Women in education, 21st Century

As an Indian, my parents have never ceased to insist on the importance of education for girls and women. Right from my childhood, education always came first in my household. Luckily my parents were not hell-bent on scoring ranks. Instead, they were hell-bent on my interest in books. My father would come back from his office work, tired, and at my pleading, would take me all the way to the other end of the town to my library. I would spend about an hour or so, browsing through the bookshelves all by myself to replace my previous two books with the next set. I preferred comics and my father would be very disappointed that I did not choose non-comic ones. Still, he allowed me to borrow them for the week instead of putting his foot down to exchange them for something else. Eventually, I would read and re-read and revise those comic books for the hundredth time, every time reading it from a different angle, gulping down on the grammar, vocabulary, and the drawings. Whenever I threw tantrum to buy new clothes, my mother would end the debate with “We can afford to spend money on extra books and extra food, but not on extra clothes”, which makes a lot of sense now, at a much older age. With a 10-year-old son to nurture, I find myself repeating the same lines “We can afford to spend money on extra books and extra food, not on extra clothes”.

As I got exposed to the outside world, I realized, many do not have the privilege of spending money on extra books or extra food. They barely scrape by with the minimum food and no books at all, leading to illiteracy, especially for daughters. Daughters were treated several levels below sons, for several generations. No one can forget the Sati practice where the widow had to take her own life in one way or the other after her husband’s death. We certainly have come a long way from that cruel way of life. There are now active propagations in media and otherwise to allow the widow to be herself, which includes the widow’s wishes to keep placing the bindi on her forehead or to wear good clothes or to remarry. The awareness could not have been made a huge success without educating girls in India. During the British rule, Raja Ram Mohan and Iswara Chandra Vidyasagar were great social reformers who focused their energy on women education. In modern day life, we can be social reformers in our own family, by making sure the boy and the girl get equal rights to education no matter the economic condition of the family. In 2011 there was 65.46% women literacy rate in India. It was below the world average of 79.7%. We should strive to increase that literacy rate in our own homes. Mahavir Phogat realized that his daughters Geeta and Babita can win a gold medal in wrestling, and thereby he was, in fact, educating them and in turn million other girls to stand up for their rights and honor in the patriarchal society. Before the next literacy rate readings would be recorded, we should strive to boost up the percentage by at least another 20%.

Not just in India, but all over the world as well. Taking the field of medicine into account, Egypt had the first woman physician, named Merit-Ptah, born 2700 BCE (Before Common Era), as per the known records. One of the oldest medical books “On The Diseases And Cures Of Women” was written by Metrodora, a Greek woman physician, around 300 CE (Common Era). DolorsAleu I Riera, 1857 – 1913, the first female doctor in Spain was also a professor of domestic hygiene at the Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Offices for Women. Kadambini Ganguly (1861–1923), was the first Indian woman to obtain a medical degree in India having graduated from the Calcutta Medical College in 1886. We have come a long way from then, with women, researching for Cancer cure amidst other ailments, but not without facing discrimination and obstacles and safety concerns along the way. Fighting through all the challenges, we have come a long way to the 21st century.

In some countries, though the family lives in abundance, girls are often denied opportunities for education, in the name of religion, culture, or politics. Lean In foundation by Sheryl Sandberg hopes to encourage more women to join and stay in the STEM fields. They have started a branch called CS & E mainly focusing technological education for school and college going girls, again the mantra being “to encourage girls to join and stay in the STEM field of education”.
When we educate a boy, we are educating the boy, but when we educate a girl, we are educating the whole community and beyond. We are already seeing good progress in this regard in India, and hope to see spectacular growth in the near future.

An educated woman has the full capability to handle her home and professional life in the best possible way. Anyone who says otherwise needs educating.
References: womensweb , wikipedia
About the author:

Dwani Chaitra
A passionate developer and a mother with a strong passion for writing, hoping to create awareness as much as possible. I love reading, enjoy swimming, sweat running and look forward to learning exciting new adventures with my son.
Please note: The views, opinions and beliefs expressed by the authors in the articles on the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Lean In India.

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