Women’s Education in Pakistan

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Pakistan is a country in the Middle East that has struggled with education throughout its history. In this essay I plan to examine the research question, ""to what degree has the oppression of women led to the prolongation of restricted women's educational right in Pakistan?"" In order to answer this question I must analyze Pakistan's statistics that are related to gender inequality and education. The analyzation of these statistics will introduce the reader to some statistical measures that have an impact on Pakistan as a developing country. I will also analyze the point of views from both men and women to see what their opinions are when it comes to women's restricted educational rights. These men and women's point of views will additionally allow me to see what the oppression is like as they witness it in their own eyes. Lastly, I will analyze any catalysts of women's education in Pakistan. It is important to analyze these activists like Malala because these are the people who have broke through the barrier and improved how education is looked at in terms of women.

Education is not the greatest in Pakistan but it is still accessible to some and is becoming even more accessible as people start to break through the oppression that has gone on for a long time. It is fairly easy for men to get an education and the only barrier really in the way of their success is whether they have money. There are two types of schools in Pakistan and those are the english medium schools and the urdu medium schools. The English medium schools are considered to be better than the Urdu medium schools simply because they are not run by the government, therefore they can afford better staff and have more money for supplies. The main difference between these two types of schools is that the English medium schools are for the kids who are well-off and can afford the high tuition. That is where we are presented with the main problem facing the inhabitants of Pakistan regarding their education. Since Pakistan has a high poverty rate this leaves a majority of the population not able to obtain an education at all and they are unable to contribute anything to the HDI leaving the country at a standstill. Since this country is stuck, it makes it even tougher for women to have a chance at obtaining a good education because they can't move past their main issues such as poverty and gender inequality. If education was more available to everyone it is very likely that the country would move up in the HDI sector and get women's education to improve much quicker. There have been catalysts in promoting women's education like Malala Yousafzai but these are only small steps to women having a safe and free education. There are two main reasons that these women are unable to attend school. Primarily, the Taliban do not allow these women to go and some women do not also go for religious reasons. There are many benefits to women being educated and one of those includes improved health rates. If women are more educated they are likely to be aware of the risks that their everyday actions have not only on themselves but their children too. I used a variety of primary and secondary sources in order to answer my research question of ""To what degree has the oppression of women led to the prolongation of restricted women's educational right in Pakistan?"" to the best of my ability. Primary sources are important for me to use in answering my question because they provide me with a look into the lives of someone who actually lives in the Pakistan society. There is great value to these kinds of sources because the words of the women who face this oppression are unedited, whereas secondary sources can always be skewed from the truth. While primary sources are of the greatest value to my research, secondary sources are also very important in answering my question. They may be skewed opinions but they still can provide valuable information that primary sources may not. From what I have examined, women's educational rights have improved very slowly because of the long history that Pakistan has had honoring a patriarchal society and because of the Taliban closely monitoring women's actions within the educational system.


First we must pull statistical measures from Pakistan to learn more about how outside factors halt the improvement of women's education. Pakistan is ranked 147 on the human development Index which is a measure of 3 different factors (Education, Life Expectancy, and Per Capita Income). The HDI is .550 on a scale of 0-1 with 1 being a perfect index. This means that Pakistan is one of the lesser developed countries and this does not mean great things for women's education. The HDI is a great indicator of why women's educational improvement is at such a standstill. One of the factors in the HDI being the Gross national income per capita is measured at 5,031 rupees. The gross national income is the total of domestic and foreign production that is claimed by the people who reside in Pakistan. If the GNI is low it is likely that it is a country that is on the poorer side with high poverty rates. Around 40 percent of Pakistanis live in Poverty. Although this percentage has declined from 2004 to 2015, this does not mean that it is improving everywhere. Great improvements have been made which is good news for women's educational rights but poverty in urban areas is 9.3 percent compared to 54.6 percent in rural areas. The distribution of poverty is uneven in Pakistan and this will not benefit the educational system as a whole. Women in the urban areas will begin to obtain an education but usually those are the women who have at least had some education in their lifetime. The women who live in the urban areas are the ones who need help. The poverty rates in the urban areas may continue to increase but this means nothing for those who are stuck in the rural areas and can't afford to get out. One issue that we can be faced with when it comes to statistics is that they may not always be accurate. For example, the GDI is just a measure of what is reported by the residents of the country. Pakistan being a poor country has a lot of people who are performing work in the informal sector of the economy, therefore these totals are not being reported to the government.

