The Relationship Between Female Empowerment and Education

School Girls Africa

Many organizations and governments seek to achieve female empowerment through education. Although it is not the only means of achieving it nor the only one stakeholders should be focusing on, it is certainly an important aspect of female empowerment and a powerful tool for change, especially because it allows women to gain access to knowledge that will help them in the agency processes that play a big role in empowering women (Kabeer 2005, 16).

Education as a tool for female empowerment has some limitations, however. Among the most relevant ones to keep in consideration are the reproduction of social inequalities in school settings, the reinforcement of gender roles/stereotypes in academic curriculums, and the design of a school system that fosters the subordinate status of girls and women (Kabeer 2005, 17).

Stromquist believes that empowerment can be achieved through education if it fosters all four dimensions through which empowerment can be understood according to her: the cognitive, the psychological, the political, and the economic (Stromquist 2003, 23). An educational setting can foster the four dimensions if and only if the educational program is carefully designed with that specific purpose in mind (Stromquist 2003, 23). Governments around the world have intervened in their school systems to empower women in the classroom, but in general, they have been largely unsuccessful and oblivious to the previous point.

Curriculum changes and pedagogical training for teachers are among the most common steps that have been taken, but the efforts have been superficial and inconsistent (Stromquist 2003, 23). Another failure that should be avoided is that in many developing countries girls’ access to schooling is so low that their mere participation in the education system is considered empowerment, and that is not the case (Stromquist 2003, 24).

Further Reading:

Kabeer, Naila. 2005. “Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Critical Analysis of the Third Millennium Development Goal 1.” Gender & Development 13 (1): 13–24.

Stromquist, Nelly P. 2003. “Education as a Means for Empowering Women.” In Rethinking Empowerment : Gender and Development in a Global/Local World, 22–38. Routledge

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