Senin, 19 Oktober 2009


Sri Wahyuni


Gender Discrimination in Education in Africa

And Its Impact in Economic Development


In Feminism and social discourses, gender usually refers to many characters and roles for male or female which are constructed by socio-cultural background. Gender differs from sex. Sex is biological. It is clear whether male or female, man or woman, boy or girl. However, gender can be changed. It is not constant and permanent. It is different from a society to another; from a culture to another.

Gender distinction can cause gender discrimination. As Mansour Faqih mentioned that there are many gender discriminations caused by gender distinction. They are women subordination; women marginalization; double burden for women who work in public area (public and domestic); stereotype for women; and violence for women. (Mansour Fakih, 1997). Gender discrimination in education tends to marginalize the women. It put the women in subordination from the men. Moreover, women may be called the second class sex.

The phenomena can be everywhere in the part of the world. This article discuses the gender discrimination in education in Africa; and how the discrimination had caused social and economic impacts.


In 1998 World Education Report, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimated that in Africa countries as many as 70% of girls were not enrolled in primary school in 1995 compared to 30% of boys. The gap widens even more at the secondary and tertiary levels. At issue, also, in most regions are girls' higher dropout rates and thus, lower educational attainment.

Thus, one could assume that educational policy seeking to eradicate gender disparities would use a gender analysis perspective. Using a gender framework implies analyzing the socio-economic, political, legal, cultural and psychological levels of an issue to understand how the differences between the sexes affect and are affected by policies and practices in a given cultural context (Gender Word Bank, 1996).

In human capital and modernization theories, there is relationship between schooling and economic progress. As, the dominant perspective for gender-oriented education policy uses mainly an economic paradigm. (Scott, 1995; Stromquist, 1998). The general assumption is that education leads to economic development. Therefore, policies and actions for greater access must be designed using a gender equity stance.

According to WID, lack of access to formal education is the reason why women hold a subordinate status in society. Thus, as women earn formal qualification, so will their participation increase in formal sectors of the economy (Razavi & Miller, 1995). Consequently, WID advocates demanded a clear inclusion of women's concerns in economic and educational policies. The focus of educational and literacy programs, in Africa and Asia especially, was then shifted from ‘gender blind’ policies to targeting girls and women.

Most policy-making for female education, nationally and internationally, has been formulated in terms of access for girls and women, of closing the gender gap in enrollment, and of investment for purposes of economic development (Senegal’s Ministry of Education, 1995; United States Agency for International Development (USAID), 1998; World Bank, 1995).

Literacy and educational attainment through schooling is supposed to improve women's ability to provide better care, health, and income for their families, as well as lead to the economic development of countries. It is assumed that through self-help, and "working within the system" individual women will make personal gains and move up the socio-economic ladder (Rathgeber, 1989). Progressively, then, economic inequalities based on gender will tend to disappear on their own, naturally, leading to women’s empowerment.


From the discussion above, it can be concluded that women empowerment by education is very important. By higher education, women can get the higher position in the economic sector and the higher status in the society. The education policy nationally and internationally should eradicate the gender gab and discrimination. This policy can help the country economic development progressively.


Gender Word Bank (1996), International Women’s Tribune Center, Retrieved in December 2000 from

Mansour Fakih (1997), Analisis Gender dan Transformasi Sosial, Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar

Rathgeber, E. M. (1989), “Women and development: An overview”, In J. L. Parpart (Ed.), Women and Development in Africa: Comparative Perspectives, Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc.

Razavi, S. & Miller, C. (1995). From WID to GAD: Conceptual Shifts in The Women and Development Discourse, Occasional Paper No 1, UN Fourth World Conference on Women, Geneva: UNRISD.

Scott, C. V. (1995). Gender and Development: Rethinking Modernization and Dependency Theory, Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publishers.

Stromquist, N.P. (1998), :Agents in women's education: Some trends in the African context”, In Bloch, M. Beoku-Betts, J. A., and Tabachnick, B. R., (Eds.), Women's Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Power, Opportunities and Constraints (pp. 25-46), Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers.

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