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Textbooks snub working women

JORDAN

SCHOOL textbooks are to be gradually re-written after a damning nationwide survey concluded that they portrayed women in a negative and damaging light.

The United Nations-funded project scrutinised female images in nearly 100 textbooks - a representative sample used by both primary and secondary teachers throughout the country.

The study revealed that women featured in only 12 per cent of those analysed. When women were represented they tended to be depicted as passive and emotional figures, usually in the role of housewife.

One textbook even suggested that a woman who got a job outside the home would cause the breakdown and ultimate destruction of her family.

Women in Jordan now play an active role in politics, business and commerce, but these changes have not been widely reflected in school teaching materials.

"So much of what we have to use is not suitable any more," said one teacher in Amman who asked not to be named.

"It just has no relevance to the society we live in, and it's not good for our daughters to be taught with these things."

The education ministry has responded with assurances that it is planning to replae many of the textbooks.

Education director Mahmoud Massad conceded that "there are certain issues that need improvement", adding that the representation of women needed to "reflect their field of work and their participation in the different social aspects".

But according to Firyal Salman, of the United Nations Development Fund for Women in Jordan, amending textbooks alone will not be enough.

"We have to concentrate on educating the people who write and use the textbooks, so that they bring positive images of women and girls into the classroom."

For her, these changes cannot come soon enough as she is determined that her two school-age daughters will be brought up as equals with their brother - "not in the way I was raised".

But she has been encouraged by the discovery of a working mother in one of her daughter's school books.

Jordan remains a largely conservative society and, according to Jordanian journalist Rami Khouri, any change is likely to be gradual.

"Jordan still has pretty traditional perceptions of the role of women. This is changing with education and interaction with other cultures, but it is a slow process."

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