International Women's Day 2018: Transforming women’s lives through TVET

UNESCO-UNEVOC will join the world on 8 March to celebrate International Women’s Day. Every year the day puts the spotlight on issues related to gender equality and empowerment. This year UNESCO-UNEVOC reaffirms its advocacy to empower women through TVET, highlighting the role and importance of change-agents pushing for greater inclusion of women in TVET.

The global narrative on gender equality, as manifested in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also places significant importance on ensuring equal opportunities for women in education, society and the world of work. As the UN focuses on the role of rural and urban activists campaigning for women empowerment globally, UNESCO-UNEVOC follows the stride in promoting the role of active change agents that continue to push for equal access for all to quality education, skills acquisition and TVET. Their committed actions and continued advocacy are essential to promoting women’s access and opportunities to pursue all educational, training and professional prospects – with no prejudice to their gender.

Empowering women through TVET

© UNESCO-UNEVOC/Eyitayo Oyelowo

Productive participation in the dynamic labour markets of today is a potent source of female empowerment, and remains a function of education and relevant skills training. With its strong links to employers and the labour market, TVET is ideally placed to address these challenges. Promoting female labour force participation, a key determinant of which is the promotion of equal education, skilling and training opportunities, is not just a case for enhancing social equity but also economic viability. According to the International Labour Organization’s estimates in 2017, reducing the gap in the labour force participation rates between men and women by 25% has the potential to add over US$ 5.8 trillion dollars to the global economy. This increase in the size of the global economy also signals new employment opportunities and productive economic activities the world over.

The potential of empowerment through TVET deserves attention in both developed and developing regions of the world. According to a background paper for UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report 2016, titled Gender Equality and Education in the context of TVETTVET can play an important role in helping women get skilled, educated and transition into the labour market. It is particularly more pronounced in its impact in contexts where women are excluded, for a myriad of social or structural reasons, from pursuing formal education at the secondary or higher levels, TVET can offer a ‘second chance’. According to the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8, the female enrollment from the 14-25 year old cohort, accounts for only 43% of secondary level TVET enrolment in 2015. While this still insinuates a degree of progress in terms of their access to TVET and skill development programmes, it is still short of the parity level, which is further reinforced in the labour markets.

In the majority of developing countries, women are much less likely than men to enroll in TVET; women are particularly under-represented in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Both the lack of access to TVET, and the segregated nature of courses chosen, reinforces gendered segregation of occupations in the economy. This is not something that is limited to TVET alone, and is manifested all educational and training programmes. As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, despite somewhat comparable level of educational attainment, the disciplines pursued by men and women are stringently different. The main post-secondary specialization where women continue to remain under-represented is among science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates; 6% of women study engineering, construction and manufacturing, compared with 19% of men, while 3% of women study information, communication and technology, compared with 6.5% of men (WEF). It is also identified as a key emerging gender parity issue given the primacy of the STEM skills in the emerging world of work as the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses.

Operating at the intersection of the education and labour market, TVET can counter this by ensuring equal access to quality education, skills acquisition, and technical training, particularly in those occupations that are traditionally held by men.

TVET, through its responsiveness to current and future skill needs of the industry, also has a critical role to play in promoting entrepreneurial and innovative skills for self-employment. Integrating entrepreneurial segments in TVET and skills training for women also contributes to their personal development, livelihood diversification and empowers them to become active citizens.

UNESCO’s work towards ensuring gender equality in education

Gender equality is a global priority for UNESCO and to this end undertakes a number of key initiatives in the area of education. Promoting equity and gender equality in TVET is one of the three priority areas of UNESCO’s Strategy for TVET (2016-2021). UNESCO and UNESCO-UNEVOC supports Member States to shed light on issues related to gender inequality and identify effective policies to tackle them in order to ensure that all girls and boys, women and men, have equal opportunities to learn, develop and enhance their knowledge.

Please visit here to learn more about UNESCO’s initiatives for women’s and girl’s education.

Become active

We invite you to join us in our advocacy for a more inclusive TVET eco-system that enhances opportunities of females in the changing world of work and TVET. Please follow our social media campaign on Twitter, Facebook and the TVET Forum and help raise a call for action on an issue critical to our future.

More information

1. For more information on gender related issues in education, please read the Gender Reviews from previous UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Reports.

2. Launch of the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8 Gender Review

page date 2018-05-10

Back to top