The sorry state of female education is a key factor behind the discriminatory attitude towards women in the province, the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women (SCSW) highlighted in its annual report issued recently.
“We believe that gender-based violence is exacerbated by low literacy rate,” read the report, suggesting that education will enable women to stand for their health, economic and political rights.
The SCSW has linked illiteracy with early child marriage and malnutrition. However, the organisation vowed to take up these issues on an emergency basis with the officials concerned to improve the situation.
“Educational reforms and implementation is an important goal. For achieving it the commission will conduct researches, maintain databases and lobby for appropriate allocation of government resources,” they said.
According to the report, 24 per cent of Sindh’s children aged between six and 16 are out of school, while around 55 per cent of the grade-five students cannot read the grade-two Urdu textbook.
Likewise, the state of female education is even more abysmal. With a literacy rate of 24 per cent among Sindh’s rural women, the rural female literacy rate is less than 20 per cent in 15 districts of the province.
The schooling system of Sindh comprises 48,932 schools, of which 47,000 are primary, middle and elementary schools, giving the province one of the densest public schooling systems in the region, with almost two schools for every 1,000 people in rural Sindh.
However, the functional schooling capacity is low, with less than 15 per cent of these schools having at least two teachers and access to basic facilities such as toilets, potable water, electricity and boundary walls.
Similarly, 52 per cent of the public schools and 40 per cent of the private primary schools in the rural areas of the province do not have functional toilets, while 41 per cent of the state-run schools and 33 per cent of the private schools are functioning without boundary walls, lacking any safety arrangements.
The SCSW highlighted in its report that research shows the lack of toilets and the distance from home as major deterrents in female education and the retention rate in government schools.
In this context, the commission will work with the education department to facilitate the implementation of the existing system of education. The organisation will report on budget allocation and the use of that budget by public schools and government bodies responsible for improving education in the province.
For raising the female literacy rate, the SCSW has recommended that the government hire qualified female teachers in the underdeveloped areas and provide them residential facilities.
The budget allocation is narrowly targeted at female education, so there is a need to increase the budget for female education in the remote areas. The commission suggested that starting adult literacy centres is also a dire requirement, while close monitoring of the use of funds is much needed.
The most significant point is that it is very important to emphasise opportunities for female education in schools, mechanisms need to be put in place to privilege the 80 per cent illiterate rural female population over the age of 10.
Besides the poor state of female education, the SCSW mentioned that women in the rural areas neglect their health, while patriarchal oppression exacerbates the problems. The statistics clearly stress the need to engage with midwives and other traditional assistants to birth-giving on an urgent basis.
“It is our contention that gender-based violence will also decrease if women become strong in and of themselves. It will improve their lifestyle and will also enable them to make better decisions for themselves and stand up to violence,” read the report.
It stated that economic improvement of women is a key issue that causes gender discrimination. “Poverty is debilitating the province of Sindh. In this regard, female poverty and economic dependence has sustained many other social ills, such as gender-based violence.”
The commission said that economically dependent women are forced to tolerate physical and mental abuse at the hands of their breadwinning men. However, the organisation is committed to working in collaboration with government and non-government initiatives to provide back-end research, solution-oriented guidance, support and advice to females.
The SCSW also said the political visibility of women is more important for eliminating gender-based discrimination and violence. The organisation is looking forward to seeking a solution and keeping in touch with women’s wings of different political parties to monitor and ensure implementation of five per cent tickets for women in elections.
The commission has reported that there are many issues that create hindrances in empowering women. These problems include different types of violence against women, including honour killing, out-of reach health and reproductive rights, lack of access to quality education and economic dependency.
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