Uzbekistan is set to conduct a review of school books to root out harmful gender stereotypes across 207 textbooks, spanning grades one to 11, following a UNESCO-led education reform training workshop in the country.
The workshop, which looked at the books from a gender equality perspective, found that Uzbek textbooks aim to steer female students toward careers in education and health care over science and technology, the BBC reported.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of the Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was also troubled by the lack of women choosing non-traditionally female careers in the country, citing negative gender stereotypes in textbooks and schools.
To show support for the reform, the Uzbek Review published a page from one of the primary school textbooks in question, in which male students discuss wanting to become engineers and businessmen, while female students dream of becoming clothing designers and gymnasts, according to the BBC. All of the historical figures and famous Uzbeks cited in the text are men.
Textbook illustrations also depict harmful gender stereotypes for both girls and boys, according to the BBC. Illustrations and photographs often depict girls and women doing housework and laundry, while boys are described as destructive and non-emotional.
“According to the principles of gender equality, each textbook, for example, where there are illustrations, should display both girls and boys in equal numbers,” UNESCO Gender Equality Consultant Laziz Karshiboev said during the workshop in January. “This approach gives children an understanding that our society is diverse and inclusive. In addition, there should be no stereotypical biases in the distribution of gender roles.”
The textbooks’ contents will be further analyzed and reviewed by a team of experts, who will be working alongside Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Public Education. UNESCO also accepted applications from citizens looking to work on the project, which is expected to conclude in April.
During the review, experts will analyze both male and female characters in every textbook. Characters’ relationships with each other will also be studied and taken into consideration.
The team will then work with ministry officials to produce new textbooks that promote gender equality across all professions.
“It is also important that textbooks take into account the use of gender-neutral language and avoid gender-specific words and phrases,” Karshiboev added.
While Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has previously attempted to highlight profiles of women in government positions, women remain unequal in most professions in Uzbekistan, with the exceptions of education and health care.
Women make up 11.9% of judges are in Uzbekistan and only 5% of government employees, according to the Uzbek Review.