The female gender is pretty marginalised in Pakistan. And the marginalisation begins early. Right when the time comes to put a child in school. For many Pakistanis – surprisingly in this day and age – the place of a girl and eventually a female is still inside the perimeter of a house. There is no need to educate girls. All a girl needs to learn, many continue to believe, are cleaning after others, cooking lavish meals and being obedient to whoever else is in the house. She has no business being in school learning about worldly deviances; she has no business being educated.
This is precisely the thinking why girls make up the majority of more than 22 million children that are currently out of schools across Pakistan. The exact number of out of school girls between the age of 5 and 16, as provided by Pakistan Education Statistics 2016-17, is 12,161,097. That’s more than 12 million girls who will remain illiterate. That’s over 12 million women who won’t become productive members of the Pakistani economy. And that’s more than 12 million mothers who will be uneducated mothers of millions of children.
It’s inevitable to end this marginalisation of the girl child if the nation ever wants to move out of troubled waters, both economically and socially. On this International Day of the Girl Child 2018, let us remind ourselves why the nation must ensure educate girls at all costs.
Only a woman who is educated herself can understand the importance of education for a child. Sadly, mothers who themselves are uneducated just cannot gauge education and learning the way it merits. Considering the rising population of Pakistan, it is imperative that girls get education up to as high a grade as possible so that they become mothers who focus their energies on ensuring their children, especially girls, get educated as well. That really is the only way we can hope to see the country get on the road to progress in the long run.
Women equipped with proper education are more likely to become active, rather than passive, participants of the country’s economic productivity. With more educated women across the country, there will never be shortage of finding the right person for the right job. According to a World Bank analysis, a one percent boost in the number of women having secondary education could boost annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percent. Recently, the World Bank said limiting educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education was costing countries around the globe between $15 trillion and $30 trillion dollars in lost lifetime productivity and earnings. That’s a serious drainage of productivity that can be reversed by educating girls the right way.
Mothers who are educated are obviously more knowledgeable and take care of their family and themselves better. The education and knowledge about health issues becomes crucial when seen in the context of high mortality rates of children in regions where women are less or not educated at all. The issue is more pronounced in less developed areas like Pakistan and Afghanistan, where uneducated women have little knowledge about the needs and requirements of infants. No surprise then that Afghanistan, where girls’ access to education is limited, has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
Another reason to educate girls is the need to reduce maternal mortality. Not only infants, but mothers themselves stand a better chance of surviving pregnancy and childbirth if they are educated. Being educated means young or expecting mothers will have a better understanding of the demands of each stage and can hence look after themselves better. Data suggests that Pakistan has a maternal mortality rate of more than 170 per 100,000 live births. Educating girls today can certainly help reduce this figure tomorrow.
Educated mothers understand what food a child would need to remain healthy, besides having a clear sense of the importance of cleanliness, sanitation, hygiene and remaining disease free. A lot of infant deaths are caused by accidents where mothers with little knowledge about such issues end up compromising the health of the baby. If they are educated, women stand a better chance of ensuring the best provisions for their children, eventually nurturing adults that are both physically and mentally healthy.
When women are educated, they focus on having fewer babies and ensuring that their health remains uncompromised. On the other hand, uneducated women tend not to care about the number of children they have, caring neither for their own health, nor that of their children. This is an especially dangerous notion for Pakistan, as the country’s rising population is already taking a toll on its economic prospects. Therefore, we need to educate girls to turn them into educated women who safeguard the health of not only themselves and their children, but also that of the economy.
Violence against women, including sexual abuse, is a common problem around the world, but it becomes intensified in countries where women are less educated. Many cases of violence go unreported or unnoticed because women do not consider such abuse anything out of the ordinary. Besides, other women in a household who witness such abuse do not care to put an end to the violence, often because they themselves have no knowledge about the wrong being done. That is mainly because they have often seen these beating and abuse as customs. Only education can change such attitudes and empower women to understand and stop the abuse, both domestic and societal.
Educating girls is a must if Pakistan wishes to see a profitable turn in its fortunes. Keeping a such a major part of the population uneducated is not only a moral crime, but incurs costs (as discussed above) that will be hard to correct in any other way than by choosing to educate girls; all of them. And choose we must today, on the International Day of The Girl Child 2018.