“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”
In a country like Pakistan, where women are in most areas treated as second class citizens; empowering them is the need of the hour. Many women are stuck in situations that are unsafe and toxic but have no option but to remain in those circumstances; they do not have an education or any training and as a result, are not financially independent. Providing education to all females is one major step towards woman empowerment that is of utmost importance. These women, when educated or provided with vocational training will be contributing members of society and thus, will help to improve the economy of a country. However, what is more important is that these women will be able to lead better lives and have a higher standard of living.
Around 22.5 million children do not go to school in Pakistan, most of whom are girls. 32% of primary school-age girls do not go to school and by the 9th grade, only 13% of girls remain in school (Human Rights Watch, 2018). As compared to their male counterparts, women are much farther behind at attaining an education. Education can play a key role in making it easier for women to get employment in the formal sector and in achieving equality (Noureen & Awan, 2011). At the 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development, Pakistan was said to be “among the world’s worst performing countries in education”. Some of the major reasons behind the lack of educational opportunities for girls is due to gender inequality and preference to get sons educated rather than daughters. Child marriages are another huge factor in girls not getting an education. Families are also fearful for the safety of their female children; families have cited reasons such as sexual harassment, kidnapping and attacks on educational institutes as the reason behind them being unwilling to get their daughters educated (Human Rights Watch, 2018).
The female labour force participation is quite low in Pakistan at 25%, as compared to other countries that have similar incomes. The productivity of the economy of Pakistan has the potential to be much higher, given that these women work (Tanaka & Muzones, 2016).
Education has a key role to play in human capital. The development and growth of an economy are dependent upon an educated labour force. It was seen that women who are educated are able to get employed and help towards increasing output and growth. As they gain more education, females are more likely to become a part of the labour force. It was found that educated husbands had a positive impact on their wives’ employment so it is important that both men and women be educated (Faridi et al., 2009). Sarwar and Abbasi (2013) believe that employed women positively affect the economy of a country. Data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and World Bank suggests that female labour force participation in Pakistan is well below that of international standards. Hou (2011) discovered that in Pakistan when women have more decision making powers in the household, more focus is shifted towards education; the relationship between these two variables (women’s decision making power and expenditure on education) is quite strong. This study also shows that this relationship is true for women residing in both urban and rural areas. It further implies that women in Pakistan are interested in getting an education. They are capable of making good decisions in households and can do the same in workplaces. Isran and Isran (2013) spoke of how the lack of female participation in the labour force in Pakistan is due to a lack of access to education and a lack of skills and training. For women to become financially independent and contribute towards the economy, they need to get an education or gain a skill.
There are many steps that the government of Pakistan can and should take to make education a priority not just for women but for men as well. A law could be passed that all children till a certain age are to attend schools. A bigger share of the budget should be allocated towards education so that more educational institutes are opened and access to them is made easier. Additionally, public schools should be at par with private educational institutes and be able to provide quality education. It is imperative that those women who choose not to pursue higher education be given the option to gain some skills and training through vocational training institutes.
What NGO’s or individuals can do to help is that they can run donation drives to fund a girl’s education or vocational training. Rural areas can also be visited to make people aware of the importance of education and employment, the improvement in the standards of living and quality of life that are a result of both these factors. Girls should be informed about the options that they have at their disposal; in terms of scholarships and loans that will help them pursue their dreams. Deep-rooted patriarchal ideas that put more importance in setting up the future of a son rather than a daughter need to be challenged and dismantled, this can be done through massive media campaigns where national and international institutions working on human rights can work together.
Another thing that needs to be done on an individual level is to eradicate any inherent misogyny within us or in the people around us. It is imperative that we all hold the belief that education is a basic right that everyone deserves and that women are just as capable and deserving of job opportunities as their male counterparts.
Faridi, M. Z., Malik, S., & Basit, A.B. (2009). Impact of Education on Female Labour Force Participation in Pakistan: Empirical Evidence from Primary Data Analysis. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, 29(1), 127-140. Retrieved July 11, 2020, from https://www.bzu.edu.pk/PJSS/vol29no1_2009/PJSSArtical12.pdf
Hou, X. (2011). Women’s Decision Making Power and Human Development: Evidence from Pakistan. Policy Research Working Papers. doi:10.1596/1813-9450-5830
Isran, S., & Isran, M. A. (2013). Low Female Labour Participation in Pakistan: Causes and Consequences. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, 33(1), 163-178. Retrieved July 11, 2020, from https://media.teckiz.com/pakistan-journal-of-social-sciences/pjss-bzu/2020/04/15/5e97553d8bd38.pdf
Noureen, G., & Awan, R. (2011). Women’s Education in Pakistan: Hidden Fences on Open Frontiers. Asian Social Sciences, 7(2), 79-87. DOI: 10.5539/ass.v7n2p79
Pakistan: Girls Deprived of Education. (2018, November 12). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved July 9, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/12/pakistan-girls-deprived-education
Sarwar, F., & Abassi, A. S. (2013). An In-Depth Analysis of Women’s Labour Force Participation in Pakistan. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, 15(2), 208-215. DOI: 10.5829/idosi.mejsr.2013.15.2.2367
Shall I Feed My Daughter, or Educate Her? (2018, November 12). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/11/12/shall-i-feed-my-daughter-or-educate-her/barriers-girls-education-pakistan