Literacy, as defined by UNESCO, is “the ability to identify, understand, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written material”. Literacy is the result of an adequate education given to a deserving child, or respective teenager. The United Nations itself has stated that education is the key factor towards upward socio-economic growth and escaping poverty, whether it be relative or absolute.
Many first world, as well as third-world, countries have made it their top priority of imparting education to all respective socio-economic class citizens, particularly women. Yet when one investigates the figures of literacy in Pakistan; the data illustrated creates a worrisome image. In contrast to global female literacy rate data, cited at 79%, only 51% of Pakistani women are literate. (UNESCO)
In 2018 itself more shocking revelations were made regarding Pakistan’s education sector. Whilst roughly 260 million children were out of school globally in 2018, Pakistan accounts for nearly 10% of those children; with 22.8 million 5–16-year-olds absent from school, the second most in the world. Girls accounted for nearly 55% of the above ratio. (UNESCO)
In Balochistan, girl’s literacy was a harrowing 27%, the lowest in Pakistan.
The Prevalence of the Problem
At first glance at women’s literacy in Pakistan, there’s no doubt that it is in dire requirement of improvement. Despite developments in women’s education, it has proven vain, with the number of illiterate women rising. Still, with legal framework like the ‘National Educational Policy 1976’ in place, the question arises: Why is there such a poor female enrolment rate? What’s caused the huge gap between male and female literacy?
The catalyst lays mainly in areas: an androcentric society, old cultural practices, child marriages, poverty and lack of facilities.
Child marriages is a major barrier for women in Pakistan who are trying to pursue a quality education. It is a rampant practice in rural set-ups, but also a consequence of outdated practices.
Weekly, many young girls fall prey to child marriage, forcing them to give up not only their dreams but their chance at building a career.
Moreover, once such young girls grow up their illiteracy bars them from having knowledge of Islamic rights and human rights granted to them. Therefore, when they have daughters of their own, their limited knowledge and lack of literacy means they will be unable to defend their daughters against such domestic violations. Thus, continuing the cycle of female illiteracy.
Why must Girls be Educated?
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was once quoted saying, “No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you”. This statement plainly depicts how Pakistan has strayed away from the foundations it was built upon. We as a nation must acknowledge the significance of Quaid’s words. We must accept with fervour and passion the significance that girl’s education yields.
The bridge between eliminating poverty and having a well-developed, powerful Pakistan is through educating girls. Articulate women will bear knowledge of individuality, equality and therefore cannot be easily exploited or repressed. Also, by educating girls, heinous crimes such as domestic abuse, harassment and molestation would fall as educated women would raise their sons to be better men.
Otherwise, educating girls should be a must for Pakistan for it will bring many economic benefits. Literate women will be able to work in the tertiary sector, fetching more income. It’s projected that GDP would grow by 0.3% if all Pakistani women received secondary education. (PAGE) This would improve Pakistan’s image not only regionally, but internationally. Finally, by teaching girls, only in a span of a few generations would Pakistan be able to flourish as a society and economically as well.
All the above can only be made possible with the co-operation of the Pakistani government, Pakistani institutions and Pakistani citizens itself. To promote girl’s literacy, school’s infrastructure across Pakistan, especially in rural regions, should drastically be improved. Within such schools, there should be proper toiletry and sanitation facilities, which would make female pupils feel more comfortable. Also, Pakistani government could provide subsidies to the education sector to construct girls only schools, particularly in rural set-ups.
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The author Fasih ul Hassan Taqvi, is a student of Froebel’s International School.