Indigenous education boosts women’s health and education prospects – UN
A supportive policy environment as well as political commitment is needed to ensure quality indigenous education both as a right in itself and as a means to improve the economic and health prospects of women, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been told.
Several recent studies show that one extra year beyond primary school boosts economic possibilities for women by 10 per cent, leads to greater literacy and lower fertility, reduces child mortality and fosters democratic citizenship, Linda King, Interim Chief of the Section on Education for Peace and Human Rights in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), told the Forum.
Some 1,500 people from 500 groups are meeting over the next two weeks in the Forum’s third session at UN Headquarters in New York to focus attention on indigenous women and girls, whose well-being is critical to the survival and prosperity of their peoples' unique culture in this age of globalization.
In her address yesterday, Ms. King noted that increased literacy among women had a greater effect on child mortality rates than increased literacy among males. Other research shows a link between the expansion of education and increased economic activity, she added. Also, children who went to school were more likely to protect themselves against diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
Among requirements she listed for quality education were both formal and non-formal teaching methods at home and in the community, indigenous knowledge in educational curricula and innovative solutions for portraying indigenous knowledge systems as equal to Western systems.
Other needs include culture-based curricula appropriate to the community, curricula promoting positive aspects of indigenous cultures, and the use of indigenous languages. In addition, teachers should be familiar with indigenous cultures and languages, and use responsive and experiential teaching methods.
Opening the Forum on Tuesday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said despite a dramatic shift in global attitudes, indigenous peoples still suffered disproportionately from extreme poverty and faced serious barriers to health care and basic education. The Forum advises and makes recommendations to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on social development, economic, cultural, human rights, environmental, education and health issues.