Gender Inequality in Indian Society- Gender equality and Social justice forms the bedrock of the society, it attempts to treat all its citizens with equality and justice. But the Indian society since ages has represented itself as the society where still boys are preferred over the girls. Even today the birth of the son is celebrated; sons are showered with love, respect, better food, health care and even with education. This discrimination seems to have become ingrained in the traditional Indian system. Gender inequality has adverse impact on development goals as it inhibits not just societal but economic growth as well. It hampers the overall well being because blocking women from participation in social, political and economic activities can adversely affect the whole society.

India has witnessed gender inequality from its early history due to its socio-economic and religious practices that resulted in a wide gap between the position of men and women in the society. This is widely revealed from what has been written in the Manu Smriti “By a young girl, by a young women, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, Even in her own house”. Yet in another text of Manu Smriti it is written- “In childhood a female must be subjected to her father, in youth to her husbands, when her lord is dead to her sons, a woman must never be independent”.

Education of Muslim Women and Islam- In the Muslims Holy Book “The Quran”, we find that it gives equal rights to men and women with regard to education, According to a saying by the Prophet (S.A.S): “Striving for knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim”. Thus, the fact that many Muslim girls are not being given the chance for further education is due to local tradition and is no way connection to Islamic regulations. Islam believes that ‘Equality’ does not mean ‘Identicality’. In Islam, the role of a man and woman is complimentary, not conflicting. It is that of a partnership; it is not contradictory so as to strive for supremacy. In view of the above state fact, it needs to be seen that Islam lays equality for Muslim women in the similar manner as it does for Muslim men in almost each and every aspect be it educational rights, working rights, legal rights etc. Islam prohibits doing partiality in upbringing the daughters and sons as is said in the following Hadith: “Anyone who up-brings two daughters properly and takes good care and brings them up with love and affection, will enter Paradise”.

With regard to Education, Islam gives utmost importance to education be it that of a girl or a boy. The first guidance given in the Holy Quran to the humankind was not to pray, fast or give charity; it was to read. (Surah Iqra, Ch.96, Verse No. 1 to 5).

According to Sahih Bukhari, the women were very enthusiastic to acquire knowledge and they once told the Prophet (S.A.W): You are usually surrounded by men- why don’t you give us one particular day so that we too can ask you questions?’- The Prophet (S.A.W) agreed. Besides going himself to them, he sent many others among his Sahabas (companions) to the women, to educate them. Even in those days, we have the examples of several Muslim women who were scholars. The best example is that of Hazrat Aisha (one of the wives of Prophet S.A.W) who used to give guidance even to the Sahabas and the Khalifas. Yet another example is that of Safiya (one of the wives of Prophet S.A.W) who was an expert on Fiq’h- Islamic Jurisprudence.

What one can gather from these aspects is that Islam has women scholars at the time when the women were ill treated, at the time when the women were buried alive when they were born, and they were the scholars in the field of medicine, in the field of science and in the field of Religion. Because Islam tells that every woman should be educated.

It can be stated that we seem to be influenced by the socio-cultural environment of the country when it comes to tackling gender disparity in terms of education. In India, cultural values, traditional beliefs, financial dependence on men, and restrictions to entering public places are some of the many reasons for gender disparity. A key point to note when understanding gender inequality in education in India is that even when gender parity in enrolment is achieved, discrimination towards women still exists as girls are discouraged from choosing subjects at the secondary and tertiary level which would lead to higher paying career opportunities.

Constitution and Women Education- The Constitution of Indian ensures gender equality in its preamble as a fundamental right and also empowers the state to adopt measures of position discrimination in favor of women by ways of legislation and policies. The Directive Principles of State Policy directs the States to provide free and compulsory education for all children under the age of 14. The aim of this directive has been at using literacy as a catalytic tool for social upliftment. Apart from this, the constitution has made education a fundamental right under Article 21 A. Thus it is our sincere duty and prime responsibility that women should be given each and every possibility through which they can gain education.

The Indian government recognizes the significance of education in the development of valuable infrastructure in order to provide quality education to all its citizens. Various policies are being formulated in order to bring investment in female education as this will lead to increased labour force participation and a subsequent expansion of the economy. Education will lead to lower fertility rate as well as lower child mortality.

