The importance of human capital viz. education and
skills has been recognized universally for speedy economic growth of a
country. In context of low-income developing economies, the development
of human capital has gained more importance as these countries have set
priorities for eradicating or rather arresting growing poverty and
combating all exploitations against disadvantaged segments of their
population, which can be achieved only through sustained and speedy
growth rate of their economies. Women and girl child are the two most
neglected components of global population. Women comprise almost 60% of
the world population living below poverty line. It is mainly lack of
economic independence, entailing social exploitation of women in
developing countries of South East Asia and Africa through ages-old
savage customs and traditions engulfing womenfolk.
Women of Pakistan are in most pathetic condition
regarding their socio-economic status, which is mainly due to their
deprivation from decision making process in almost all phases of their
life cycle, which in turn is the outcome of male dominant gender power
relation. Women are not encouraged to express their opinion even in such
personal matters like choosing life partner, family planning and
inheritance of family property. In patriarchal social environment
decision making remains a male prerogative.
The one sided, male dominant development thinking has
resulted in grossly inadequate government's investment in human
resources development of women and consequently women's basic needs
remain unattended. Education has been rendered a vital and basic need
for development of human resources and it's importance is reflected
through article 37 (b) and (c) of Pakistan's Constitution of 1973, which
conveys that "state shall remove illiteracy and provide free and
compulsory education within the minimum possible period." The
article 37 (c) stipulates that state shall "make technical
education and professional education generally available, and higher
education equally accessible to all on the basis of merit".
For making primary education available to all,
efforts are on since last mid-sixties. The military led regime of
immediate past gave an ambitious target of providing primary education
to all by year 2000, but emerging constraints due to political
developments both within the country and across the border prevented
government making sufficient budgetary allocations for education.
Secondly, lack of sincere efforts on the part of lower echelons of
bureaucracy/government functionaries impeded reaching the said target.
However, the present government is sincerely striving to make primary
education available to all by 2015 in compliance to recommendations of
World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal in 2000 which requires
providing compulsory education to around 113 million children between
the ages of 6 and 11 by 2015, who do not have access to education for
one reason or other.
Government has taken initiatives to promote secondary
and tertiary education also. In this regard special incentives are being
provided to girls of secondary level schooling in public sector schools.
Allowing stipend of Rs. 200/- per month to those who show 80% or more
attendance is an step in the right direction to motivate poor families
to continue the schooling of their daughters after primary level when
education is no longer free. For promoting tertiary education among
women, government's initiatives are visible in almost all the provinces.
Women universities and exclusive women medical colleges have been set up
to facilitate higher education for those girl students whose parents do
not favor co-education. In medical and engineering colleges/universities
and business schools with co-education arrangements entry is open to
girl students strictly on merit and without any discrimination.
Some financial institutions including Institute of
Bankers in Pakistan have opened doors to non-bankers for their advance
education in banking programs without any gender discrimination. One of
the foreign banks in collaboration with IBA Karachi is offering MBA
degree program with major in banking, entry to which is strictly on
merit, but it is open to all.
Investment in human capital in context of education
of all level brings adequate personal and social return bill for men and
women. A better-educated and trained work force deployed in a project
would ensure higher operational efficiency of the project.
According to findings of a study conducted at De
Beauk University of Brussels, investment in education in low income
developing countries brings high returns as depicted from table given
The above table depicts, that investments in
education of all levels gives much higher return than investment in
physical capital and the rate of return from the latter also depends on
skills and expertise of human capital (man power) involved at different
stages of a project, irrespective of the fact whether it is a commercial
or non profit entity. Another finding of said study reveals that
investment in girl child education yields especially high returns.
It is a globally recognized fact that women
empowerment in absolute terms is the outcome of their economic
independence/empowerment, which is facilitated through acquiring higher
education, including technical and professional education. Higher
technical and professional education makes possible women entry into
specialized fields of finance, engineering, health, education and
commerce and industry and then reaching senior management positions,
where decision making rests.
It is unfortunate that overall literacy rate of the
country is much lower even among developing countries and consequently
female literacy rate in remote areas of Baluchistan and N.W.F.P is even
less than 2%. No doubt under "Education For All" program
special incentives are being offered to girls for motivating parents to
send their daughters to school and also to curtail drop out rate at
primary level, which is as high as 41%. However, in order to ensure
success of all women welfare related initiatives of government,
monitoring of these projects should be assigned to women only.
