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Tess Murphy, Director of Longford Women's Link, a QAF as well as FETAC Quality Assured education and training centre for women and one of the groups involved in the QAF process, explains:'Women's Community Education is an approach to adult education based on the recognition that women have unequal access to choices, to resources and to influence. Women's Community Education challenges these inequalities. It is a community-led approach to education that seeks to achieve social as well as individual change, and that is where it really differs from mainstream education. The Minister Sean Haughey TD confirmed that Women's Community Education is a key contributor to social justice and gender equality.'
She continues: 'This Framework provides a standard, a national benchmark by which women's groups such as ourselves can quality assure our work, and check that we really are keeping to the vision, principles and practices of Women's Community Education. The Framework offers a step-by-step guide in carrying out this challenging self-evaluation.'
Presenting certificates to each group, Minister Haughey commended the work of Women's Community Education groups and encouraged them to persevere. 'Through their outreach work and the creation of enabling learning environments, these groups encourage and support the participation of women in learning at a wide range of levels. Through education at local and community level, it is possible to achieve real, positive change - change that will benefit and advance our economy, our society and most importantly, our people.' However, Bernie Brady cautioned, 'We are now hearing many comparisons with the situation in the 1980's. During that time the adult and community education sector experienced huge cutbacks in funding and we are still picking up the pieces.'
AONTAS Director, Ms Brady, urged the Minister not to react to the economic downturn by cutting funding to the community education sector. 'I would encourage the Government to keep up the momentum. It is by investing in inititiatives such as the Women's Community Education Quality Assurance Framework now, that we will build our future' she concluded.
Tess Murphy agrees whole-heartedly. 'If years of hard work in community development by women's groups all over Ireland is not to be undone, then sustained support for this vulnerable sector is essential.'