The government of India has embarked on a vision to reduce the gender divide in primary and secondary education by setting the goal of ‘education for women equality” advocated by the National policy of education as per the tenth five year plan ( 2002-07) The Mahila Samakhya and the SSA programmes to provide quality education for girls between 6 and 14 years has increased the literacy rate of girls from 15.35 % in 1971 to 54.57 in 2007. One of the main objectives of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (2001) is to bridge gender gaps in primary and secondary education by 2010, since even after secondary education girls may not continue. “Extension Education” a policy providing job related knowledge, was introduced for those unable to proceed with formal secondary level. The National Literacy Mission was set up in 1988 aimed to mobilize dropouts, introduce mass and functional literacy and involve the community in educating women to the secondary level.

Benefits of female education- It has been documented that female education tends to improve the quantity and quality of education of children via the support and general environment an educated mother can provide to her children.

Education tends to reduce gender inequality as it tends to broaden one’s veins, reduce ethno centricity and thus increase one’s flexibility of accepting new customs and norms. Female Education is especially important for a country like India where gender biases dictate solely domestic roles for women. Lack of schooling in such cases tends to perpetuate gender disparities

ODL and Women Education- Open and Distance Learning plays an essential role which may be used to meet the contextual needs of the girls. The quest for gender equality in open learning has consistently attracted attention and provoked debates of vigorous academic discourses.

ODL is being considered as a major step forward in letting the women get the prime taste of education. For women who need to further their education for personal or professional reasons, distance education is being considered as one of the most favorable options.

Distance education is not a new concept. At one time, it was called correspondence school. With advancement in Information and communication technologies, the method in which ODL is being delivered has underwent a great change. With videotapes and computers in use, one can surely say that new women don’t have to go to college; rather college will come to them. This is a major step forward since owing to socio- cultural economic as well as religious norms prevalent in the orthodox Indian society, women are still not allowed to move out of the 4 walls of their house in order to get Education.

In India, still half of the population is said to live in villages. In such a scenario, girls are made to stay at home and help her mother in the household work and take care of the younger sibling. Even if she goes to school, she is at the most able to complete her primary education, since for secondary schools she might have to walk to as many as 13 miles, which surely her parents won’t allow moreover, she herself would not be interested in. Thus, in fact, a basic right of access to education is practically denied to the girl child.

The rural India is still away from getting the real flavor of education. This is truer for young girls than the boys who the later might even move to cities to get education. ODL can be considered as a blessing in disguise for such young girls who are deprived of education due to societal norms and traditions.

Distance Education can surely fill up the vacuum created by on campus studies especially for women. Distance education is being considered as a favorite option by majority of women folk because it is accessible. Women can study what they want and also from where they want. It is their own prerogative. Moreover ODL is advantageous because it is flexible. Women can study when they want, completing course work on their schedule, rather than that of college. ODL is being considered as a good option for those women who want to meet their personal and professional goals simultaneously.

ODL has the potential to alleviate or remove some of the barriers or constraints that prevents women and girls from accessing educational opportunities such as illiteracy, poverty, time scarcity, socio cultural factors, mobility and relevancy, leading to women empowerment and gender equality. The only lacunae in this field leading to lack of participation of women are the restricted access to the technology, basically lack of skills in using computers and lack of information.

If used in the right manner, ODL can become the tool for women’s active participation in improving their situations. Simple access to information and improved communications can end the isolation of women and promote improved health, access to reproductive services, economic growth as well as alleviate poverty.

ODL can serve as an opportunity to overcome some of these key barriers. However initiatives have to be designed specifically for women and awareness needs to be generated among women on the advantages of ODL and their potential to address specific problems faced by them.

In an effort to achieve the MDGs and Education for All targets, amongst the other countries of South Asia , India too has taken concrete steps to overcome gender disparity in Education. In situations where attending traditional schools is difficult or almost impossible ODL has been used to bring education to the doorstep of the traditionally deprived gender. ODL if used in the right format will surely help in overcoming poverty and making the women financially independent.

Women need to be encouraged to enable them to make use of ODL in improving their educational status. Positive discrimination or Affirmative action in favor of girls in provision of ODL facilities needs to be explored. With its ability to overcome geographical boundaries and relatively low access costs, ODL has revolutionalized the transfer of information and knowledge around the world.

ODL provides various types and levels of education to be acquired by the women. Flexibility of access and study times and the potential to reach women in rural areas or women facing social barriers that limit their access to schools, make distance learning via ICT a promising educational approach for women.

ODL and Muslim Women- ODL may open economic opportunities especially for Muslim women, since in their culture, Muslim women are expected to stay at home and are not permitted to have face to face contact with men other than close family, or to travel. In such cases, telephones, computers and the internet allow women to telecommute and hence work and interact with men without face to face contact and even without being in the same place.

