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Education is indispensable in a community that wants to prosper; therefore, it is a right. If certain obstacles exist to prevent equal access to this basic human right, then one should understand what causes them so as to eliminate them.
The case of Malala illustrates how extreme views can perpetuate a cycle of oppression and inequality. The essay will look at female education through the Pakistani lens, and then apply it to other developing nations.
Relevance of the issue
It is imperative to address female education because without it women will not have the knowledge to make informed decisions. Children’s health status is at risk when women have no access to education. Furthermore, even the level of economic development will be compromised.
Statistics indicate that whenever a society increases women’s education by 1%, the rate of economic development grows by 3%. This means that a society cannot get out of poverty unless it invests in the literacy of its female population.
Conflict has an adverse impact on education. It causes governments to focus on other political issues and disregard education for women. Additionally, schools are easy targets for militant groups because they have a large population of defenceless targets. It is necessary to understand how conflict affects education using Malala’s country as an example, and thus establish some possible solutions to the problem.
Additionally, understanding the social and cultural dimensions of gender inequality in education allows one to determine the policy issues that cause the problem and thus establish a mechanism for preventing its reoccurrence in the future.
Questions the essay will answer
The essay will focus on female education as a human right. Therefore, the stance in this paper is that education is a right that must be accessible to all genders.
It will answer the questions “Who is Malala and what does she stand for?”, “Why is education important?”, “Why do some communities deny females access to education?”, “What are some statistics to indicate this inequality?”, “How does an educated female class threaten male patriarchy?” and “What are some of the cultural, economical and political barriers to equal education access in the case study?”
Malala Yousafzai is a fifteen year old Pakistani human rights activist. She has received numerous international and national awards for her activism in female education. The teenager started her work as a blogger for the BBC where she told the world about her plight in education.
Sometimes she chronicled Taliban attacks in her province or her experiences as a girl who had been banned from attending school. Malala gained international recognition when the New York Times made a film about her. Thereafter, the adolescent started appearing on television and print media to talk about the problems of female education.
For these reasons, she got nominated for the Nobel peace prize, and also won the national Youth Peace Prize. However, the world got to learn about her when two Taliban gunmen shot her on her way to school. She became unconscious and stayed in hospital for sometime before she moved to the United Kingdom for rehabilitation.
The Taliban affirmed that they would continue to pursue her if she came back to Pakistan, and would kill her together with her father. Several renowned leaders spoke out against this injustice and used the incident to speak out against gender inequality in education (Fantz 15).
Malala stands for women’s right to education. She represents many women in Islamic countries who have been dominated by extremist views. The human rights activist is one of the few courageous individuals in this country who want to defend girls’ right to speak, interact, play and acquire knowledge.
In 2010, The Taliban began a campaign to bomb schools that educated girls. Therefore, parents who feared for their children’s safety chose not to take them to school. Those who were brave enough to do so sometimes lost their lives or got injured in school. The country clearly needed a champion to advance their cause in an effective manner.
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The situation in Pakistan is not any different from goings on in developing countries. Several communities ignore the importance of female education owing to cultural and legal structures that preserve male patriarchy. The Pakistani case can serve as platform for analysing inadequate female education around the world. It brings to bare the cruel social-economic forces that force women to remain illiterate.
Literacy rates in Pakistan are alarming. Only 12% of the women are literate and 26% of its girls go to school. Overall, UNESCO states that 46% of the population is illiterate. Nonetheless, these figures are still not indicative of those who can fully read and write.
A vast number of these individuals can only sign their names. In some parts of Pakistan, like Baluchistan, only 3% of the female population is literate. In a population of 32 million, only 13 million have been enrolled. Many of these pupils rarely attend class even after enrolling owing to some cultural and political reasons.
Acid attacks against girls attending schools in Pakistan are not uncommon and so are beatings. In a population of 32 million, only 3 million girls attend higher secondary schools. Conversely approximately 0.5 million girls pursue tertiary education. In rural areas, literacy rates are quite low.
Some places like Dir District only have one school in which only boys are allowed to attend. When compared to regional contemporaries, Pakistan fare’s poorly. It has an education development index of 113 while countries like India, Egypt and Bhutan have an index of 102, 97 and 98 respectively (Latif 9).
