10 situations which highlight why educating women is vital in Pakistan

Published: December 13, 2013

Pakistani schoolgirls walk along a path after school in Mingora, a town in Swat valley. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Being the daughter of a surgeon, and being a lawyer myself, I hear and read stories everyday about how certain mishaps which have occurred could have been avoided with the simple proviso: education. 

The government needs to encourage the right of women to be educated.

Listed below are 10 real-life situations where education would have prevented unfortunate outcomes.

1)  A woman who is encouraged to abort a daughter or is killed or divorced upon producing daughters. If she was educated, the woman would know that the gender of a baby is decided by the male sperm and not by a woman’s eggs. This is basic genetics.

2)  A woman who lets her children play around flying kites, not realising that this can be perilous for them. Common sense dictates to keep children away from such areas to avoid accidents.

3)  A woman who doesn’t take care of her personal hygiene. An educated woman would know that hygiene is an essential component of a child’s upbringing. Washing hands after using the toilet can easily prevent diseases such as cholera and stomach infections.

4)  A woman who thinks the polio virus sterilises her. An educated woman would know very well that polio can be a debilitating disease for her children and measures must be taken to curb it from spreading.  She would understand that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is doing its utmost to eradicate this disease.

5)  A woman who doesn’t know how to read or write and gives medication to her children, which is more than the amount stated. This can often result in severe allergic reactions in children and sometimes even death due to overdosing.

6)  A woman who doesn’t wish to rely on the marvels of modern medicine, fearing it to be some sort of foreign conspiracy and relies on hakims or herbal medicines instead to heal what actually requires medical attention; for example, remedying diabetes with herbal medication, when insulin is urgently required.

7)  A woman whose rights to property are taken away from her by signing legal documents under duress or without the appropriate legal advice, resulting in her losing access to what she rightfully owns.

8)  A woman who doesn’t check her Nikahnama (marriage contract) to see if the section which allows her to seek a Khula (Islamic divorce) has been ticked or not. If this section isn’t ticked then the woman has no legal right to seek a divorce unless her husband divorces her first. This is a right of seminal importance and deprived to many women out of sheer ignorance.

9)  A woman who is told that her marriage can only take place if her family provides a heavy dowry.  She would know that this is a cultural requirement and holds no position in Islam.

10)  A woman who stuffs her genitals with cloth to avoid getting pregnant again, resulting in internal infections. An educated woman would be aware of contraceptive choices available to her and would take active steps to plan her family accordingly.

These are just a few of the medico-legal issues women faced by uneducated women. There is a whole other world of dependency and reliance that women place on men when they don’t have the benefits of education.

The aim here is to raise awareness of how closed minded a woman without education can become.

Some people consider women’s education to be superfluous and pointless but such situations, which continue to occur on a daily basis, provide a distinct and poignant reason why every woman should be educated.

There is a famous quote by Brigham Hill which states

“You educate a man, you educate a man.  You educate a woman, you educate a generation”

Let’s hope our future generations are in safe hands.

Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed S

    BRAVO!!Recommend

  • Adnan Syed

    Gender of a baby is determined by the male sex and not of female has been too rusty argument in this context only because even uneducated women know this reality…. Point is that they still are looked down upon after birth of a daughter because of the sickening social norm and cultural pressure….. Even educated women allow their kids flying kites what you mentioned about kite-flying comes out of sheer ignorance or lack of knowledge in this connection….. Wow… women stuffs their genitals with cloth to avoid getting pregnant…. never knew that so it might be rather rare for illiterate women to know this trick…..Again dowry is nowhere to be found in Islam is common like Tom and Jerry cartoon, linking this to education of a woman in Pakistan seems coming outta negligence regarding knowledge of women’s education in Pakistan. Instead, dowry is a social evil and cultural stuff, both educated and uneducated women are cognizant to this…….Recommend

  • Hunaid

    Commendable.

    Someone should prepare these as Urdu pamphlets and distribute in lower middle class areas. If they don’t opt for education, they will at least know where they are going wrong.

    I’d like to do it, would the author and/or ET mind?Recommend

  • Dr. ALE AHMED

    unfortunately, only “perhalikha” people would read, comment and derive entertainment from this article.. like i have been saying all the time, such issues need to be visual, not on blogs or papers…Recommend

  • anushe

    Another elementary article which does not warrant publication… if the author were mature enough she would realise that most of the points she mentioned have more to do with cultural conditioning rather than education. In our culture women are their own enemies. Disliking/ aborting daughters? How many saasu maas are behind this phenomenon none needs to think twice about.

