Women and ed­u­ca­tion

Enterprise - - Editor’s desk -

The Pak­istani woman is an ar­ti­san and a trades­per­son; she’s an econ­o­mist and a doc­tor; she is also a fish­er­women and a craftsper­son; she’s a men­tor and a nur­turer; a par­lia­men­tar­ian and a cul­ti­va­tor. She’s brim­ming with life and ca­pa­bil­ity; but she awaits what justly be­longs to her: the right to a su­pe­rior life.

Fol­low­ing the in­ter­na­tional women’s day on March 8, much has been said about the role of women in so­ci­ety and why it is im­por­tant to work to­wards their em­pow­er­ment and so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Pak­istan has had its share of public seminars on women rights, some of them fea­tur­ing the best of rhetoric. There are al­ways calls for greater par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in public af­fairs and promisea to guard them against rape, hon­our killing and moral in­se­cu­rity. How far th­ese are prac­ticed ai an­other ques­tion.

The im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion for women is hardly over­stated: women raise chil­dren, and ed­u­cated women raise na­tions with im­proved hu­man cap­i­tal, high eco­nomic growth and en­hanced pro­duc­tiv­ity. Dis­em­pow­er­ment of women due to in­ad­e­quate health, lack of ed­u­ca­tion and in­se­cure en­vi­ron­ments com­pro­mises the value of their life, and sti­fles their so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment.

Pak­istan has the third high­est num­ber of out-of-school fe­male stu­dents in the world: 55 per­cent of outof-school chil­dren in Pak­istan are girls

How­ever, it should come as no sur­prise that Pak­istan is listed as one of the coun­tries that have large gen­der gaps in ed­u­ca­tion, and there­fore re­quires hefty in­vest­ments in girls’ ed­u­ca­tion for a so­cioe­co­nomic up­lift. A brief look at statis­tics helps us gauge the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenge fac­ing the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. Two ar­eas have a con­sis­tent poor per­for­mance: ru­ral ar­eas and women seg­ments.

Na­tional data point to daunt­ing gen­der dis­crep­an­cies in the coun­try. Many gaps in ed­u­ca­tion de­liv­ery fac­tor into the gen­der divide, but the fact re­mains: the adult lit­er­acy rate is highly skewed to­wards males (only 45 per­cent fe­males are lit­er­ate com­pared to a male adult lit­er­acy rate of 69 per­cent). Tar­gets un­der Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goal 2 (MDG2) in­cluded an over­all lit­er­acy rate of 88 per­cent and 100 per­cent enrolment in pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion, along with elim­i­na­tion of gen­der in­equal­ity in pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion by 2015. The sit­u­a­tion in 2015, how­ever, is quite the con­trary. More girls than boys in Pak­istan have been de­prived of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion since decades. Pak­istan has the third high­est num­ber of out-of-school fe­male stu­dents in the world: 55 per­cent of out-of-school chil­dren in Pak­istan are girls, while cur­rent fe­male net enrolment rate at pri­mary level is 64 per­cent com­pared with 72 per­cent for male coun­ter­parts. More­over, the per­cent­age of male pop­u­la­tion that has at­tended school is higher than that of fe­males.

By 2030, the new Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals list free and eq­ui­table pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion for all girls and boys as one of the fore­most ob­jec­tives. Are we ready to part of this agenda? To elim­i­nate gen­der dis­par­i­ties for good and en­sure equal lean­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for girls and boys? No one knows.

The fact that we are a coun­try with the high­est num­ber of ter­ror­ist at­tacks on ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions is the first in­ti­ma­tion of trou­ble. There have been 724 at­tacks since 1970 and most of them were in­tended to dis­rupt girls’ ed­u­ca­tion. Pak­istan is bereft of a grace­ful men­tion in world rank­ings:

The Global Gen­der Gap Re­port 2014, pub­lished by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum, ranks Pak­istan 141st out of 142 coun­tries in terms of the gap be­tween men and women in four key ar­eas: eco­nomic par­tic­i­pa­tion, ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, health and po­lit­i­cal em­pow­er­ment. In its pre­vi­ous re­port, Pak­istan was ranked 135th out of 136 coun­tries, leav­ing only Ye­men be­hind in gen­der dis­par­ity.

UNDP’s Gen­der In­equal­ity In­dex for Pak­istan is 0.5, which ranks it 127th out of 187 coun­tries. Only 19 per­cent of fe­males in Pak­istan above the age of 25 have reached (but not nec­es­sar­ily com­pleted) sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion

For ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, the coun­try is placed 132nd in the ed­u­ca­tion gen­der gap, the poor­est in the re­gion. By con­trast, South Asian coun­tries have per­formed bet­ter: Sri Lanka 59th, Bangladesh 111th, Nepal 122nd and In­dia 126th.

Am­bi­tious na­tional ed­u­ca­tion ob­jec­tives are listed down each year but the real need of the hour is strong po­lit­i­cal will and a co­he­sive na­tional plan for ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion and eval­u­a­tion of poli­cies. Ev­i­dence shows that both de­mand and sup­ply side gaps ex­ist in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. And while our so­cial pref­er­ences about girls’ ed­u­ca­tion will take some time to mend, na­tional ini­tia­tives should be made ex­haus­tive.

Enrolment drives must en­sure equal ad­mis­sion of girls and boys, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas. In some ar­eas voucher schemes, cash trans­fer and stipend pro­grammes for school­girls in var­i­ous ar­eas have proven to in­crease enrolment (such as the Girls Stipend Pro­gramme run by the el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa). How­ever, their im­pact is limited, and more funds and re­sources need to be de­voted to ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties in or­der to en­sure gen­der par­ity.

Let’s bring our flow­ery speeches to life and hold up our res­o­lu­tion to com­bat one of the big­gest di­men­sions of in­equal­ity fac­ing us to­day.rassed or put to un­nec­es­sary in­con­ve­nience.

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