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Punjab lags behind all provinces in girls’ education; 

26 Julie 2011 08:54:03

Punjab lags behind all provinces in girls’ education;


Male dominance prevails throughout Pakistan;


Media's role in determining attitudes towards gender equity lauded;


Form and method of reporting should improve: Survey


‘79.5% of girls in KPK, 75.5% in Punjab, 85% in Balochistan, 83.5% in Sindh, 95% in Islamabad and 93.5% in Gilgit Baltistan go to school. This suggests significant regional differences in gender equity in terms of education, with a significantly higher proportion of girls having access to education in Islamabad than in Punjab that has surprisingly become the most backward of all provinces’, the Baseline Survey Report (BSL) conducted for a project implemented with the support of USAID and Aurat Foundation that took women's education as an indicator of the level of gender equity in Pakistan has revealed.

The prevalence of traditional gender roles could be seen in the organization of households in Pakistan. 72% of the people in KPK, 57% of those in Punjab, 56% in Balochistan, 68% in Sindh, 75% in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 76% in Gilgit Baltistan live in joint families where men are the heads of household and bread earners, while women stay at home and take care of household work (over 80%in all the selected districts).


The survey measured attitudes to gender roles in the household, and found that both men and women were quite clear about these. Men tend to be the sole decision-makers in the family, and decisions relating to family marriages, property, settling disputes are settled by the head of household. Women make decisions related to family issues and such decisions are implemented once the male members of the family give permission. The men expected the women to stay within the house and take care of the home and children while the women expected the men to earn and make the decisions relating to both inside as well as outside the house.  Respondents did feel, however, that women should have a share in owning and controlling family property. 82.5% of the general public in KPk, 79% in Punjab, 84% in Balochistan, 77% in Sindh, 82.5% in Islamabad and 87.5% in Gilgit Baltistan agreed with this sentiment.


Respondents' conservative attitudes towards gender roles in the household were mirrored in the attitudes towards women's rights in marriage. Both men and women agreed that women should have a say in their marriages. However, respondents said that either a woman's parents (father) or husband has the final say. Both men and women said that an unmarried girl’s home is that of her father, but after marriage she should consider her husband’s home as hers.


Respondents' reaction towards single women, whether never married, divorced or widowed, was generally that of pity. Both men and women felt that all women should get married as they are considered a burden on their families. The social stigma attached to unmarried women can be gauged through the negative statements of some of the participants.


Both men and women considered honour to be a crucial part of social identity. As a family or community's honour is significantly dependent on the regulation of female behaviour, public attitudes towards women remain conservative. There is an alarming trend of accepting unjust social practices such as honour killings, especially in the rural areas of all provinces. As another example, the giving of dowries is almost universally practiced, both in urban and rural areas. Most people consider this a nuisance, but still accept and practice dowry-giving.


In other matters, too, respondents' stated attitudes do not necessarily affect their behaviour. While the majority of both male and female respondents did not agree with domestic violence and unjust social practices (79% KPK, 82% Punjab, 90% Balochistan, 85% Sindh, 85% Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 90% in Gilgit Baltistan), in practice they observe and accept such practices. Apart from verbally disagreeing to such practices, they have not done much.


Encouragingly, on the other hand, 86.2% of men and women in KPK, 82.2% in Punjab, 86.5% in Balochistan, 79% in Sindh, 80% in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 90% in Gilgit Baltistan do not accept other negative social practices. Most people categorized social practices such as settling blood feuds through child marriages, or even marrying of women to the Quran, as purely social and not religious.


In some pockets of the country, such as rural Balochistan, women did not have access to basic education until very recently. The public's general perception is that female education will be welcomed, and in the districts of Balochistan that the BLS surveyed, 85% of girls are now going to school (with the exception of Pishin and Chaghi, where females did not participate in the survey). However, it was stressed by respondents nationwide that girls' education should not be promoted at the cost of social and religious norms.


The majority of respondents nationwide said that they were open to women having a role in society outside their homes.  Regional differences can be observed. Balochistan appeared to be particularly resistant to professional women, with only 52.3% of respondents saying that they were open to women having a role in society outside their homes. In Gilgit Baltistan, by contrast, 83.5% of respondents were open to this, as did 68.5% of the general public in KPk, 68% in Punjab, 74% in Sindh, and 70% in Islamabad.


However, most respondents thought this should be mostly in professions in which women were already present, such as teaching and medicine. Moreover the respondents expected professional women to observe social norms and not to over-step boundaries.


The BLS also assessed the general public's attitudes towards the media's role in determining attitudes towards gender equity. 75% of the general public in KPk, 77% in Punjab, 72% in Balochistan, 66% in Sindh, 80% in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and 55% in Gilgit Baltistan said that media has played a role in creating awareness about gender-related issues in society. They pointed out that they have learnt more about issues such as health, hygiene and women’s rights through discussion programs on television and radio. However, they also said that the form and method of media reporting should be improved. The media plays a significant role in opening a space for the discussion of gender roles and women's rights because of its ubiquity in Pakistan, having penetrated both the private and public spheres. Respondents stated that they enjoy engaging with media both in their homes (television and radio) and in socially interactive places such as bazaars (television, radio and newspapers).