Education and Empowerment of Women

Dr Vanita Kumari
The norms and principles of gender equality and non-discrimination are at the core of all fundamental human rights treaties. International human rights law prohibits discrimination against women in the area of education. In accordance with Article-26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to education”. Article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights requires State parties to undertake “to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights” set forth in that treaty, including the right to education.
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights provides ” the right of everyone to education”. To this end, “primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all”.Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, and higher education, on the basis of capacity, shall be made generally and equally accessible to all, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.
Education is the fundamental building block in the fight against poverty. Women’s education particularly leads to significant social development. Some of the most notable social benefit includes decreased fertility rates and lower infant mortality rates and lower maternal mortality rates. Closing the gender gap in education also increases gender equality which is considered important both in itself and because it ensures equal rights and opportunities for people regardless of gender. Women’s education has cognitive benefits for women as well. Improved cognitive abilities increase the quality of life for women and also lead to other benefits. One example of this is the fact that educated women are better able to make decisions related to health, both for themselves and their children. Cognitive abilities also translate to increased political participation among women. Educated women are more likely to engage in civic participation and attend political meetings, and there are several instances in which educated women in the developing world were able to secure benefits for themselves through political movements. Evidence also points to an increased likelihood of democratic governance in countries with well educated women.
Household surveys in developing countries have consistently shown that women with more education have also benefits relating to their role in the household and have been found to experience less democratic violence regardless of other social status indicators like employment status. Women with an education are also more involved in the decision making process of the family amid report making more decisions over a given time period. In particular, these benefits extend to economic decisions. Besides the intrinsic value of increasing a woman’s agency, women play a more active role in the family also brings about social benefits for family members. In a household where the mother is educated, children and especially girls are more likely to attend school. In households where a mother is not educated, adult literacy programs can indirectly help to teach mothers the value of education and encourage them to send their children to school. There are a number of other benefits for children associated with having an educated mother over an educated father, including higher survival rates and better nutrition. The state with the highest rate of female literacy, at 91.98 %, is the southern state of Kerala. 26.9 % of female students in Kerala are likely to pursue higher education, while men are less likely at 19.3 %. The state’s GDP is ranked 11th out of all Indian states. The extremely high female literacy rate, especially when compared to the national rate of female literacy at 65.46 %, is attributed to a historical, societal value of women compared to other Indian states. The state with the lowest female literacy rate is the state of Rajasthan, at 52.66 %. 20.8 % of male students in Rajasthan go on to pursue higher education, while a lesser 14.9 % of women seek further education. The complexity in the comparison of Kerala and Rajasthan is seen in the higher ranking of Rajasthan, in terms of GDP, ranked 9th highest out of all Indian states, with Kerala at 11th. Although Kerala’s female literacy rates and female higher education applicants far exceed Rajasthan’s. Rajasthan’s GDP is ranked higher. The lower rates of female literacy rate in Rajasthan are caused by a much more conservative culture and a historically Muslim influence that does not value females, let alone their education.
Popular concepts that are related to the field of women’s studies include feminist theory, standpoint theory, inter sectionality, multiculturalism, transnational feminism, social justice, affect studies, agency, bio-politics, materialism’s, and embodiment. Research practices and methodologies associated with women’s studies include ethnography, auto ethnography, focus-groups, surveys, community-based research, discourse analysis and reading practices associated with critical theory, post-structuralism, and queer theory.
Everyday girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence and fragility. Girl’s education is a strategic development priority for the World Bank. The WBG has joined with governments, civil society organizations, multilateral organization, the private sector and donors to advance multi-sect oral approaches to overcome these challenges.
Although investment in women’s education is not present everywhere , David Dollar and Roberta Gatti have presented findings that show that this decision, along with other failures to invest in women are not ‘an efficient economic choice for developing countries and that “countries that under-invest grow slowly”. Investing in girls’ education transforms communities, countries and the entire world. Girls’ education strengthens economies and reduces inequality. Globally, there are 130 million girls’ who are not currently enrolled in school. Investing in their futures has the potential to uplift their families and the world. Moreover, the Central Government of India has recently launched the Saaksher Bharat mission for female literacy, which aims to reduce female illiteracy and spread education and awareness even in the most remote and rural parts of the nation. The socio-economic impact of female education constitutes a significant area of research within international development. Increases in the amount of female education in regions tend to correlate with high levels of development. Some of the effects are related to economic development. Women’s education increases income of women and leads to growth in GDP. Other effects are related to social development. Educating girls leads to a number of social benefits, including many related to women’s empowerment.
Women’s empowerment is a key factor in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. SDG goal number five targets gender equality and women’s empowerment as the fundamental requirements for an equitable society and bringing sustainable development. SDG 2030 aims for gender equality by eliminating all the root causes that curtail women’s rights in every sphere of life. Women are less paid for the same work than men in several developing as well as developed nations. Unless gender equality is achieved and women enjoy equal rights and opportunities as men, sustainable development would still be a distant dream. Educating women and bringing them on the forefront is the first thing to do if we ever want to achieve SDG goals by 2030. Much has been done at national and international levels to promote the agenda of gender equality in education. The Millenium Development Goals have emphasised the need for concerted efforts on gender equality in the education sector.
To conclude, statistic reveal that 49 of the world countries lack behind in laws protecting women rights in case of domestic violence and 39 have no law of inheritance for a girl child. There is a need to make urgent policy measures and necessary changes in laws to safeguard the interests of women.
(The author is Lecturer in Education Department.)