With many indicators pointing towards vulnerabilities of women and girls in Pakistan, still there are some solid evidences that depict changing times and a bright future for them.
One such indicator is the increasing number of women in the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country. According to statistics collected from HEIs, the number of women in universities has risen from 196,000 in 2004-05 to 391,000 in 2009-10. The total number of students in HEIs was 869,000 in 2009-2010.
Though the total female enrolment rate of 36.89 per cent is still comparatively less than that of men which is 63.11 per cent, the overall increase in women in HEIs shows that the number of empowered women is going up who, if provided with opportunities and environment, could ultimately reverse other negative indicators.
The establishment of women universities is considered to be one of the major reasons for increase in the number of female students in HEIs. At this stage, Pakistan has seven women universities including Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University, Quetta; Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore; Lahore College for Women University, Lahore; Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi; Frontier Women University, Peshawar; Jinnah Women University, Karachi, and Women University, Multan.
The statistics for 2010-11 show that there are some universities where the number of girls exceeds those of boys as in the University of Karachi where 14,785 women students are enrolled as compared to 12,419 men.
In the University of Gujrat, established in 2004, girls constitute 72 per cent of the total student population where as 60 per cent of the faculty is also female. There are 5291 girls who study in this university as compared to 4378 boys. Many female students of neighbouring cities such as Jehlum and Sialkot are also enrolled in this university.
Talking to ‘The News’, one girl student from the University of Gujrat said that it was the provision of transport and hostel that had encouraged many girls to join the institution. “I think the environment of universities has also become more conducive for girls,” she said.
There are many universities where the number of girls is almost equal to that of boys. At the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, the number of girls is 2,565 as compared to 2,926 boys while at the International Islamic University there are 9,430 girls and 10,226 boys.
Having equal number of boys and girls in the universities of big cities is not strange but almost equal ratio of male and female at the University of Sargodha is something that really indicates change. The number of girls enrolled with this university is 7,208 as compared to 7,557 boys.