One of the social-economic conditions that cause this inequality is poverty. A number of families in Pakistan as well other developing nations require their girls to work for a living. Some of them start as early as six and may continue to do so until later in life.
These girls will look for menial jobs such as housekeeping, which have low pay. Girls who have been enrolled in school may have to leave it in order to support their families. Another way in which poverty perpetuates this disparity is with regard to bride price. Some parents may consider the education of a girl as an unnecessary financial burden in their adult life. In a number of Asian communities, marriages are arranged.
The girl’s parents will have to look for a suitor and pay bride price. If a girl is educated, costs will escalate during this time. Therefore, some parents may be short-sighted and will keep their girls away from school.
In the short term, some parents may be willing to take their girls to school but may lack the necessary funds to keep them there. Some of these parents cannot afford school fees or a number of them may not be able to buy school uniform or books, so they normally allocate the few resources they have to boys (Abbasi & Saeed 335).
A number of developing nations, including Pakistan, are patriarchal. Men get to make most of the decisions in their families. Females are encouraged to remain subservient and humble. Therefore, certain groups ideologically oppose the education of females. They feel that it will cause them to rebel against their cultural teachings. Persons with this point of view may not take their girls to school if they have them.
Alternatively, those who do not share the same perspective may have to bear the brunt of moral crusaders who may attack girls for attending school. Such was the case with Malala’s shooters.
The Taliban are known for their opposition against girl’s education. These individuals base their assertions on a twisted interpretation of the Holy Quran. However, many Muslims believe that their holy scriptures does not prohibit female education, and that this is a right.
The issue of male patriarchy also impedes female education. Individuals who are educated may question unfair laws regardless of who perpetuates them. The Taliban, alongside other conservative persons, believe that female education will upset cultural structures that have given their country its identity. Whenever one class of people are oppressed, another one always benefits from its prevalence.
This is true for men in patriarchal societies. Education is a mechanism for preserving the privileged status of men in these societies. Illiteracy causes women to remain ignorant about their rights and this allows men to enjoy certain advantages (Phillips 94).
Political reasons may also perpetuate unequal education for women. In Pakistan’s case, the government has been unable to contain the Taliban in certain regions of the country. Therefore, they have imposed extreme laws on civilians. Furthermore, the government has allocated insufficient resources towards the education of the girl child. There are scarce resources and budget shortfalls, which make education a non-priority issue.
Additionally, the national government has failed to coordinate efforts with the provincial government. These issues are also prevalent in other parts of the world which share similar economic and cultural backgrounds (Chaudhry & Rahman 180).
Questions raised by the analysis and future prospects
The analysis has shown that gender inequality in education is a complex issue, which cannot be attributed to one or two things. Malala’s case highlights the cultural, political and security issues that come into play when tackling this problem. However, the attack against her has brought female education to the international spotlight. This analysis raises questions on the commitment of poor governments to girl education.
Many of them do not take a stance on extremist groups thus allowing them to thrive. A feminist lens of the issue reveals that female illiteracy preserves male patriarchy. Therefore, since men dominate political positions, one wonders whether it is in their best interest to challenge that situation.
It is evident that governments lack the willpower to change female education in developing countries. Therefore, nongovernmental organisations or other groups need to step in and take up this role.
It is likely that dealing with conflict and educational inequality at the same time will be a challenge. Therefore, the international community needs to assist in dealing with conflicts so as to provide a stable environment for female education.
Abbasi, Ghazala & Ahmad Saeed. “Critical analysis of the factors influencing female education in rural Sindh, Pakistan as viewed by primary school teachers.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business 4.6(2012): 334-339. Print.
Chaudhry, Imran & Saeed Rahman. “The impact of gender inequality in education on rural poverty in Pakistan: An empirical analysis.” European Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Sciences 15.15(2009): 174-189. Print.
Fantz, Ashley. Pakistan’s Malala: Global Symbol, but still just a kid. 30 Jan. 2013. Web. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/15/world/malala-profile
Latif, Amir. Alarming situation of education in Pakistan. 2013. Web. https://en.unesco.org/
Phillips, Melanie. The ascent of woman: A history of the suffragette movement. NY: Abacus, 2004. Print.