PCF5:Female literacy, education and empowerment

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Title of session

Female literacy, education and empowerment: risks and potential of ODL

Session details

  • Date: 14 July 2008
  • Time: 14.00
  • Room: 642

Session papers

  • Jyostna Jha; Alex Wright, Female literacy, education and empowerment: risks and potential of ODL (793)
  • Dr.Irshad Hussain , Distance education as a strategy for eliminating gender disparity in Pakistan (609)
  • Mrs. Rokosiga Morrison, Improving the livelihoods of women in rural areas through distance education (255)
  • Elaine Unterhalter,Institute of Education, University of London (Discussant/Response)

Key Issues that arose in the session

  • Does ODL offer comparable prospects for empowerment as traditional delivery methods?
  • Under what conditions can ODL technologies enable individuals/groups to engage in social practices that may foster empowerment: common constraints /enabling conditions (risks/potential)
  • How does ODL recast the relationship between teacher/facilitators and learner/participants . Role of content and facilitator/teacher

Points for future action (Policy, recommendations, commitments etc.)

  • The large challenge of huge numbers of women without education is significant .It needs to come out as a ~head-on~ issue ( more than a sub-topic of a sub-theme). It needs to be mainstreamed as a topic of discussion and attention more.
  • Moving from looking at ODL as a solution to a first order problem –the challenge of access , serious attention needs to be focused on the second order challenges-that are a lot more complex; that need to be addresses in realising the transformative potential of ODL .
  • Access does not automatically equal empowerment. Beyond access, gender issues remain the same to a large extent in both conventional and ODL forms of education. Key elements of empowerment would be the role of teacher/facilitator, the nature of materials /content; the nature of technology and the transaction itself- which can all equally reinforce, rather than interrogate stereo typical/ascribed gender roles. The fact that (i) ODL is increasingly dependent on technology and the access to technology itself is sharply divided and biased against women, and also that (ii) the physical environment of peer-group interaction which provides a form of alternative socialisation in the formal educational institutions is either absent or limited in ODL, pup up additional challenges for ODL in terms of making the delivery gender responsive and transformative.

Unless these are seriously examined , understood interrogated and addressed , ODL poses as much of a risk as a potential enabler to women’s empowerment.