Nov 17 - 23, 2008

The benefits of education affect human life as well as political, economic, social and cultural aspects of a nation. It promotes overall tolerance within a society.

The education is equally important for both men and women. It contributes in enhancing self respect and confidence leading towards empowerment. It especially creates awareness about rights and access to information empowers women to defend and pursue their rights. Evidence from developing countries shows that education is increasingly becoming one of the most effective tools used to empower women.

Educating women has far reaching results not only for individual households but for overall economic growth of a country. Inside the homes educated women enhance the quality of life by instituting hygienic and healthy practices within the family folk. She can plan the size of her family and also provides support in her children's education. Outside the house she can be a source of additional financial supporter that improves standard of life of her family, by generating extra income.

However, the gender gaps persist at all levels of the education system in Pakistan, which is gradually narrowing down due to the government policies to address the cause and consequences of gender discrimination in the society. Many NGOs are also playing important role to educate girls and adult women in rural areas specially.

According to the data presented in the Education Census 2005, 57,868 or 25 percent of the total institutions are for boys and 48,475 or 21 percent are for girls and 53 percent fall in the category of mixed institutions. Data show that the overall participation is highest in Punjab followed by Sindh and NWFP while it is lowest in Balochistan. The lowest participation by girls in overall enrollment was in FATA region.

There are 7.6 million girls enrolled in the rural areas as compared to 11.5 million boys. The gap in enrollment has narrowed in case of urban areas as 6.7 million girls are enrolled as compared to 7.5 million boys.

Out of total 669,189 teachers working in the urban areas, 417,382 or 62 percent were females while 251,807, 38 percent were males whereas in rural areas out of total 687,613 teachers only 278,383, 40 percent, were females as against 409,230 or 60 percent were males.

The education scenario depicted that total enrolment in all institutions was 33,379,578 of which girls were 14,398,365 while 18,981,213 were boys. According to the National Education Census 2005, at the primary level out of total 12.43 million 5.31 million were girls and 7.11 million were boys. Surprisingly, at Middle level out of total 6.65 million 3.13 million were girls and 3.52 million were boys while at Secondary level out of total 9.47 million 4.02 million were girls and 5.45 million were boys.

However, after intermediate level the gap between girls and boys started increasing, for instance, at intermediate colleges out of total enrolment of 201,328 the number of girls was 80,885 and boys 120,443. At the highest level of general universities out of total 194,971 registered students 63,110 were girls and 131,861 were boys. This shows that girls enrolment was about the half of the boys, perhaps due to the tradition of early marriage of girls and non existent of universities in rural areas are the main reason of low enrolment of girls at higher level.

There are many reasons responsible for this difference of women and men participation in rural areas. Of which, the main factor was low level of literacy among women in the rural areas, while there is severe shortage of qualified women who can be hired especially in schools for girls. Government and most private girl's schools require female teachers, but major barriers to female mobility prevent educated women to relocate or lack of transportation impedes in where the jobs exist.

During 2001-06, in Punjab 31000 Adult Literacy Centers and primary schools were set up. A Crash Literacy Program for Rural Women in Southern Punjab has been launched to enhance literacy rate among women.

The Ministry of Sindh is currently operating an Adult Literacy Program under the Education Sector Reform. How many centers are for women was not indicated.

The other provincial governments along with NGOs are running many programs. About 86 literacy centers are operating under these programs from where 2,150 illiterates have already been graduated. Under the second program 835 literacy centers were opened and imparting basic literacy skills to 24,923 illiterates, how many are for women are not known.

Although significant improvement in the literacy rate of Pakistan has taken place since its independence. But still the adult literacy rate is 45 percent only, which is far behind from most of the Asia countries. The male literacy rate is 58 percent and for females 32 percent which indicates that literacy in women is almost half of the men or about two third of the total population of women are illiterate. The situation is even worst in the provinces of NWFP and Balochistan. There is wide disparity exists in the literacy rate of men and women in different provinces.

The primary Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) of Pakistan is 72 percent. For boys it is 83 percent whereas for girls it is 61 percent that means 17 percent boys and 39 percent girls do not have access to schools. In the province of Balochistan two third of total girls population is still out of primary schools.

Due to the lack of education and less job opportunities, the unpaid family helpers form quite a significant portion i.e. 12.98 million in 2006-07, registering an increase of 5.84 percent in employed work force since 1999-00. In 1999-00, the female share in the unpaid family helpers was 32.79 percent that rose to 45.46 percent in 2006-07.

Self employed females rate was 13.4 percent and 0.1 percent were employers. The figure 0.1 percent shows the prevalent traditional norms of the society where women are still discouraged to actively join the work force and are preferred to remain family helpers especially in the agro-based rural families.

The boom in the livestock and dairy sectors has created demand for additional workers in the family that led to the increase in the unpaid family helpers' category. This sector in rural areas has become quite rewarding. Moreover, education in some rural areas is still prohibited for girls; therefore, they are compelled to join folk of un-paid workers.

Recently, the government has announced policy for women's empowerment. It would be implemented though distribution of land to the landless harees, preferably women. The land grant policy said it would focus on empowerment of peasant women.

But in our opinion, it is the only education that can empower the women in real terms. Instead of distributing land, which would ultimately be taken over by their husband, brother or son, more and more primary and vocational institutions should be set up in rural and far flung areas. This measure will alleviate poverty of women and make them strong to face the problems of life with vigor.



Overall 58 32 45
Punjab 57 36 47
Sindh 60 31 46
NWFP 57 20 38
Balochistan 53 15 36
PIHS 2001-2002



Overall 72 83 61 22
Punjab 76 84 69 15
Sindh 63 76 51 25
NWFP 77 97 56 41
Balochistan 62 77 44 33
PIHS 2001-2002
Note: Tables are optional.