    As for checking boxes on nikahnamas, property rights, believe me there are dozens of perfectly educated girls out there who have been subjugated into not questioning religious matters. Overdosing medicines? Have you not seen the educated girl dosing out phenergan to shut her baby up?

    Matters such as these are not merely solved by a wonder cure named education. A lot of cultural practices need to be changed as well. Until then, welcome to the country that is slowly regressing into the dark ages despite whatever education its people may have!Recommend

  • b.

    I agree with you faiza Recommend

  • Muniza

    agreedRecommend

  • kapeel

    greatRecommend

  • javs

    Nice to see a informative blog on ET. Good work!Recommend

  • loyaltraitor

    Hear, hear! A most convincing, impressive argument.Recommend

  • Nadeem

    Makes sense – never really thought about all these multiple dimensionsRecommend

  • Parvez

    Lets hope the mullah’s especially in the Council of Islamic Ideology get to read this.Recommend

  • Rida

    Even educated women don’t bother to look at their nikahnamas.Recommend

  • sarah raza

    i highly doubt on it, how can cloth be used to avoid pregnancy! if it is, we really need to educate women of all ages about their health problems regarding contraception and specially on basic abstinenceRecommend

  • Samir Ali

    Education for women must of the right type. That is Islamic education.Recommend

  • jo

    Under Islamic Law, a woman can seek Khula with or without a little box being ticked. That is Pakistani Law. An educated woman would know that as a Muslim woman, she can get a Khula with or without a little box being ticked as that has no bearing.Recommend

  • abhi

    I like the 2nd one most. We need to be educated in order to understand the perils of flying kite.Recommend

  • Adam

    Hows about, No Female Genital mutilation and No more Acid attacks..Recommend

  • Queen

    I think you have forgotten that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has said that “education is compulsory for both men and women” and “Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China for it.” In both cases, it is not indicated that men or women should receive only Islamic education. In earlier times and even now, China is not the center of Islamic teachings, yet holy prophet ( SAW) has commanded people to go there to seek knowledge. This means that knowledge and education is important be it Islamic or be it “modern” as some people call it. The important point is that one should not forget his or her religious beliefs and values after receiving education.Recommend

  • Fuaaza

    Yes I do agree with you but in our society its difficult to convince our elders even if v r educated. e.g gender of the baby. I know many educated posh families acting wild before the birth of baby.as they gt it abort knowing that its a girl. You cannot fight. and if u do the whole society even your own parents become against you. I have my own example on propety issues. After my Daddy’s death my mother and my brother are against me and my sister. Me and my sister r still standing strong on shariat distribution but my mother is under my brother’s pressure. Now thn comes respect of my mother. even though we are all educated and refined people but v cant help tht out. Wat would you say now?Recommend

  • Zubair

    This is the first time in my life that i think i have been convinced on the education of women. i was always against women education but this is the first time i think that the should be. great work.Recommend

  • Anarcho-syndicalist

    I agree and support women education.Recommend

  • Anarcho-syndicalist

    a footnote can be written on the form that inspite of signing the Nikahnama, a woman has right to change it anytime, get divorce anytime or walk away anytime.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Hunaid, as the Nike add says……..Just do it……….after all you’ll be doing something good.Recommend

  • grandmasti

    sarcasm???Recommend

  • mehrxuri

    I do not agree that,”An educated woman would know that hygiene
    is an essential component of a child’s upbringing. Washing hands after
    using the toilet can easily prevent diseases such as cholera and stomach
    infections.” Although it is natural to associate uncleanliness with illiteracy, but the truth is that I have seen completely uneducated women who take very good care of themselves and their children. Whereas, there are women who are highly educated but lack the sense of hygiene and often neglect their children. It is not education that teaches hygiene; its is the availability of resources that is a causal determinant of this relationship.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I would not put all the blame on the girl for that……..rather I would put the blame on those around her.Recommend

  • Rida

    Thats a good ideaRecommend

  • Rida

    More articles like this please ETRecommend

  • Mubeen

    It’s not just about education, it’s about brought-up (Tarbiyat) too. Taleem and Tarbiyat r two different things altogether. We usually see a man driving a car, wearing a two-piece suit and still breaking the law (signal).Recommend

