Gender and Marginalization

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ImageThis past spring, UNESCO published its 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which offered an in-depth look at the pressing need for countries and donors to focus on Reaching the Marginalized. 

Every year, millions of children are shut out of the classroom. Overwhelmingly, those left on the side lines are among society's most marginalized populations -- and in numbers, are disproportionately female.


On global gender disparities, the report observes that:

  • Gender disparities remain deeply engrained, with 28 countries across the developing world having nine or fewer girls in primary school for every ten boys.
  • Girls still account for 54 percent of the children out of school and girls not in primary school are far less likely than boys ever to attend school.

The report highlights the plight of the most excluded: girls from remote areas who speak minority languages, or from tribal castes (in India) that have long been excluded from dominant institutions, such as the school system. Moreover, there is a shortage of teachers for underserved children. It is estimated that 10.3 million additional teachers will be needed worldwide to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015.

Research illuminates the intersection of gender and marginalization:

Maureen Lewis (World Bank) and Marlaine Lockheed  (Center for Global Development) have written extensively on the barriers that females face in getting to school, especially girls from tribal and/ or ethnic minorities. In their most recent global study, Lewis and Lockheed lay the statistics bare: three-quarters of girls who are not attending school around the world are members of groups that are socially marginal or excluded in the country where they live.

Lewis and Lockheed elaborate on the dimensions of exclusion:

All studies indicate a severe education disadvantage from multiple sources of exclusion:  girls from impoverished families, girls from tribal, ethnic, or linguistic “minority” communities, girls living in remote settings, and girls from lower castes are less likely to participate in education and more likely to stay in school only briefly if they enroll at all.

 Further work is delving deeper into the status of marginalized groups:

Harry Patrinos and Gillette Hall have explored poverty and human development among indigenous people in Latin America and Patrinos is now working on a global study of the world’s indigenous populations. Carole Benson has advocated the adoption of multilingual curricula – with a particular focus on targeting girls from tribal and other marginalized ethnic groups. Elizabeth King, Education Director at the World Bank, convened a recent UNGEI panel on the urgent need to educate girls in conflict-affected areas.

The underlying causes of marginalization within a given society are multifold and varied. Education policies to achieve inclusion and gender equality must address a complex set of challenges in contexts across the globe if they are to succeed at getting all girls into school.

 Photo credit: Charlotte Kesl/ World Bank


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