Need For Gender Mainstreaming In Online Higher Education In India

Arjun Philip George

24 May 2024 10:36 AM GMT

  • Need For Gender Mainstreaming In Online Higher Education In India

    Gender mainstreaming is a strategic approach that seeks to promote gender equality by including a gender viewpoint into every step of policy development, planning, and execution. This approach guarantees that the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programmes in all sectors take into account the views and experiences of both women and men. The primary...

    Gender mainstreaming is a strategic approach that seeks to promote gender equality by including a gender viewpoint into every step of policy development, planning, and execution. This approach guarantees that the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programmes in all sectors take into account the views and experiences of both women and men. The primary objective is to advance egalitarianism and counteract prejudice. Gender mainstreaming considers the distinct demands and circumstances of both women and men, resulting in the development of more comprehensive and efficient policies that yield advantages for all individuals. By tackling gender inequities and advocating for equal opportunities, society can strive towards a more just and equitable world.

    International and National Perspective

    Gender mainstreaming is a notable global strategy for achieving gender equality, primarily led by initiatives from the United Nations (UN) and the European Union. The concept of gender mainstreaming is internationally recognised. The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing created gender mainstreaming as a worldwide approach for advancing gender equality. The Beijing Platform for Action advocated for the incorporation of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes. The statement highlighted the significance of tackling structural discrimination and inequality, while acknowledging the necessity of women's complete involvement in decision-making procedures. Gender equality is a distinct objective (Goal 5) in the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it highlights the significance of integrating gender perspectives into all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, the Treaty of Amsterdam included gender mainstreaming into the legal structure of the European Union (EU), requiring that all EU policies and activities actively work towards eradicating inequalities and advancing gender equality.

    Gender mainstreaming in India entails the incorporation of a gender perspective into all stages of policy-making, planning, and implementation in order to advance gender equality. India has implemented some significant laws and measures to promote gender equality and safeguard the rights of women and other marginalised genders. Articles 14-16 of the Constitution ensure equal treatment under the law and forbid discrimination based on religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. Article 39(a) of the Constitution mandates the state to guarantee equal access for both men and women to a sufficient means of sustenance. Article 42 of the Constitution mandates the state to ensure fair and compassionate working conditions and provide assistance for maternity-related needs. Further, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao is a nationwide initiative aimed at tackling the decreasing child sex ratio and advocating for the education and empowerment of girls. The National Mission for Empowerment of Women (NMEW) is one another comprehensive initiative aimed at enhancing the social, economic, and political empowerment of women by integrating all programmes specifically designed for women.

    Relevance of Online Higher Education in India

    Gender mainstreaming connects with online higher education as online education is essential to promote gender equality and ensure that educational opportunities and resources are equitably accessible to all genders. Online higher education has gained significant importance in the modern era of technology due to its multitude of advantages for individuals, communities, and the economy. It effectively caters to the changing requirements of learners and the workforce on a global scale. One significant benefit of online higher education is its geographical accessibility, allowing persons from remote or underdeveloped locations to obtain quality education without having to move. Moreover, online higher education offers flexibility, allowing students to effectively manage their studies alongside personal and professional obligations. This makes it more convenient for women and individuals with additional responsibilities to pursue advanced education. Additionally, online higher education programmes provide reduced tuition prices compared to traditional on-campus programmes, resulting in cost savings for students. Furthermore, students can reduce expenses related to transportation, accommodation, and other related expenditures. Thus gender mainstreaming in online higher education is of atmost importance to achieve the constitutional goals of promoting gender equality and to address the issue of discrimination.

    In India, the number of women pursuing degrees beyond high school is growing at a rapid pace. The pandemic, which limited physical movement, has sped it up even more. It is observed that concerns about mobility, safety, and family duties are more likely to influence women's decisions for higher education, according to the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) Women and Online Learning in Emerging Markets Report. The IFC report includes a survey in which 22% of the women surveyed mentioned mobility as an important factor in influencing their preferences. It was observed that women prioritised safer commuting routes to college over educational quality, according to a 2017 study from Delhi conducted by economist Girija Borker. Further, the 2011 census reveals the fact that women constitute only 22% of the population who travel for work. It can thus be observed that limited access to university education for women is a result of unsafe environments, assault fears, and harmful cultural norms.

    These factors contribute to the low enrolment rates of women in higher education institutions. In addition, family duties and responsibilities often restrict women's ability to pursue higher education, as they are expected to prioritise household chores and caregiving over their own personal development. This further perpetuates the gender gap in education and reinforces traditional gender roles. Therefore, it is crucial for governments and organisations to address these barriers and create a safe and supportive environment for women to access education and enhance their opportunities for personal and professional growth. It is in this context that the increasing affordability of online education provides an opportunity to help more women to pursue degrees. Online learning removes a potential barrier to women's access to higher education, but this does not negate the need to create safer spaces where women can study.

    The Way Forward

    Gender mainstreaming in online higher education policies involves incorporating a gender viewpoint into every part of educational policy, planning, and implementation. Additionally, it can be beneficial to promote equitable access to online education for all genders, by addressing obstacles such as economical limitations, cultural conventions, and time limits. Moreover, it has the potential to enhance the capabilities of individuals, particularly women and marginalised genders, by equipping them with the knowledge and skills essential for their personal and professional development.

    Gender mainstreaming policies in online higher education can enhance the inclusivity and relevance of educational content for all genders, hence enhancing engagement and retention rates. Establishing an inclusive educational setting that caters to the unique requirements of many genders can result in improved scholastic achievement and increased rates of graduation. Moreover, the integration of gender perspectives in online higher education might facilitate the cultivation of sought-after talents in the labour market, hence enhancing individuals' prospects for securing more favourable employment prospects. Promoting women's engagement can facilitate the progression of women into positions of leadership. Gender discrepancies can be addressed by implementing gender mainstreaming, which promotes inclusivity and cultivates a culture of equality and mutual respect within communities. Women and other marginalised genders who achieve success in online education can act as influential figures, motivating and encouraging others within the community. Therefore, well-educated women have the ability to make a more impactful contribution to the economic development of their community, resulting in a general improvement of the community as a whole. Additionally, they are more inclined to make well-informed choices regarding health, education, and family planning, which has a favourable impact on community health results.

    Gender mainstreaming in education can foster a more heterogeneous and all-encompassing atmosphere, encompassing a variety of viewpoints and concepts. Increased female participation in school can enhance economic output and promote growth. Multiple studies have indicated that effectively tackling the gender gap has the potential to substantially boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is because women who are educated are more likely to enter the workforce and contribute to the economy. When women have equal access to education, they are able to pursue higher paying jobs and advance in their careers, which in turn benefits the overall economy. By investing in gender mainstreaming in online education, societies can create a more equitable and prosperous future for all. Ultimately, closing the gender gap in education is not only beneficial for individuals, but for society as a whole.

    The author is an Assistant Professor, at VIT School of Law, Chennai Campus. Views are personal.

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