  • Any Muslim Man

    Dear Ms. Iqbal:

    As a lawyer I am sure you understand that the concept of “causality” versus “correlation”. The issues you described do not have direct causality with “literacy” except for #5 and #7 and #8. They are more directly related with the issue of “awareness” that can be imparted by having a credible support group of wonderful, highly educated women like yourself, involved in public service and support. Unfortunately, Islam as it is practiced in Pakistan has failed the women of Pakistan. Because our mosques and the Friday khutbas, instead of being the greatest source of education and awareness of the masses against misogynistic cultural and social practices, have only furthered the bigotry against women in general.

    Having said that, NO one would (and should) disagree with the need for more literacy for all genders (not just women). Yet at the same time cultural taboos and unjust social traditions can be changed by having a very strong Women’s Rights movement in Pakistan which lobbies for legislation that forces a change in the Nikahnama document, so (for example) the right of a woman to “khula” becomes her fundamental right as a human being and should never be taken away by a check mark, because it is inhuman as well as un-Islamic.

    We need to understand how democracy works. It requires good, educated, smart people to work and support each other to improve the overall quality of life within the society.

    In some cases mass awareness and outreach campaigns have successfully been conducted to address similar issues. Women in the villages are reached and educated and made aware of similar problems. Legally protected support groups are created and provided funds and supports through the state and local governments.

    Democracy is about special interests coming together to improve the quality of life within the society. It is about time that we create a very powerful and influential women’s rights lobby in Pakistan, with a single large unified voting bloc. There is no reason that women of Pakistan could not come together and reverse the laws as well as change the dominant “bury-your-daughter” culture mindset. It will take time, but has been done in other cultures and societies and there is no reason, Pakistani women will not be able to do the same.

    Please understand that even education of women is not a simple task. The same cultural roadblocks that currently suppress the rights of women under the false pretext of “Islamic edicts” stand in the way of women’s education as well. Remember Malala?! Her assassins shot an 11-year old in the head and her classmates for seeking her constitutional “right.” And still a big percentage of this country somehow thinks that those murderers were “justified”.

    Therefore, the greater challenge is to bring about a culture change within the society. Only educated, enlightened women, which are blessed are in the position to bring the much needed social and cultural change.

    Please understand that culture has PRIMACY over everything within a society. Understand that notion and you will understand the root cause of all problems faced by the women of Pakistan. In that extent, Pakistan is absolutely no different from India or any such society in the world. So let’s all work together to bring about a cultural change and these issues will be eradicated in no time.

    Lastly, everyone is a cynic. So I hope you understand that I am neither critical nor cynical about your article, as that attitude never accomplishes anything worthwhile.

    Thank you for your article!Recommend

  • A Muslim Man

    Inheritance is a perfect example where people’s Islam regarding property rights of women quickly disappears in the background and cultural hegemony and social chauvinism takes over. LOUD AND CLEAR. And you will never hear a single khutba in the mosque by the Mullah decrying the brothers who cheat their sisters in their father’s inheritance (in conspiracy with their own mothers) as great sinners, who shall eternally live in the Hell Fire.

    Your legal right to your father’s inheritance can NEVER be taken away, as the laws in Pakistan are currently written (Thank God). However, as you indicated your mother is facing social pressure, because her own social and cultural upbringing somehow makes her “think” (incorrectly) that she will be a dependent on her “male” heir, so she needs to side with him. When in fact, time will prove it that you and your sister will really take care of her in her later years, and son would be nowhere to be found.

    This happens in this “(UN)Islamic Republic” every day. We are the most unjust as a nation to our minorities and to our women. And that is why Allah (SWT) has completely Forsaken Pakistan, as can been easily seen that life of an average person is close to hell on earth.

    Do NOT, under any circumstances forgo your legal right. If you are unmarried, use the money for your education. If you are married, make sure to educate your kids with the money and don’t squander it on your husband or his family’s silly (but seemingly important) needs. That is your money.Recommend

  • A Muslim Man

    How about educating men. In my experience I have met several women who do not want any more kids, because they are the ones stuck raising them. When in fact that man would not let her get her tubes tied, nor would use any kind of viable birth control, under the mistaken notion that it is unIslamic.Recommend

  • zaeryn

    why there are no laws that give the women in Pakistan the same right as men?Recommend