Education is a huge necessity in life that helps construct a society, which encourages democracy, equality, engagement, and opportunity, ultimately removing obstacles to build a brighter future. The term equal may seem normal in developed countries, but in many developing countries including Pakistan, being equal, is an exception, more so, a privilege.
In Pakistan, especially among rural areas, it is an extremely difficult task to arrive at an agreement among women, on what the role of a woman should be in building social standards or in educating for a democratic world. Mainly because, women have been forced to follow a cultural mind-set reflective of an extremely conservative society, a society that exercises control, and restrictions on women, preventing them from entering the public sphere of opportunity, work, competition and education. Ironically, the very thought ingrained into the minds of young girls, that ‘education is a waste of time’, is in fact the very cause of their submission to a life of captivity and subordination to dominating characters of society, notably men. This absence of education immediately prevents women’s voices from being heard in society. For any member of a society to pull himself out of the very mold, which fashioned him is extremely difficult, but why do we allow our girls to feel inferior to boys? There is a glaring gender disparity between boys and girls that manifests within society and continues today to corrupt the minds of our younger generations in believing one is lesser than the other. It is deeply concerning that our guardians and educators exert power, control and restrict the aspirations of young girls and crush those ambitions which encourage women to step outside of societal norms, but continue to influence young boys to take every opportunity to build a better future. It is essential to fuel the minds of our younger generations with the importance of equal opportunity between both men and women to shape our society, so it is reflective of equality and respect for both genders, for the betterment of our future generations, society, culture and economy.
Education is crucial, because quite simply, education is knowledge and knowledge is power, which helps us develop a perspective of looking at life and encourages us to respect our culture, identity and most importantly value each other as equal members of a society. A country’s literate population is its asset because for the progress of a nation and for the enrichment of society in general, education is key. Objection towards girls obtaining an education stems from the very theory that is still prevalent in society of the dominance of men. This concept has become so deep-seated and all pervasive that it is nearly impossible for any individual, however rational and objective, to escape its influence. Presumably the education of the younger generation including our girls is one of the most important forces in the eventual elimination of the attitudes, which act, as deterrents to our national and social welfare, therefore investing in education has to be considered as a top priority.
Simone de Beauvoir’s, a feminist, quoted ‘humanity is male and man defines woman, not in herself, but as relative to him. She is not regarded as an autonomous being…she is simply what man decrees. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man. She is incidental, the inessential as apposed to essential. He is the subject, he is the absolute and she is the other’. This statement is still relevant today as women in many rural areas of Pakistan are seen to be inferior to men. One aspect of this ‘other hood’ is male hegemony. Bob Cornell argued that although there are a number of distinctive feminines and masculines affected by ethnic and class differences, the global dominance of men over women gives rise to hegemonic masculinity, a practice which legitimizes men’s dominant position in society and attempts to justify the subordination of women. The notion of hegemony is broadly a position of dominance achieved through relative consensus, the consensus is one that is built among those who benefit from the promotion of masculinity, as well as many of those who are oppressed by it, mainly women. Hegemonic masculinity is as much for women as for men a cultural ideal of manhood, which is rewarded and fueled by women’s interests and efforts to replicate this ideal. There are many different types of femininity, which help promote this ideal, one, which is most important is compliant femininity, which is designed to accommodate the interests and desires of men. Clearly, compliant femininity is most attractive as the aim is to maintain support for male dominance. Therefore, unequal power relations characterize women’s lives because there ‘lack of control over the apparatuses of society that sustains ideological hegemony makes the articulation of their self defined standpoint difficult’.
Although, the trend away from the small town towards sub urbanization has broken a woman’s isolation, awakened her desire for outside work and to educate herself. It has provoked her appetite for more of the world’s goods and given her the means to acquire them for herself. For example, technological improvements have released her from tasks within the home and as a result, the time that is saved allows her to design and sell clothes commercially, teach or enroll at a school or carry out social work. These are small but positive steps to implementing a permanent change for women and her role in society. The greater attempt we make to improve the role of women in society today, and allow her deviate from the restricted norms of society and support her in stepping into a new world of opportunity, will in return, benefit our society tomorrow, because an educated women can support and educate her children, who in fact, are the countries future leaders.
An inspiring quote, ‘the hand that rocks the cradle, the mother of tomorrow shapes the destiny of civilization, such is the tragic irony of fate that a beautiful creation such as a girl child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity’. Women have the power to change generations upon generations, but only if they are equipped with the right tools.
Ms. Sidra Shafiq