How do you define the word ‘Education’? Now numerous dictionaries may give several cliché definitions, but for me as a doctor, ‘Education’ is a continuous process of gaining and giving worthy knowledge to anyone and everyone who may be in need of it. A person may be of any field, faculty, background, culture, religion, caste, sub-caste, etc., but this should not stop him/her from gaining education as this is the most primary factor which can open your eyes and mind to the ever growing world of knowledge and thereby facilitate to alleviate one from socioeconomic backwardness and break free from the blind customs of the past which were formed by illiterates under delusions of their own minds and thus, help to bring about a true change in the world for better!
However, such accomplishment still remains a far fetched dream for many, especially millions of women across the globe. Female education is a blanket term for a complex set of issues and debates regarding education of women, be it primary education,secondary education or tertiary education, and health education in particular. It includes areas of gender equality and access to education, and its connection to the alleviation of various other socioeconomic stigmas faced by developing and third world countries. Also involved are the issues of discriminatory male-sex education and religious education that have been traditionally dominant and are still highly relevant in many orthodox societies.
Whilst the worldwide feminist movements have certainly promoted the importance of the issues attached to female education, the applications still remains incomplete. In some Western countries, women have surpassed men at many levels of education. For example, in the United States in 2005-06, women earned 62% of associate degrees, 58% of bachelor’s degrees, 60% of master’s degrees, and 50% of doctorates of the total. Yet, the scenario in developing and underdeveloped countries still has a long way to go.
WHAT HINDERS WOMEN EDUCATION?
Many barriers to education for girls remain. For example, in India and some African countries, such as Burkina Faso, parents are unlikely to send girls to attend school for such basic reasons as a lack of private latrine facilities for girls. There are many other reasons that prevent girls from going to school. Poverty, pregnancy, school-based violence, early marriage and discriminatory gender norms are some of the major obstacles to girls’ education worldwide. School fees, the threat of violence on the way to and in school keep girls out of school. Pregnancy and early marriage cut short adolescent girls’ schooling before they have completed secondary school.
In Asia, India has the lowest rates of female literacy. This is attributed to the fact the country has a biased outlook towards the education of women. The Indian society feels that a woman is a liability who will one time get married and will not contribute the economic and social development of the family. The society perceives a woman as somebody who cannot do other duties apart from her traditional duties of cooking and house keeping. As a result, the society considers home training more important as compared to formal education
IMPORTANCE OF WOMEN EDUCATION
The reason why I and every other existing feminist stress on improving girls’ educational levels is because it has been demonstrated to have clear impacts on the health and economic future of young women, which in turn improves their overall family educational levels and the prospects of their entire community. Infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate. A research shows that every extra year of school for girls increases their lifetime income by 15%. Improving female education, and thus the earning the release of the untapped potential of women, not just in terms of monetary gains, but also to improve the standard of living for their own children and thereby their whole families, as women invest more of their income for loved ones than men do. Doubtlessly, educating women is truly beneficial for the society. Educating a woman can be likened to educating the whole family because of the role they play in families. Besides getting good pay packages for well qualified women employees, education increases a woman’s (and her partner and the family’s) level of health and health awareness. Furthering women’s levels of qualifications and advanced training also tends to lead to awareness about the correct ages of initiation of sexual activity and first intercourse, proper age at first marriage, and thus, a planned age at first childbirth, and have increasing levels of long-term partnerships. It can lead to higher rates of barrier and chemical contraceptive use (and a lower level of sexually transmitted infections among women and their partners and children), and can increase the level of resources available to women who divorce or are in a situation of domestic violence. Alternately, it can lead to an increased likelihood to remain single, have no children, or have no formal marriage, thereby putting a leash on ever growing population. Such educated women are more aware about their rights and duties and render good participations as global citizens.
By improving educational opportunities for girls and women, we can help women develop skills that will allow them to make decisions and influence a community change. In turn, they are sure to have a positive impact on some of the most profound issues of our time: Population growth, HIV, peace and security, and the widening gap between the rich and poor, and almost every other socioeconomic stigma that persist which may hinder the overall worldly productivity.
Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya
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