By Brenda Gourley Vice-Chancellor, The Open University
The Independent (London, England)
I HAD THE pleasure in early August of spending time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, working with a remarkable group of women who were being hosted by the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), and were determined to do something about the low participation of women in higher education in Africa. It was agreed that we form an organisation called the Association for Strengthening Higher Education for Women in Africa (ASHEWA). Founding members, including those present in Addis, are prominent female academics from countries including Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso and South Africa.
The aim of ASHEWA is to do everything possible to promote higher education for women in African countries. We believe that by increasing the number of women enrolled in higher education we can achieve not only greater gender equality and social justice, but we can also ensure that issues of high relevance to women are included in the policies, research, development, teaching curricula and outreach programmes of higher education institutions.
At present only 1.3 per cent of women in sub-Saharan Africa are able to access university education - and increasing this number will have an impact on seven of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. Many of these goals have their root solutions in basic education, the relevance and quality of which depend on input from higher education in terms of curricular content, processes, teacher education and gender consciousness. Increased female enrolment at higher education level will also help to increase knowledge and awareness of maternal health, inform the combating of disease, and work towards environmental sustainability. …