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Education is the basic right of every human being. It is the most important key that opens the door to the bright future of an individual. Unfortunately, many Third World countries, including Pakistan, give less importance to education, let alone to girls’ education.

We all know that the progress of any country depends on the potential of its people. Therefore, if education is provided to all children, the country develops faster. However, in our country, education is considered to be the basic right of boys and not of girls. It is commonly thought that girls are meant to stay at home and do household chores while boys are the ones who run families and earn the livelihood, which is why the number of school-going girls is less than boys.

According to a 2016-17 report by Pakistan Education Statistics, approximately 22.84 million or 44 percent of children between the ages of five and 16 were out of school in Pakistan. In primary to higher secondary levels, 49 percent of the population of girls were out of school as compared to the 40 percent of boys.

The numbers indicate that many girls, whether willingly or unwillingly, are left uneducated. It will not be wrong to say that every girl’s education depends on the male members of her family who make the decisions for her.

Unfortunately, the families, which have male members with stubborn attitude towards their sisters and daughters, keep them away from the noble cause of getting education with usually lame reasons such as co-education, household chores and financial barriers.

To many people, educating a girl is a waste of money because she has to get married and do household chores so there is no need to educate her. For others, giving education to a girl is a way of making her confident and strong, and this is not acceptable in the conservative male-dominated parts of our society.

Another major cause of female illiteracy is marriage of girls at a young age, with the result that many girls do not complete their school and college education. According to UNESCO, illiterate women have an average of six or more children while literate women have fewer ones and a more balanced life.

What many people in our society fail to understand is that by educating girls, there are better chances of eradicating poverty because she can lift the standard of living for her children and family. An educated woman has the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to take productive steps to give a better upbringing to her children and support her family financially.

The two main things to focus on in this regard are:

  1. The government needs to spread awareness regarding the importance of female education in the country by working with NGOs and the private sector.

  2. Every parent should listen to what the girl child in their family wants and says. They should give priority to her opinions, dreams, aspirations and needs.

Lastly, I would like to encourage all the readers, young and old, to educate a girl child and never underestimate her skills. I would like to end by sharing an African proverb: “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family and a whole nation.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 9th, 2019