‘’Empowering girls’’ or how to make Europe more egalitarian.

, by Alexandra Volou, Clara Artoni

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‘'Empowering girls'' or how to make Europe more egalitarian.
Liliana Rodriguez, author of the ‘’Report on young women’s emancipation through education in the European Union’’. - Atcgfc

The ‘’Report on young women’s emancipation through education in the European Union’’, presented at the European Parliament by Liliana Rodrigues on the 9th of September, prompted me to investigate the causes of the societal problem of the gap between women’s level of education and their position in society. According to European’s Parliament resolution, the panacea is education.

Statistics are eloquent: women represent the majority of higher education graduates in the European Union (60 % according to 2010 Eurostat’s data). Yet, employment and promotion rates don’t reflect their full potential. In 2013, men’s employment rate in the European Union reached 69,4% to 58,8% for women. Also, women are likelier to be hired for part-time jobs or on fixed-term contracts than men and they are more subject to ‘’downgrading’’. These observations, henceforth classical over women’s inferior position in the work world, are also confirmed by the fact that women don’t have easy access neither to the highest ladders of hierarchy nor to authority positions. Moreover, feminine presence stays ‘’humble’’ in the widely masculine political elite.

The priorities of Report’s editors to meet the long term objective of eradicating traditional social and economic structure are the following: to stop horizontal and vertical segregation women endure in the professional world and to fill in the remarkable gender gap in the political field.

A society without discriminations: a Utopia?

According to Plato’s Republic, a society of social, economic and political equality between men and women is rather utopic. From my own perspective, the main issue of the subject matter is to find the true origin of the problem, logically leading to the highlighting of its solution, as preconized by the authors of the report.

In today’s society, the absence- or to be more precise the small presence- of dynamic involvement of women in the professional environment doesn’t reflect anymore the barriers that patriarchal society model used to impose. Nowadays, the hesitations behind women’s professional action might be due not to external factors, but to deeper ones, and if I may say so, to psychological motivations. Some reasonably argue that the situation of imbalance between genders is due to a lack of self-esteem, principally provoked by discouraging consequences of the status quo and stereotypes as to women place in society, originating in Ancient Story.

Prevailing stereotypes reach back to the inherent social founding principles of patriarchal society which tend to divide familiar responsibilities between men and women. The division implies that women have first of all to raise children and in order to do so they should give up their ambitions to a satisfactory, and most of all, high-level career.

Moreover, factors such as the traditional traits attributed to genders and the common beliefs about the highest leadership capacities of men (with for example the affair world indisputably dominated by men), have a strong influence over women’s psychology ever since their childhood.

Solutions over negotiation table

Many texts are adopted in order to fight against these discriminations (among which the Convention of the United Nations of the 18th of December 1997 on the elimination of any form of discrimination towards women or European Parliament and Commission’s directives about setting equal treatment of genders as to access to the work world or promotions…). However, (constraining or not) legislative initiatives such as the introduction of quotas to reinforce feminine representation were still highly criticized and didn’t convince the more sceptics: deeply rooted mentalities are not likely to change due to legislative dispositions.

As a significant evolution in mentality throughout time didn’t occur and in order to outdo fragile and ephemeral solutions, we have to go back to the fundamental principle of any social progress: education.

‘’To educate a girl is to educate a whole nation’’

Now it would be reasonable to turn to the first ground of the report that states that ‘’education is the foundation of responsible citizenship, [and] is essential to ensure gender equality and empowerment of girls’’

Given that gender-related social roles develop during the socialisation phase, and that childhood and adolescence have a fundamental influence over it, it his during these first stages of life that the transformation paths must start. Through education, boys and girls must develop empathy and mutual respect in order to fight against any sort of discrimination and violence.

The promotion of an ‘’Holistic ‘’ approach to education in schools to enhance the importance of human’s rights and dignity is essential as it will naturally lead to gender equality.

Last but not least, the improvement of self-esteem and assertiveness that will encourage girls to make autonomous personal and professional decisions is, according to me, the quintessential idea on which to base the transformation we are looking for.

And all of that, as the report emphasizes, must be done through concert means as ‘’ constant pedagogical supervision of curricula, development aims and learning outcomes, content, strategies, materials, evaluation, disciplinary programmes and lesson plans is essential, as well as monitoring and evaluation by educational research centres and specialists in gender equality’’

The fights that still have to be won…

Nowadays, 32 million girls throughout the world are excluded from the educative system. Illiteracy rate is two times higher for women than for men (20% to 11%) and in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia only half of women have access of education. In Arab countries the proportion of women provided with formal education only reached 69%.

Such deplorable rates have dramatic influence over humanity in general. By depriving girls of education, a big share of population is to remain in a state of vulnerability, absolute ignorance and to be exposed to grave illnesses, precocious pregnancy and sexual abuses.

To educate them, constitutes an achievement that will have consequences that reach beyond young ladies themselves: it will render society healthier, or at least, less wrong.

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