In the early 2000s a shocking revelation was made regarding the education sector. Pakistan witnessed a 65% literacy rate in Punjabi men while only 10% of Baloch women in the rural areas were found literate (Mehnaz Aziz, 2017). The difference was alarming. Many remained confused as to why such a humongous gap existed, while others blamed the government, gender divide, rural/urban divide, and class etc as the main reasons. Ironically even over the years, as Pakistan progressed in education, the disparities between the two still stand the same way. Why is that? Why are men from Punjab, Islamabad, and other developed factions still far ahead in comparison to rural Baloch women? The answer is Intersectionality!
As the word Intersectionality or Intersectional Feminism is mentioned in Pakistan many people raise their eye brows in confusion. Intersectionality might be an alien word for the people here, but it is actually the biggest reason why Pakistan suffers in some areas and is making improvements at others. Intersectionality is a prism through which we elucidate how multiple modes of discrimination combine to generate privilege and disadvantage (Crenshaw, 2018). These modes of discrimination are predominately a concoction of gender, class, race, urban/rural position, ethnicity, and socio-economic background etc. Today it is the main reason why Pakistan has not been able to homogonies the spread of Education country wide. While boys are able to excel, improvements in cohort related to girl’s education remain snail paced.
Pakistan, the land of diversity, is a beautiful amalgamation of cultures, ethnicities, and races. The diversity is so vibrant and attractive that it adds to Pakistan’s identity abroad. But what usually goes unnoticed is the effect of the above on an individual. The most heavily affected area till date remains education. Girls in Baluchistan, interior Sindh and south Punjab face multiple cross cutting forms of discriminations like that of gender, class, culture, ethnicity, race, and socio-economic background. These cross-cutting discriminations thus combine to create a deeper and intense form of discrimination as opposed to others. To make matters worse, it is not even recognized. Even today issues of gender, class, ethnicity, race etc are all dealt with separately under racism, sexism and other ‘isms’. Their combined effects are constantly ignored or not realized. For Pakistan to homogonies its education sector it must tackle intersectionality with great necessity.
Thus, on a state level systemic measures should be introduced in order to tackle varying degrees of discrimination as such. For an issue to be resolved it must always be identified and observed first. It must be realized that intersectionality is the biggest reason why girls lack in education. For this purpose, it is imperative that at government and at public level the urgency of intersectionality is grasped. Most problem-solving strategies embark on an itinerary initiated by research and then gradually apply an evolutionary approach. In case of girl’s education extensive research is mandatory to uncover and determine what exactly needs to be addressed. Furthermore, the issue should be politicized and debated upon. All stake holders such as donors, bureaucracies, the provincial and Federal ministry, and the government should all lock hands to explicitly politicize the matter. And at the last step these endeavors must translate into securitization with adequate policy making. These policies must not only recognize intersectionality but should also ensure affirmative action in lacking areas. Girls in backward areas must be given favored action with respect to the bulk of discrimination they carry. Once inclusivity and preferential treatment of lacking factions grasp the same pace as developed area only then can development be possible. This development then should be measured by keeping in mind their past. Moreover, the government can grant subsidies to education institutions in lacking areas as a strategy to promote enrolment of girls. This step has proved quite effective in more dense provinces like Punjab through the Punjab Education Foundation (Rashid Iqbal Klasra, 2020). A replica of the foundation has also been initiated in Baluchistan and Sindh as well which are highly endorsed.
Overall, Pakistan is finally prioritizing education and is also motivated to bridge the gender gap. The present government has launched multiple projects like scholarships, vocational trainings, curriculum changes and development of Institutions. These initiations alone cannot make the difference required. Pakistani government and public must both show enthusiasm in order to address intersectionality and its effects on girl’s education together. This is because in the end its not only their right but also educated girls generate longer pay offs and have a bigger role in shaping the society (UNICEF, 2004). We must all keep in mind what our Quaid said:
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”
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About Author: Nishat identifies as an intersectional feminist who has her specialization in Gender and International Relations from Quaid- e-Azam University, Islamabad.