UNESCO int’l conference at UST focuses on social transformation, empowerment

The University of Santo Tomas, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation based in the University of East Anglia (UEA), United Kingdom, held the first International conference on Gender, Adult Literacy, and Active Citizenship for Social Transformation (GALACST) from November 20 to 22, 2019, at the UST Paredes Building.

With the theme “Literacies, Gender Equality, and Active Citizenship as Pathways to Empowerment and Social Transformation,” the conference aimed to engage participants in exploring how literacies, gender equality, and global citizenship can play key roles in the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The UST Faculty of Arts and Letters and the Research Center for Social Sciences and Education spearheaded the program, while UST Graduate School Assistant Dean Prof. Camilla J. Vizconde, Ph.D., served as Conference Chair.                   

UNESCO Chairholder for Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation and UEA School of Education and Lifelong Learning Professor Anna Robinson-Pant, D. Phil, was the first keynote speaker. She concurrently serves as the British Association for International & Comparative Education President. Her talk focused on the complex relationship among Adult Literacy, Learning, and Social Transformation. Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations as her expected outcomes, she investigated alternative theoretical and methodological approaches that may bring about lifelong education beyond the confines of structures and institutions for formal education.

Conference plenary speakers include Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Deputy Director General for Policies and Planning Rosanna Urdaneta, UEA School of International Development Senior Research Associate Dr. Sheila Aikman, and Philippine Investment Management (PHINMA) Education President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Chito Salazar.

As part of the Conference, “Transformare: A Network of Gender and Adult Literacy Advocates” was launched. Transformare is an interdisciplinary network of committed academics, practitioners, advocates and policy makers who engage in promoting adult literacy, lifelong learning, and active citizenship in the Philippines. Asst. Prof. Gina Lontoc, Ph.D., faculty member and researcher at the UST RCSSED, serves as its president.

Guest speaker for the launch was Associate Academic of the UNESCO Chair for Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation Dr. Ulrike Hanemann. She discussed the different pedagogies of autonomy, hope, diversity, tenderness of the heart, democracy, indignation, and the unfinished.

On the third day of the conference, Vice President of the Philippines Her Excellency Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo served as keynote speaker. A human rights lawyer, she has previously lawyered for battered wives in the grassroots and championed the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill (House Bill 3432) in the 16th Congress, which aimed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, sex, gender, language, disability, and other factors.

    Sharing her rich experiences of working to empower rural women, the Vice President explained four principles underlying the ongoing efforts of her Office for empowering women entrepreneurs. 

“To close the gender gap, at least four things should happen: make it safe and fair for women to do trade related businesses, second, bring more women in to the work force and achieve gender parity in the workplace, third make space for women-led enterprises, and fourth, facilitate equal access to technology,” said VP Robredo, adding that “Real empowerment comes not only from economic empowerment but also the confidence and self- esteem developed through this.”

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