Issues

Does Education Empower Women?

“It is our culture, we have to hold a feast for more than a hundred Baaratis(people accompanying the groom to the bride’s house) on the marriage ceremony of my elder sister” angrily retorted my classmate with whom I was arguing that it is anti-Islamic and anti-Women to host and feed so many gluttons, accompanying a ‘starving pauper groom’, but my classmate wouldn’t listen to me, despite my open challenge that Islam completely forbade Baraat and any function at the home of the bride which proves a heavy burden for her family and enjoins Walima which is obligatory for the groom to organize and celebrate the marriage. Islam upholds the dignity of daughters and it is enough sacrifice for the families of brides that they marry their daughters to total strangers on mere trust, but customs demand that a daughter must remain a burden and like a burden she needs to be traded off, despite the fact that the whole Qur’anic discourse for men is duty based and for women right based but men always try to shirk away from their duties and responsibilities. Unfortunately what about the women who readily give in to these patriarchal whims and strengthen the structural prejudices against them?

My classmate happens to be ‘educated’ and completed her Masters, with a good percentage and sooner or later she will surely secure a nice job too, but what about her self-perception and confidence? Her argument set my mind thinking about the genuine query; “Has education really empowered women?” though it is often repeated that education is the fundamental tool for every empowerment!

I began to recall my little study and reflection on world civilizations, cultures and society, and could infer that certainly women used to enjoy a prestigious and envious status in some of the civilizations, cultures and societies, even if they could be described as illiterate and uneducated in the modern sense, but they were wholly conscious of their rights and didn’t let patriarchy define their roles, rights and boundaries. With the spread of education, women’s literacy too responded with an upward graph, but most of us are deceived by this rising graph and we fail to distinguish between literacy and education. A person can be literate but not educated!

Education empowers you to break the shackles of superstition, helps you to unlock your hidden potential, and overall revolutionizes your whole life, wherein you fail to succumb to the surreal impositions of the society. On the other hand a literate person can read, write and understand a language well, but literacy has failed to turn into education for him, and the real empowerment remains miles away, and he exists in a surreal-deceptive world thinking that he/she is educated?
The Dowry Deaths, Female Feticide, Domestic Violence, Rapes and Crimes against women are increasing with each passing day though we never fail to boast that we have achieved cent percent literacy rate and more schools and colleges are being opened every day, plus the girls enrolment is also increasing. So what are the reasons for this apathy? To understand the reasons a few concepts need to be clarified.

The difference between education and literacy must be understood!

The literacy that is imparted in our schools and colleges, is job oriented, where the destined goal is to secure a good job with immense perks and privileges. Hence the whole concentration of students is to secure more and more marks in a cut throat competition, and this is achieved by cramming and rote learning scores of books with hardly any little understanding.

This superficial learning fails to transform the character of an individual; add to it the dearth of focus on morals and ethics, pluralism, tolerance and lofty humane ideals; a student rarely gets transformed from a beast to a human leave aside an angel through education, which is its real aim. Hence education fails in its real purpose!

Plus the failure of teachers to inspire and act as role models for children, add insult to injury, hence when the end-product is received, he/she is no less harmful for the society than an illiterate moron. The well known saying that an illiterate thief can only steal the tyres of your car, but a literate thief your whole car, becomes self evident in such a society, as we are witness to the rampant corruption in which mostly literate people are involved.

These literate people are bold enough to commit crimes of varied hues with impunity, because they are accustomed to use of the legal loopholes. Women when literate not educated, easily sing the tunes and carry the whims of patriarchy with a smiling face. They are even ready to become an accomplice in the crimes against themselves, like female feticide and dowry.

The face value of literacy can’t be denied, as womenfolk have become better than their predecessor generations in various aspects be it child rearing or family affairs, but it has still not been completely successful in making them completely empowered. When dowry death, female feticide, rapes, domestic violence and honour killings are becoming rampant among the literate women, it certainly points to the fact that something is seriously wrong with our concept of education and educational institutions.  We have to acknowledge the fact that the soaring literacy rate has simply failed to inculcate the spirit of education and the empowerment which must accompany it, among the women.

Education revolutionizes your whole style of thinking; enlightens you with a burning desire to revolt against anything which is repugnant to being a human. An educated girl or woman wouldn’t give in to anti-feminist or misogynist cultural practices because it has been sanctioned by society or even by religion in certain cases. She will revolt being an accomplice to those crimes which bruise, belittle and crush her womanhood. The need of the hour is for women to understand their worth, realize their potential and develop a sense of real education, which will ultimately set them free.
 The author is writer-activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2011 on page no. 2

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