To ever fully understand why women have been oppressed for so long and why this oppression has been prolonged, we must first understand where, when, and by whom this oppression began. The taliban is a group who enforces the rules of fundamentalist Islam. The importance of Islam is what the Taliban are trying to make the people they rule over see. The Taliban follows Islamic beliefs but also believes that the Quran should be interpreted and followed word by word because that was how it was written and how it was intended to be. They rose to power in 1994 following the withdrawal of soviet troops in Afghanistan and believe that modern feminist movements should not be followed and that the women in the society must remain traditional. Due to this, women are told what they should wear and are told how much they should study. The Taliban does not value women's education therefore this is the reason it has improved slowly. Women of this society do not have the ability to stand up for what they think is right because the Taliban has severe punishments for anyone who speaks out against their beliefs. This oppression of women for the longest time has been the cause of the prolongation of restricted women's educational rights. The power that the Taliban holds over their people and the feeling of obligation to be loyal to your religion is a big explanation as to why this oppression is still present and is only going away slowly.

One problem remains when examining the improvement of these educational rights in Pakistan. The improvements are moving very slowly. Any improvements at all are a positive thing for women but there is the potential to speed up this process. Things like women empowerment movements, and the retaliation of women can solve this long lasting problem. It sounds fairly easy to solve this issue, but how will women retaliate unless they are educated? Women are taught their whole life that their purpose is to provide domestic work for their families and this allows no time for an education. Their lack of education is what prolongs this. It is not only the oppression that they face from the Taliban but their own cultural beliefs that keep them from moving forward. This is the reason behind why women's rights activists like Malala are an important thing when it comes to improving their educational rights. Women like Malala serve as the education for women by allowing them to see what they are capable of. Many of these women also do not see their worth because they have been living in a patriarchal society for so long. They experience abuse from their husbands because in this society this is the males way of showing his dominance and establishing his role in the home. Women refuse to question this because of the fear that is naturally instilled in them for so long. As more women stand up to this we will soon see more women's empowerment movements and these women will see what they deserve and will find their place in society.

A story from a Pakistani woman named Dania represents the abuse within these relationships that is deemed as acceptable. In our culture we are sometimes limited in understanding how these women feel because we just wonder ""why doesn't she leave her husband"". She claimed that her husband began hitting her when they were married and even when she was pregnant with her first daughter. Dania would try to run to her parents for support and even at time consider a divorce. All of these responses to the abuse were natural responses but her parents did not believe she should get a divorce. ""Her parents told her that a divorce was a terrible idea."" they said, ""we are respectable people. Such people do not have divorced daughters."" (Luavut Zahid) This response shows how even the families are okay with the abuse because if she were to get a divorce this would go against social norms. The lack of family support is also a factor that leads to the prolongation of women being oppressed.

There are in fact possible solutions to this problem that may speed up the improvement of women's education. These solutions include educating teachers, providing women with safer schools, and women empowerment. For so long women have been taught that they are lesser than their male counterpart and that they should not strive to have an education. This is all due to the brainwashing the Taliban has done to these women and the fear that they have instilled in these women's minds. Although the Taliban has brainwashed these women, other women like Malala Yousafzai who is an activist for women's educational rights have seen through the Taliban and noticed their worth. Women like Malala who fight against the Taliban are the reason that Pakistan has slowly improved education for women. While women activist can improve educational rights for women they can also make it more dangerous. As these women are speaking out against the oppression of women this makes the Taliban more cautious of any women who may try to retaliate against them. It is now harder for women to take any action against them because of the fact that they are so aware of the fact that these women now know what rights they should have. A primary source that is of use to my research is one titled ""Beyond Malala: Five stories of girls' education in Pakistan"". I found this source valuable to my research because it provides me with experiences of actual girls who live in Pakistan and struggle with obtaining an education. This will be helpful in answering my question because the educational experiences of other girls is important to understand why this oppression has been prolonged. The first story is from a girl named Shazia Bhatti who is 11 years old at a school that was rebuilt in Sindh province. She says ""There are lots of advantages to having an education but a lot of boys and girls cannot read or write. Girls and boys should get equal education."" Shazia realizes the advantages that an education can bring because activists are spreading word about the benefits of an education. Another primary source that I came along that will answer the part of my question about the oppression that women face is called, ""To Be a Woman in Pakistan: Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival"". This source is helpful because these are interviews from women of a range of ages who have experienced the Taliban's oppressive behavior. A woman name Ayesha who is 18 years old stated, ""Every poor girl wishes for more education, for the opportunity to learn and go to school; for a childhood. But many of us are not that fortunate."" Ayesha was no longer able to attend school because of the increased household responsibilities. Although this is not an example of how the Taliban has affected her education, this is in fact an example of how social class also plays a role in the education that you recieve. After reading the stories of these women, I did notice a common thread between them. These women felt safer in the workplace because at home they are not respected and are usually beat by their husbands because it is not deemed as wrong. This being a patriarchal society, the men of the households are supposed to be the breadwinners and in order to keep it that way they force their wives to continue performing domestic work. As I analyze more sources I notice that the oppression of women stems from the Taliban and in the home. Women empowerment is important in this sense and is something that is needed in order to break free from this oppression that has been prolonged due to the ideologies in this society. Just because Pakistani society has been this oppressive toward women for so long and has always been patriarchal does not mean that a change is a bad thing. Change in this case is hard, but if these women continue to retaliate and stand up for what is right it is likely that the quality of their lives and education will improve for the better.