The rate among Muslims is very much low- below the national average, needless to say that it is due to certain religious norms and social practices. As per the Census 2001, the literacy rate among Muslims was 59.1% below the national average of 64.8%.

Table 3: Literacy rates (2001)

All India

Rural

Urban

All

Male

Female

All

Male

Female

 

All

64.8

59

71

46

80

86

73

 

Hindu

65.1

59

72

46

81

88

74

 

SC/ST

52.2

49

61

36

68

78

58

 

Muslim

59.1

53

62

43

70

76

63

 

Others

70.8

64

77

52

85

90

78

 

                             

Source: Census 2001

The Sachar Committee Reports reveals that “in rural areas while only 68% Muslim girls are in school as compared to 72% of Dalit girls”. It further states that “Muslim Parents are not averse to modern Education”. This shows that modern education is still not accessible to majority of Muslim population despite their non opposition of the same. The report also noted that despite a common belief that a large number of Muslim children attend madarsas for primary education, only 4% of Muslim children among the school going age go to madarsas. Instead, many Muslim children are enrolled in Maktabs, which provide supplementary religious education in addition to enrolment in public schools.

Chart shows Distribution of Enrolled Muslim Children Aged 7-16 Years by Type of School

   

 

Government schools

66%

private schools

30%

madarsa

4%

 

 

Source: Sachar Committee report

According to the 2001 Census, 7% of the population aged 20 years and above are graduates or hold diplomas, while only 4% among the Muslim population does. The Sachar Committee Report notes that the gap between Muslims and other Socio Religious Categories (SRCs) increases as the level of education increases, and that unemployment rates among Muslim graduates is the highest among SRCs both among the poor and the non-poor. In such a grim scenario, ODL can be looked upon as a major tool to handle the alarming illiteracy amongst the Muslims especially women.

In some of the cases, women after marriage prefer to stay at home and play a larger role in their children’s upbringing. In such cases, if they want to further their education, they can effectively make use of ODL and that too without sacrificing their presence in the home.

In the remote villages of India, even till today women are not aware of Education and its benefits. ODL can be used as a major tool in bringing such women to the mainstream. Through ODL, one can reach within the boundaries of her house and provide her Education. But in formulating the coursework,z one need to make it flexible and lenient system both in terms of marking system and examination. Through ODL government can also think of planning post literacy programmes. In order to encourage education and promote women literacy we need to follow “low detention policy” if “no detention policy” is not possible.

Understanding The Flow Chart “Dynamism of Women’s Education”

Through the Flow Chart an attempt has been made to bring to the fore the consequences of gender inequality in education as well as positive outcomes of gender equality in education. Gender inequality in education may lead to boys with lower innate abilities getting educated and girls with better capabilities getting ignored which would lead to low quality of labour force. Owing to lack of women education, it will lead to higher fertility and thereby population will increase which in itself is a serious issue. The adverse effect of population leads to pressure on infrastructure and ultimately there is poor health, low education and thus low quality labour force. The effect is to be seen on earnings as well which too falls down and the direct consequence is on low savings and low investment and thereby the economy of the country suffers and country’s progress too takes a backseat.

However, if on the other hand we practice gender equality in education, the beneficial effects are too many and it is in the long run going to benefit the country’s economy as a whole. Educated mothers will mean educated children and thereby high quality students will enter the workforce. The aggregate savings and income too will increase leading to more investment and thus country’s economy progresses. Another positive effect of gender equality in education is that more educated mothers opt for fewer children, their quality of health and education is better off and thus the working age population increases leading to better quality labour force. Overall the country progresses and ultimately economy improves.

 

Our Suggestions with Regard to ODL

  1. The need of the present day India, is that ODL study material needs to be contextualized on the whole. It is imperative that the ODL textbooks should be evolved in different regional languages, so that their efficacy broadens. The States should be given greater role to play in the distribution of ODL books even in the remotest areas of India.
  2. It is important that the study material should be easier to understand and comprehend. This is important for the girls since they may not have access to go out and get their doubts cleared.
  3. It is the prime duty of government to evolve policies and framework where acceptance of ODL is taken at par with education received through regular universities. An effort may also be taken to give some preference in admissions to the girl child who is coming through ODL.
  4. ODL has to play a ‘no detention policy’. The marking system should be made flexible and leniency should be adopted in marking so as to encourage more and more enrolment of the girls who are socially and financially weaker.

 

 

 



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