Reducing the gap

September 11, 2022

Girls must be educated to ensure their independence

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ccording to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) Survey 2018- 19, the literacy rate of the population (10 years and above) is 60 per cent. However, less than 47 per cent of women are literate and more than 69 per cent of men.

The education of women is pivotal to a society’s growth. Not providing them with the right opportunities risks leaving half the population ignorant. Education not only teaches one facts and skills, but also builds a vision of how to live and move in a society. It incorporates manners, etiquette, core values and character building. An increase in the level of women’s education improves the health outcomes of children and results in better home and institutional schooling.

According to Article-37 of the constitution, education is the fundamental right of every citizen. However, but gender discrepancies still exist in the education sectors. Social roles are often defined in ways implying that girls will perform the household chores. Since these chores require a different kind of skill development, they are assigned lesser shares in terms of allocations for health, education and food. Investment in boys, on the other hand, is viewed as a safer bet to secure old age comforts. Many believe that they should be financially independent and strong so that they can take care of their families and parents.

The practice of early marriage seems to be another barrier to female education. Once married, the girls are charged with household responsibilities. They care for their husbands, children and in-laws and are not provided moral and physical support to pursue further education.

In many communities the movement of girls is restricted. Boys, on the other hand are encouraged to be assertive. Girls are often not allowed to pursue education if schools are far from their homes.

One thing is certain; women are more aware of their situation than ever before. More women now seek their own firm footing, financial independence and freedoms.

Financial constraints, including the burden of arranging a dowry, are a significant hurdle to girls’ education. Government schools charge little, but the cost of school bags, stationery, books and transport still makes it burdensome for those who earning the minimum legal wage or less.

The violence against women is another limiting factor and the reason why parents are afraid to send their daughters to live in hostels.

In recent decades, it has been observed that a significant number of girls are enrolling in higher education institutes despite cultural barriers, outnumbering boys in many places. One thing is certain; women are more aware of their situation than ever. More women now seek their own firm footing, financial independence and freedoms than ever before. Many attend universities in big cities and go abroad for higher education if finances permit. The current generation is breaking many barriers to the progress of men and women. Increasingly, married people are seen pursuing education while shouldering the burden of bearing and raising children.

The families that ensure that their girls can study and work at professional levels must be encouraged. We regularly see women excelling in teaching, in medicine, sports, art and literature. We also have women serving in the armed forces.

Many women are natural multi-taskers with an uncanny ability to be kind and assertive at the same time. Given the opportunity, they can be productive members of an efficient society.

As a practicing doctor, I have had the support of my family and in-laws. The life of healthcare professionals is full of overwhelming challenges – long duty hours and a significant study load are not easy to tackle. However, when support and encouragement are forthcoming Pakistani women can become excellent professionals.

The culture of supporting women’s decision to pursue education at higher levels needs to be promoted.

The writer is a senior registrar in family medicine at Baqai Medical University

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