International Women’s Day
Challenges of women’s education in Bangladesh
Every year International Women's Day, shortly known as IWD is celebrated on 8 March based on the situation and a theme set by the United Nations (UN). This year also it is being observed on the theme of "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world". The day of this year aims to highlight the role women have been playing at the forefront of the global health crisis; as health workers and caregivers, community organizers and innovators.
Women's leadership cannot be achieved if they are not ensured with a hassle and risk free education in the country. During the pandemic women's education has tremendously been barred due to huge inequality and disparity in educational approaches. In Bangladesh, the women are considered as a stereotyped family confined life leading, which keeps our education backward to the illiterate age day by day and resultantly worsen the status of the country as well.
Women in many parts of the world are still viewed as inferiors. When girls walk a long distance to arrive at the school, parents often feel worried about their girl's safety. This is because violence can take place on such roads. As a result, the girls are kept at home. There is also the issue of violence at school that is growing at a higher pace. Upon reaching school, girls may face various forms of abuse at the hands of their friends, teachers, and seniors. If parents find out about this disruption, they will most likely not want to send their girls to school.
Child marriage: Child marriage violates multiple human rights and mostly the right to education, making it a particularly egregious practice. Children who get married are more likely to drop out of school and children who are not in school are more likely to get married. Statistics from the World Bank and International Center for Research on Women reveal that 10-30% of parents, depending on country, reported that their children are dropped out of secondary school due to child marriage and/or pregnancy. Their research also indicates that for every year a girl marries before the age of 18, the likelihood she completes secondary education decreases by 0.22 years on average. In Latin America and Asia, girls who marry before the age of 12 have a reduced likelihood of 21% of completing their secondary education.
Gender- based violence: Gender-based violence against girls, for instance, rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, corporal punishment, and harmful practices such as child marriage as mentioned and female genital mutilation can keep girls out of school temporarily or indefinitely.
This is a dismaying new trend in Bangladeshi society. To make matters worse, this year's statistics show that 2020 has already marked a worse year for Bangladeshi women than the past four years combined. A recent report says that a total of 26,695 rape cases have been filed across the country in the last five years, said the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in a report submitted to the High Court. Among the cases, 4,331 were filed in 2016, 4,683 in 2017, 4,695 in 2018, 6,766 in 2019, and 6,220 were lodged till October 2020, according to the report signed by Additional Deputy Inspector General of Police Md Rezaul Karim.
Gender based violence often occurs in schools, known as 'school-related gender-based violence' (SRGBV), which UNESCO defines as: 'acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence occurring in and around schools, perpetrated as a result of gender norms and stereotypes, and enforced by unequal power dynamics, that can often lead to girls under-performing and/or dropping out of school altogether.
Due to the above mentioned challenges according to UNICEF, 10 per cent of girls never enroll, 34 per cent dropout and 28 per cent complete school, but they do not pass or they lack the necessary skills to find a job or go onto higher education. However, 28 per cent of girls in Bangladesh complete school with acceptable achievement.
Moreover, Covid-19 is having a negative impact on women's health and well-being and many are at risk of not returning to school once they reopen. As women stay at home because of school closures, their household work burdens might increase, resulting in girls spending more time helping out at home instead of studying. Research shows that girls risk dropping out of school when caregivers are missing from the household because they typically have to (partly) replace the work done by the missing caregiver, who might be away due to COVID-19-related work, illness, or death. Therefore, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we might see more girls than boys helping at home, lagging behind with studying, and dropping out of school.
Therefore, it is highly important to bring up young girls in our country as educated women. If a cost-benefit analysis is done, the benefits will certainly outweigh the costs. First and foremost, the number of child brides in Bangladesh will take a dive.
Women's education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are more likely to participate in the formal labour market and earn higher incomes. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty.
Preventive methods need to be taken to remove the challenges girls face in pursuing their education. Firstly, villagers and people living in poverty-struck regions should be notified about the importance of girls' education via small community initiatives. This will help the poor people comprehend the definition of gender equality. Secondly, boys should be educated about the importance of gender equality and how significant a contribution women's education can make in the society. Finally, legislation must be made stricter- both in schools and on roads. The schools must have rigid rules and regulations regarding the safety of girls that must be maintained at all times. Also, more security personnel, such as police officers, need to be placed in different areas of the road to ensure the safety of girls walking to school and home.
One of the most efficient ways to ensure women's education in Bangladesh has been through the implementation of madrasas' schools. In a madrasas school, children have access to civil and religious education, allowing parents to feel safe in sending their daughters to school without feeling like their religious beliefs are being compromised. With the rise of madrasas schools catering to the more religious families and communities, more girls have been able to enroll in school.
On the above mentioned description, we may conclude that the education availed by women not only leads to increased household incomes and contributes towards building a more skilled labour force, but it will also make these individuals more socially mobile and ensure the educational excellence in the country. If the education sector can provide proper education to both sexes equally, men are expected not to turn to domestic violence, and women to be more likely to overcome the situation of domestic violence at home, there must be a better world to lead the nation and achieve a future equal in the world. This also will give women a sense of pride a boost, enhance their prestige and make them happier and confident in the long run.
Dr Md Mahmudul Hassan is an
education researcher and
Principal, Daffodil International
School (DIS), Dhaka