February 11 is annually celebrated as International Day of Women and Girls in Science under the sponsorship of the United Nations (UN). The reason for this day is to appreciate all women and girls who have contributed and enlightened themselves in the field of science by inventing easeful equipments.
The role of women and girls in science is not hidden from anyone: they have invented tens of thousands of inventions such as Electrical Refrigerator by Florence Parpart, Modern Medical Syringe by Letitia Mumford Geer, Wireless Transmission Technology by Hedy Lamarr, CCTV camera by Marie Van Brittan Brown and many more. This shows the importance of women’s presence in science and technology.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan February 11 means nothing. We show zero interest on this day for women and girls. Majority of us consider women to be solely a housewife, nothing else. It is hard to make someone believe that women and girls have their own beings, choices, desires and dreams etc. Dishearteningly, from education to marriage, women have no authority to speak up a single word in most of regions in our society. They are the male members or siblings to select or reject someone for her.
However, women and girls are suffering from different challenges in every walk of life in Pakistan – from shopping to work places, they are vulnerable from male genders. Some major challenges are domestic violences, honour killings, force marriages, abductions, and induced abortions. The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 report ranked Pakistan at 151 out of 153 countries, which means we are standing as the 3rd most vulnerable country for women in the world. More than 1000 women and girls are murdered in the name of honour every year, and 90% suffer from domestic violences. This leads Pakistan to a sorry state for women and girls.
The sole solution to overcome this curse is right education. Because accurate education has the power to lead them to get to their rights. It is worth considering. Except proper education, all roads that lead women and girls towards the achievement of their goals are full of disappointment and perturbation.
Additionally, government has to fulfill its obligations of education for girls as guarenteed by Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan, which indicates for free education from ages 5 to 16. But still the literacy rate is just 46.7%.
There are several reasons for this which are all interconnected; education and textbooks are free of cost but there are remaining expenses such as admission fees, school bags, uniforms, shoes, stationaries etc. The second issue is transportation. Schools are often at far distances –mostly in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Parents may not afford vehicles to pick and drop their children.
Furthermore, vast majority of public schools in Pakistan are at primary levels, whereas, secondary schools are at even greater distances. Therefore, literacy rate drops 10% to 20% annually when they reach in secondary schools. Worthy to mention, on secondary level, they hit puberty or begins to look mature, that is why, fear of harassment and abduction rises in one’s mind.
More broadly, it will be silver lining for women and girls if we pay vigorous heed to their education that they be empowered and remove all quagmires such as violences, forced marriages and etcetera by themselves. The government too should ensure their safety in educational institutions.
There are tens of thousands of living and nonliving examples of women who have contributed masterpieces in their concerned fields. We need to give more opportunities to more women and girls so that they also get equal and fair chances in raising in the world. History has witnessed no prosperity without equal participation of both, men and women.