Even before a girl learns how to hold a pencil, she is made to hold a ladle in many households. Education for girls, especially a post-graduation degree, is not a priority because society feels it hinders them from their ultimate life goal-rearing a family. In fact, when parents do entertain their daughter’s aspirations for higher studies, they are often told, “Itna padha kar kya karoge, ladki haath se nikal jaayegi”
A woman who is educated and free to make her own decisions is always seen as an aberration in our society. She is perceived to be a threat to social norms and the patriarchal structure of Indian families. Educated women are opinionated and that intimidates society. On the other hand, no one even considers that higher education asserts the importance of having opinions and taking decisions oneself.
Higher education for women: It’s not just about the paycheck
Higher education gives women the capability to earn a higher income and with that comes authority over their lives and decisions. But such a woman would also not entertain interference in her life from society. What will happen to the patriarchal fabric of our society, if all women attain financial independence and refuse to adjust in marriages and homes where they are treated unequally? It is this prospect that haunts society.
Existing stereotypes portray that highly educated or high-earning women face problems in finding a suitable match and since marriage is seen as essential, career and education often take a backseat for women. On the other hand for men, a prospering career becomes a necessity. To ensure that women focus on running homes than careers, they are denied agency to choose subjects or fields which will require more time and energy on their behalf. They are usually pushed to take up ‘easy jobs’ or work with flexible hours and smaller paycheck.
Education enhances the intellectual capability and mobility of women, but interestingly, women stepping out of their homes is often seen as a threat to patriarchy.
It is not a myth that India has the largest number of qualified housewives. Women in India are expected to manage household chores and become devoted to unpaid chores despite their professional qualifications and education. So when a highly qualified woman ends up putting her career on the backburner, it is used as an example by society to trick parents into believing that investing in a daughter’s higher education is a pointless exercise, which yields nothing. The focus is on how many qualified married women drop out of workforce, rather than the roadblocks at home and workplace that force them to take this step.
However, our entire approach towards education is at fault here. A higher degree is only seen as a gateway to a bigger paycheck, when in reality, higher education also grooms a person to be knowledgeable. Higher education shapes intelligent, autonomous women who ask relevant questions and challenge problematic practices in society. Women armed with intellect can both earn a paycheck and change the world into a better place. Of course, being financially independent is an added bonus.
So if parents truly love their daughters, then they should encourage them to get a higher degree, that too without any terms and conditions. More and more women are now questioning the regressive practices which reduce a woman’s relevance bother inside her home and outside it. Education has armed them to be able to do so. These women hold the key to change our society and pave a way for a better world, where career choices don’t depend on gender. And guess what, both men and women will benefit from this change.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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