and women in their late teens and 20s. Giving boys and girls an equal opportunity to realise their potential demands the involvement of parents, who can encourage their sons and daughters to read; teachers, who can encourage more independent problem solving among their students; and students themselves, who can spend a few more of their after-school hours 'unplugged'.

General recommendation No. 19 on violence against women, adopted by the Committee at its eleventh session in 1992, states that discrimination against women –as defined in article 1 of the Convention- includes gender-based violence, that is, ‘violence which is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately’, and, as such, is a violation of their human rights.

For over 25 years, the practice of States parties has endorsed the Committee’s interpretation. The opinio juris and State practice suggest that the prohibition of gender-based violence against women has evolved into a principle of customary international law. General recommendation No. 19 has been a key catalyst for this process.

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) plays a central role in the preparation of young people for a safe, productive, fulfilling life in a world where HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancies, gender-based violence (GBV) and gender inequality still pose serious risks to their well-being. However, despite clear and compelling evidence for the benefits of high-quality, curriculum-based CSE, few children and young people receive preparation for their lives that empowers them to take control and make informed decisions about their sexuality and relationships freely and responsibly.

Many young people approach adulthood faced with conflicting, negative and confusing messages about sexuality that are often exacerbated by embarrassment and silence from adults, including parents and teachers. In many societies, attitudes and laws discourage public discussion of sexuality and sexual behaviour, and social norms may perpetuate harmful conditions, for example gender inequality in relation to sexual relationships, family planning and modern contraceptive use.

A significant body of evidence shows that CSE enables children and young people to develop: accurate and age-appropriate knowledge, attitudes and skills; positive values, including respect for human rights, gender equality and diversity, and, attitudes and skills that contribute to safe, healthy, positive relationships. CSE is also important as it can help young people reflect on social norms, cultural values and traditional beliefs, in order to better understand and manage their relationships with peers, parents, teachers, other adults and their communities.

The joint general comment elaborates on the nature of State Party obligations that arise from Article 6 (b) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and Article 21 (2) the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It expounds upon the underlying principles of interpretation that serve as a lens through which the relevant provisions of the aforementioned instruments should be understood. It further describes legislative, institutional and other measures that should be taken by States Parties to give effect to the prohibition of child marriage and to protect the rights of those at risk or affected by child marriage.

The scope of the general comment covers children in child marriages, children at risk of child marriage and women who were married before the age of 18. The document gives guidance to governments, csos, igos, child protection clusters, practitioners, individuals and groups in any effort towards the elimination of child marriage and protection of children in this context.

The joint comments includes a section (IV) on state obligations which stipulates that states must adopt institutional measures around education. In particular, it requests states parties  to "put in place measures to retain all children but especially girls in school and to raise awareness about the importance of their education." Policies states must adopt include measures to encourage pregnant girls to keep attending or returning to school. 

 

The 2018 Gender Review prepared by the Global Education Monitoring Report team, the sixth in the series, maintains the focus on a broad conception of gender equality that extends beyond counting boys and girls in classrooms. The review’s first part examines disparities in participation and skills, in education and political leadership positions, and in selected aspects of infrastructure and curricula. It also examines gender issues in professional development by exploring the role of education in three other SDGs: those concerning agriculture, health, and water and sanitation. The second part of the review analyses institutions, laws and policies to explore ways to determine and enforce accountability for gender equality in education.
 
The report reminds us that countries have made legal commitments for girls’ and women’s right to education through international treaties. Fulfilling these obligations means that governments should put in place laws and policies, which tackle the obstacles that women and girls face in accessing school and to prevent discrimination while they are in school.

This legal factsheet explains the specific legal obligations international human rights law imposes on states to eliminate gender-based violence against women and girls, including school-related gender-based violence against women and girls. 

“Her Turn”, a new report from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, reveals that refugee girls at secondary level are only half as likely to enrol in school as their male peers, even though girls make up half of the school-age refugee population. 

Access to education is a fundamental human right. Yet, for millions of women and girls among the world’s growing refugee population, education remains an aspiration, not a reality.

For all refugee children around the world, the school gates are a great deal harder to prise open than they are for their non-refugee peers. For refugee girls, it is even tougher to find – and keep – a place in the classroom. As they get older, refugee girls face more marginalization and the gender gap in secondary schools grows wider.

The report is available here http://www.unhcr.org/herturn/

This brief is on education and MDG 3 (Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women), with a focus on target 3.A (Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015). It highlights that education is essential to eliminate discrimination and transform social attitudes and power relations.

This case study was produced for the UN Durban Review Conference organised in Geneva in 2009. It briefly presents the violation of pregnant adolescent girls’ right to education in Tanzania and makes recommendations.

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