Women should be involved in decisions relating to
legislation process, economy and social sector, so that it is ensured
that laws passed in the assembly do not have adverse bearing on women.
For legislators in all tears of Assemblies and
Senate, one of the eligibility criteria for contesting election is their
holding Bachelor's degree in any discipline of education. Hence as
result of government's endeavor to enhance women's participation in
legislative process, sizable number of women has entered assemblies and
Senate. However, to make their presence effective through advocacy,
there is need to expose them to behavioral skill and offer development
training program to develop assertiveness and self confidence among
them, so that they may assert their point of view in assemblies
especially regarding elimination of discriminatory laws and all
exploitation against women.
Further, for ensuring women empowerment certain
strategies need to be adopted at personal/individual level and some on
national and international level.
At personal level, women need to know themselves
their social, economic and political rights.
Each and every woman must strive to acquire higher
education or proficiency in various business and behavioral skills so as
to get themselves not only gainfully employed/self-employed but also to
assert for level playing field for their working environments, enabling
them to rise to senior echelon of management in any organization. In
case of doing business they may emerge as a highly competitive
Advance religious education is an area of education
which is commonly neglected by women, this should also be given
priority, as discriminatory laws enforced against women, which are
repugnant to Islamic teachings need to be identified.
Apart from efforts on personal level, initiative for
women empowerment are also needed at national level. At the Government
level, there should be arrangements for providing encouragement and
incentives as well as counseling services for girls to study scientific,
technical and managerial subjects at all levels in order to enhance the
aptitude of women for decision making, management and leadership.
Further, system should be in place for making
educational and vocational training accessible to women including those
fields where technologies are improving rapidly like Information
Recent thinking on the part of government about
curtailing subsidized higher education needs to be discouraged from the
very outset. Instead, women legislators must take up the issues in
assemblies and demand more incentives for promoting higher and
professional education among women.
In this regard NGOs role is of vital importance.
Awareness regarding women's right to education in general and higher and
professional education in particular and information regarding ways and
means to facilitate acquiring education need to be disseminated through
No doubt, some of the credible NGOs like Aurat
Foundation, Behbood, Pakistan Federation of University Women, Federation
of Business and Professional Women have played an important role in
creating awareness among women for their socio-economic and political
rights. NGO like Pakistan Federation of University Women having
affiliation with International Federation of University Women (IFUW),
who enjoy consultative status with UN has done a lot in promoting higher
education among women. Quite a number of talented young women were
awarded fellowships/scholarships in collaboration with IFUW to study at
renowned foreign universities for their Masters/Ph.D. degrees.
Pakistan Women Lawyers Association (PWLA) has helped
in creating awareness regarding legal rights of women specially in
context of Family Laws and also helped thousand of aggrieved women by
providing free legal aid for their legal cases in various Courts of law.
Notable NGOs can be tapped for facilitating advocacy
relating to need of advancement of women in various aspects of
socio-economic and political life of the country, and also for
developing linkages with various tears of government for getting
approved women development plans implemented by concerned government
functionaries without delay.
The undaunted efforts of Pakistan Federation of
Business and professional women for getting equal opportunities for
working women for participation in advanced training programs relating
to their line of profession both in public and private sector entities
are commendable. This initiative on the part of PFBPW has enabled number
of women reaching to senior management level in their organizations.
The linkages with international women NGOs like
International Federation of University women, International Federation
of Business and professional women, UNIFEM and UNICEF have been found
more fruitful for women of Pakistan for getting interaction with women
all over the world. The linkage with these foreign bodies have brought
awareness to women of Pakistan regarding latest development in
technologies in all fields, and has also given them exposure to various
strategies needed to promote women welfare.
Linkages with international bodies can be helpful in
having contact with various foreign universities/colleges of repute for
the fellowships and scholarships offered by them for post-graduate and
Ph.D. degrees in various disciplines of education.
To conclude, initiatives are needed on the part of
women themselves, individually and collectively (through women NGOs) to
disseminate information to remote areas of the country regarding
opportunities available for higher and professional education for women
in the country, to enable them to become value added human capital.