There are plenty of organizations that fight to help women in Pakistan become empowered and realize their true worth, but one of the most notable to date is the Malala fund. Malala Yousafzai was a women's rights activist who was shot in the head on her way home from school by a Taliban gunman. Her father was an education activist and in September 2008 she followed in his footsteps by standing up for women's educational rights. The Taliban banned women's education and even destroyed more than 400 schools. Malala reacted to this by saying ""How dare the Taliban take away my right to education?"" She decided to take action on this injustice and joined a BBC blog. After this blog Malala gained great fame and did many interviews on a global public platform. She won many international peace prizes, but with all this recognition the she became well known by the Taliban. Malala started getting death threats but her parents did not think that they would kill a girl as young as her, but much to their surprise Malala was shot in the head on October 9, 2012. Malala did surprisingly survive the gunshot to the head and immediately after recovery she started back up on her work as an educational rights activist. Although the shooting was unfortunate, Malala survived this and many people from around the world began to support her and everything she stood for. She later won the nobel peace prize and she now still continues her activist work today. Malala is a super important reason as to why the fight for women's education in Pakistan has become well known and more people around the world are wanting to help this cause. Malala's story ties into my research question of ""To what degree has the oppression of women led to the prolongation of restricted women's educational right in Pakistan?"" well because she was someone who had an affect on the prolongation of womens restricted educational rights. By standing up for what she believed in, many women now see that they are just as capable of accomplishing something just as extraordinary as Malala. If more women continue to make steps toward improvements in women's education it is very likely that the oppression will become less as the years go on because both the Taliban and Pakistani men will see what these women are truly capable of.


All of my research thus far has provided me with sufficient support to answer my research question ""To what degree has the oppression of women led to the prolongation of restricted women's educational right in Pakistan?"" Women's oppression has in fact been a large reason why improvements are happening so slowly within the educational sector. The Taliban although a key component to the oppression are not the only factor. The cultural beliefs are a big reason why women's rights have evolved slowly. Cultural beliefs are something that you grow up with and are never questioned, so for anyone to challenge those is absurd. This is why these women face the abuse that they do without ever sticking up for themselves. Instead, they run to parental figures just to be turned around and told that the way they are feeling is unjust. This brainwashing that has happened among these women has caused them to not see their true worth and prolonged their mistreatment. On the other hand, women like Malala Yousafzai are the women who challenge these beliefs and help others see their worth. Activists like her are important in this time because they can educate these women of their worth even when education seems out of reach. As for The Taliban who took over in 2004, although there has been an improvement in women's education in many urban areas the rural areas in Pakistan still struggle to find a quality education. If women like Malala would've been as brave and stood up to the Taliban sooner it is likely that Pakistan would be closer to having even better educational rights for women. The two main reasons for the prolongation of restricted women's rights in Pakistan can up until this point still be viewed as caused by fear of the Taliban and a patriarchal society.

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Women's Education in Pakistan. (2020, Mar 31). Retrieved May 29, 2024 , from

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