“If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”– African proverb

Gender equality in education is a priority for us which we never neglect. We want to achieve gender equity knowing that the existing gaps in girls’ education are affecting our economy and development. Take the example of Pakistan which has been struggling for long to achieve this status in education. Million of girls in Pakistan are out of school – which is almost the total population of many countries!

The question that pops out is why my country has to face such crises in girls’ education? There are complications to it.

In the first place, cultural and social taboos do not encourage girls to seek education in South Asia. Recently, the situation has started to change and, to some extent; people also have started thinking outside the box and knowing the importance of education have started encouraging girls to seek knowledge. Thus many parents have started to support education for their daughters. However, many other issues still persist. Unfortunately girls in the rural areas have to suffer the challenges to access education and in many cases are victims of poverty as well.   These challenges to girls’ education are not only prevalent in rural areas but are also present in metropolitan cities of Pakistan like Lahore where we can witness these challenges regarding girls’ education. Millions of girls are out of schools in the present scenario. The major challenges identified up till now that impede the girls’ access to education are the social constraints, gender discrimination, wrong religious perceptions, lack of education , early marriages,  lack of infrastructure, transport, hygienic facilities, poverty, absence of safe environments and physical disabilities.

Let’s go a bit in detail about these challenges

Social constraints: The Pakistani society is always against the freedom of women so they are not in favor of girls education. They want the girls to stay back at homes when their counterparts go out for education and then jobs, which can also be named as gender discrimination.

Wrong religious perceptions: Not only Pakistanis but Muslims throughout the world go with their misconceptions about the women education. We need to rectify this misconception as more than half of our population comprises of females which is directly proportional to the development of our country.

Lack of Education and infrastructure: Many schools are limited to primary school education – so because of education limited to this level, it becomes difficult for girls to travel far to attend secondary schools. Lack of proper infrastructure also affects the girls’ education. Early marriages are also one of the major reasons of limiting girls’ education which is the result of lack of education.

Lack of hygienic facilities: Absence of boundary walls and restrooms are big barriers to girls’ education.

Lack of Transport: The transport facilities in Pakistan especially in rural areas are not sufficient for girls. The schools are far away and transport links are unavailable so it becomes difficult to ensure that girls can attend the schools. In this situation parents also do not feel their daughters safe to travel alone as schools are faraway. Lack of hygienic facilities. There are meagre hygienic facilities in schools which affect the students health and is one of the reasons of drop outs.

Safety: In rural areas, in particular, harassment and rape rates are increasing day by day. The people in charge need to improve the existing law and proceed with the implementation of anti-harassment law 509.

Poverty: The government of Pakistan has commissioned many programmes to provide stipends to school girls. Though It helped the girls to some extent, as the amount helped them with resources and the parents sent their daughters happily to schools. The idea of entrepreneurship skills, vocational and part-time skill-based trainings helped overcome poverty which lead to a greater change.

Physical disabilities: There are no provisions for the physically challenged people so these girls lag behind the normal students.

Lack of safe environment: The environment in Pakistan is still not safe for girls which is a major issue in girls’ education. Many cases of harassment and rape have been reported in many areas but are kept confidential, no action has been taken due to which many parents fear sending their daughters to schools. Political leaders, parliament members, media, youth and other stakeholders are having continuous policy dialogues on this issue. Different issues are being raised and highlighted in these dialogues. Suggestions and recommendations are established and presented to the parliament for further implementation Gender equality and equity, the upgrading of girls’ primary schools, financing and the availability of stipends to girls from affected families in order to help them access education.

By: Ms. Samia Anjum

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