By Mrs. Alliya Naaz
As the saying goes: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family (nation).” Education should be for everyone irrespective of gender, but the bias remains.
People still think that girls should not study beyond a certain level or pursue higher studies and certain professional courses, but at the same time, boys are always encouraged to go ahead, with no barriers of societal norms. Education is limited for girls and once they graduate, they are engaged or married off, stopping them from pursuing their education further.
However, thanks to the awareness created, in some cases the glass ceiling is broken, yet much remains to be done.
People still think that girls should not study beyond a certain level or pursue higher studies and certain professional courses.
I have experienced stopping my education at the Pre-University level to be married off, however I was adamant that I should be allowed to study, since I had gotten a scholarship and took admission in the 5-year B.A.(LLB) course. But I was not allowed to continue after my first-year examinations, with ‘reasons’ such as me being the eldest of my siblings, and I should be getting married, and also studying Law meant having to deal with crime, criminals, police etc. So, I was not allowed to pursue that, with a false promise of letting me study after marriage being made by my father and in-laws. I can never forget that.
The urge and burning desire to do something to change to this mindset has allowed me to do things which I think I should do, but even today the gender discrimination and bias is evident when I see how my students encounter the same situations as I did:
Not allowed to go to private schools, the reason being the need to save money for marriage. This even though the government school is too far.
Not allowed to attend English medium schools. Why? Because “you will spoil her, she will westernize, forgets our roots, culture and traditions.”
Higher education is a big no-no. Who will marry her if she gets highly qualified?
No, that profession/degree is not for girls. It is best suited for boys. Whether it is being a lawyer, mechanical engineer, coder etc.
“…even today the gender discrimination and bias are evident when I see how my students encounter the same situations as I did.”
It is disheartening to see all this, and to know that after facing such norms and enduring them and managing to fight the system, the woman becomes the target of ridicule or a ‘bad’ example for other girls. I think we should change our mindset, starting from our homes, families, communities and then societies. We have to change to bring the change.
- Teach our children that everyone can do what they aspire and dream of.
- Girls should be treated with equality and inclusion.
- Mothers should support and take a stand for their daughters.
- Marriage is not the end of all, it’s beyond that too and life is beautiful after all.
We should encourage everyone (regardless of gender) to share in doing household chores, sharing cooking, bringing groceries, doing laundry.
Education is the light to brighten the lives of one and all who are touched by it. Most of the time, the mindset is all we need to change. Stop discriminating between girls and boys, right from the moment of infancy. Give ample opportunity to explore, evolve and create. And allow the space where one can think to flourish, dream, aspire and bring a smile for achieving what one wants to do. Parents should not make boxes of what one should think and do but rather hold their children’s hands to lead and guide.