Posted March 1998
THE DENIAL of equal educational opportunities to girls and women has been recognized internationally as a fundamental challenge to human dignity and a limitation to the scope of human rights. (UNESCO, World Education Report, 1995). From a developmental perspective, investing in the education of females has the highest rate of return of any possible investment in developing countries. (FAO, Women Feed the World, 1996). Without such investment, and a political commitment to comprise nearly two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults (UNESCO, 1995).
Activities related to women-in-development are an integral part of the Research, Extension and Training Division's educational programmes and activities. Gender issues continue to be important in the development of educational policy and the planning of new initiatives. Based on recommendations from a series of regional round-table meetings on "Strategies and Options in Intermediate and Higher Education in Agriculture" and a Rome expert consultation on the same topic, the Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE) carried out five case studies on the enrolment of women in higher and intermediate agricultural education. These case studies are summarized and consolidated into this report which includes a review of the trends and constraints that have an effect on the enrolment of women in tertiary level educational programmes in the agricultural sciences.
Economic and cultural constraints are limiting factors in complex societies and people do not always agree on the value of education for women. It is within the confines of these societies that decisions will have to be made about expanding educational opportunities for women. In the developing countries, the enrolment figures for women studying agricultural subject matter at the intermediate and higher levels of education may vary from as low as five percent to as high as 50 percent. Accurate figures on enrolment rates are difficult to find and the causal factors are often speculative and based on individuals' perceptions of cultural bias and tradition.
The goal is for women to be able to participate and contribute on an equal basis with men in the social, economic and political processes of rural development and share fully in improved conditions of life in the rural areas. In a practical sense, and at the action level, this goal suggests that in education, training and extension programmes of member countries, the participation of women must be supported and their equal benefits guaranteed
Improving women's access to education, and to higher agricultural education in particular, can contribute to improved food production at the household and national levels, improved nutritional status of families, and thus to the achievement of food security. Conversely, the failure to adequately address women needs for education in agricultural are at the root of the failure of many agricultural development efforts and attempts to achieve food security.
The World Food Summit Plan of Action recognizes, in the first of its seven commitments, the importance of the empowerment of women to the achievement of food security and the need to remove the constraints hindering them. Commitment One, World Food Summit Plan of Action reads: "We will ensure an enabling political, social, and economic environment designed to create the best conditions for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on full and equal participation of women and men, which is most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all". The achievement of this commitment is a challenge that we still face. It is hoped that this publication will make a contribution to meeting that challenge.
Literacy and access to formal education
Participation in education | Women's unequal participation in education: causes and constraints | Process and benefits of education | Investment in development: educational opportunities for women and girls
Access to extension and training
Obstacles to women's participation in extension and training | Improving women's participation in extension and training
Responsiveness of research institutes to the needs of women farmers
Women and agro-biodiversity
Women and participation in agricultural policy-making and development bodies
Comparison of five studies on enrollment of women in
higher agricultural education
Role of agriculture in the economy | Women's roles and contributions to agriculture | Access to extension and other services | Literacy and basic education | Women's enrolment in tertiary education | Higher agricultural education in: Cote d'Ivoire, Jordan, Nigeria, Philippines, Caribbean Community
Women's contributions to food security can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Women are the majority of the world's agricultural producers, playing important roles in fisheries and forestry as well as in farming. It is often stated that women are responsible for more than half the world's food production overall and produce up to 60 to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs in Africa and the Caribbean and over 50 percent in Asia. In Latin America, women make a significant contribution to food production, particularly in horticulture and small livestock.
Women also make crucial contributions to food security as preservers of agro-biodiversity, as those who process and prepare food for the market and their families, and as those who have the primary responsibility in the household to provide food, if not by producing it then by earning the income for its purchase. Women are also responsible for providing the basic needs of their families such as water, fuel, child rearing and basic health care all of which are necessary to the well-being of the family and the ability to live healthy and active lives.
These contributions are made in the face of constraints and attitudes that undervalue women farmers' contributions and responsibilities, reduce their productivity, place upon them a disproportionate work burden, discriminate against them and hinder their participation in decision and policy making. Among the most serious of these constraints are:
Given women's key roles in food security, the achievement of food security for the present and for future generations depends to a great extent on urgently and seriously addressing these constraints. This presents challenges to all areas related to agricultural and rural development, not least of these education and especially women's participation in higher agricultural education. Among the constraints on women farmers listed above, several are closely related to women's participation in higher agricultural education:
The World Food Summit Plan of Action recognizes, in the first of its seven commitments, the importance of the empowerment of women to the achievement of food security and the need to remove the constraints hindering them:
"We will ensure an enabling political, social, and economic environment designed to create the best conditions for the eradication of poverty and for durable peace, based on full and equal participation of women and men, which is most conducive to achieving sustainable food security for all".
Among the objectives set to meet this commitment is: "To ensure gender equality and empowerment of women". To attain this objective, governments pledged, inter alia, to:
This paper will give an overview of women's access to education, both formal and informal, at all levels, and particularly higher agricultural education. It will examine how improving women's access to agricultural education and opportunities to benefit from this access are related to taking the actions outlined in the World Food Summit Plan of Action, particularly in the areas of extension and technical services, research efforts, women's traditional knowledge and skills and access to development planning and policy-making institutions, and thus ultimately to both the achievement of food security and the empowerment of women.
It will then examine case studies on women's enrolment in agricultural studies in C™te d'Ivoire, Jordan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and the Caribbean Community, focusing on women's access to education and opportunities to use and benefit from this education, the constraints on women's educational access and employment opportunities, and recommendations on how to overcome these constraints.
Finally, it will draw some general conclusions and recommendations on improving women's access to higher agricultural education and their opportunities to use and benefit from it.