Educating girls and women is one of the most leveraged investments there is. Not only does it bring a range of benefits to the individual girls and women—such as, self-confidence, ability to make informed decisions, critical analysis of propaganda. Educating girls and women improves the health status of children and the economic development of their communities. Every 1 percent increase in women’s education generates a .3 percent increase in economic growth. Leading economists believe that female education may “be the highest return on investment available in developing countries today.” For every extra year of education beyond the average level, a woman’s wages rise by 13-18%. The UN tells us, that for every year a woman is educated; the chance of infant mortality reduces by 5-10%. Children of educated mothers study for two hours longer each night, than those of non-educated women. Society may be slow to change, but educating girls is certainly the catalyst to begin it.
The biggest barrier to a girl’s education in Pakistan is her lack of access to it. Cultural limitations prevent parents sending their daughters to mixed gender schools restricting access to single sex ‘safe-houses.’ Across the nation, education is built to demand rather than supply, meaning that boy’s schools often out number girl’s, especially in rural areas. For the average girl, school is either too far, too expensive or not safe enough for her parents to allow her to attend – even if she wanted to go. Distance is particularly a problem where parents often fear rape and abduction.
Increased age, brings increased responsibilities around the home, and with the onset of puberty comes “purdah” and early marriage. With school so far away it becomes difficult for parents to allow their daughter to travel far and even if they are, many dropout early to work at home or get married. In a dogmatic society like rural Pakistan, a girl’s value is seen several paces behind a man, and not beside him. Change will not come with education, but it will begin with it and for that to happen, the Government has to stop dawdling and start acting.
Man is composed of two basic elements i.e nature and nurture. In upbringing process, parents have a major participation in which mother offers an ample share. Thus an educated mother will lay the foundation of healthy civilized family. The constitution of Pakistan provides full participation of women in all spheres of life constituting more than 50% of the total population, but the literacy rate in females is just 36% as compared to men that is 64%. The ratio of primary schools for girls and boys is 4 and 10 respectively. Such attitude of discrimination is not new in the educational system of Pakistan. Pakistan inherited it from the history. After 1857 when Sir Syed came on the surface with the slogan of educational improvement of the Muslims, women were ignored.
The social setup is a male dominated one. Girls cannot move freely thus any male of the family has to take responsibility of her care. This sometimes seems difficult to them. There is also a sharp division between female oriented work and male oriented work. Females are not allowed to work in all spheres of life therefore their education is not considered valuable.
As for religion, people are of the view that Islam does not permit women or girls to step beyond the limits of house. Modern education can make her a party girl instead of making her a house wife. That’s why Taliban are blasting and attacking the girl’s schools in Swat and Northern areas of Pakistan. However, the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) strongly emphasized on education by saying that,“It is the prime duty of men and women to acquire education”.
Education of girls and women in the north is markedly lower than in other areas. The current humanitarian crisis and displacement could provide a window of opportunity for girls and women, many of whom have never before had access to education, to learn critical skills.Despite the dire humanitarian needs of the displaced and host communities in Northern Pakistan, there are real opportunities to improve their long-term socioeconomic status by finding innovative ways to educate girls and women.
The education system has been profoundly affected by the Taliban crisis in northern areas; educational infrastructure has been destroyed, approximately 280 schools—70 percent of which were girls schools—were destroyed in Swat alone. Fleeing their homes and communities has meant that over 560,000 displaced children and young people are in need of education. Indeed, the vast majority of displaced girls are not accessing education at all.
Within an often hostile environment of shaky politics and entrenched tradition, we as individuals should focus on promoting quality education through enhanced teacher training and child friendly schools. We should fight to ensure equal rights for every child in the face of an extremely traditional population. Build schools and support hundreds of organisations across Pakistan to focus educational support in rural and urban communities dominated by illiteracy and subsequent poverty.While these strategies are all important, there is a special need to focus concerted efforts on reaching girls and young women.
To support long-term socioeconomic development, we should all be thinking now about what innovative education approaches for girls and women can be tried and tested in this crisis and then incorporated into educational reconstruction for creating a better future. Last but not the least, no society can progress by restricting more than half of its population in the abyss of ignorance and a maze of undue limits.
What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing!!