Lebanon to integrate 'gender perspective' into education curriculum

Move seen as major step forward in country and region marred by inequality

By JULIA ALTMANN/THE MEDIA LINE
July 14, 2019 23:02
2 minute read.
Lebanon to integrate 'gender perspective' into education curriculum

A woman supporter of Hezbollah casts her vote at a polling station during the parliamentary election in Tibnin, South Lebanon, May 6, 2018. . (photo credit: REUTERS/AZIZ TAHER)

Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and its Center for Educational Research and Development (CRDB) recently signed a partnership agreement with the Lebanese NGO ABAAD - Resource Centre for Gender Equality to integrate gender perspective into the country’s public-school curriculum.

The CRDB is responsible for developing curricula, extracurricular activities and teacher training in addition to evaluating and improving school equipment. Since its establishment in 2011, ABAAD has advocated for reforms in the educational system and curricula to address issues such as gender-based violence (GBV) and gender equality.

The agreement will launch a gender awareness program, as well as introduce sex education into the curriculum, topics that are nearly non-existent in the country. These initiatives aim to increase staff and student sensitivity to the issue of gender equality and introduce modern techniques and equipment, such as communication devices, into classrooms to reinforce this goal.

Raghida Ghamloush, a program manager at ABAAD, told The Media Line that textbooks currently used in Lebanese public schools reinforce gender inequality.

“Many textbooks substantiate a stereotypical image of both men and women and their relevant social roles,” she said.

She added that one of the aims of the new pact was to implement reforms to change the stereotypical images utilized by educational institutes.

Gender inequality in Lebanon is particularly stark although the country is a signatory to international agreements aimed at countering it.

According to the 2018 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Lebanon ranks 140 out of the 149 countries listed. Saudi Arabia (141), Iran (142), Syria (146), Iraq (147) and Yemen (149) are the only other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that are ranked lower.

“Lebanon tends to not fare well on global indices measuring gender issues, and this also adds political pressure,” Lina Abirafeh, executive director of the Lebanon-based Arab Institute for Women (AIW), told The Media Line.

In reference to Lebanon’s rank in the 2018 WEF report, Abirafeh emphasized a lack of awareness of the issue in the Lebanese community.

“Too many people in the country don’t recognize this to be true – so we have a lack of awareness overall of what inequalities exist – in the law, in politics, in education, and so on,” she said.

Notable laws in Lebanon that reinforce such uneven scales include the lack of a minimum age for marriage in the country’s civil law; the Lebanese Nationality Law, which deprives women of their right to transfer their nationality to their children; and the lack of criminalization of marital rape.

Given Lebanon’s poor standing as well as that of its regional neighbors, Ghamloush emphasized the importance of implementing such a program in the education system.

“It is quite necessary to have… a critical look on human rights-related issues taught in national and local curricula,” she said.

Classes will cover topics such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as general women’s rights. Additionally, seminars with students’ family members will address issues such as child protection, positive parenting and cybersecurity.

The CRDB and ABAAD will be working to roll out the new educational plan to all public schools in the next six months.

“Results won’t be immediate,” said Abirafeh, “but over the long-term, gender- discriminatory messages will be phased out, forgotten and, hopefully, a thing of the past.”


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