A Professor at the University of Chester has been working on the international stage to raise the profile of girls’ and women’s education.
Professor Cynthia Burek, professor of geoconservation and director of the British Federation of Women Graduates, has returned from an international conference in South Africa, which aimed to empower women and girls through lifelong, quality education and training up to the highest levels.
Under the collective banner of education, gender and human rights, the Graduate Women’s International (GWI) conference takes place every three years, exploring issues affecting women and education.
Representatives from United Nations agencies, The Brookings Institution (a non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington, DC), global and South African-based academics, and a range of independent experts presented on innovation and best practices in providing lifelong, quality education for girls and women.
As advocates for women’s empowerment, a major focus this year was on women’s participation in science and technology and ways to encourage their participation in the sectors’ work forces.
The 2016 conference took place in Cape Town. Keynote speakers included the South African Deputy Minister of Basic Education; rights activist and academic Professor Jonathan Jansen; and Saniye Gülser Corat, the Director of the Division for Gender Equality in the Office of the Director-General at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Offering the opportunity for participants to share approaches to support greater female participation in education and also at management level, it had four strands:
- Managing complexity in education (social, cultural, economic, environmental)
- New technologies and their impact on secondary, tertiary and continuing education (eg home education, distance education, MOOCS – Massive Open Online Courses, etc.)
- Education and human rights (from teenager throughout the life span)
- The effects of violence on access to education for girls and women.
Professor Cynthia Burek was also voted chair of the International Fellowships Committee and presented a joint paper with University of Chester PhD student Zainab Hussaini from Afghanistan, which explored barriers to female higher education in her home country.
The presentation covered the relationship between female higher education and political background in Afghanistan.
Professor Burek said: “This international conference was a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of female postgraduate students in war zone countries and how politics as well as religion can determine a girl’s future.
“It was also great to see first-hand what a country like South Africa can achieve in 22 years after apartheid discrimination was abolished. They are all so friendly and cheerful. It must be the pleasant climate.”