As a working woman, I am often asked whether my job as a journalist is my passion or a compulsion. It makes me wonder what is wrong with working, even if a woman does not need her salary to make ends meet. Everyone should work, regardless of gender. Half the country’s population is female. How can a country be prosperous if half of the population stays at home? In our culture, women are not considered as equals to men. The government should take measures to challenge this culture. According to data provided by the Population Council, women lag behind in literacy (male 69 per cent, female 45 per cent in 2011), primary enrolment (male 60 per cent, female 53 per cent in 2011) and primary education completion rate (male 59 per cent, female 39 per cent in 2011).
Educating girls is a must for reducing population growth. An educated woman is confident and can make informed decisions regarding having children. In urban areas, many couples try not to have more than two or three children despite their good financial standing. On the other hand, couples in rural areas keep producing children and a large number of women lose their lives during childbirth. Furthermore, there is no trend of educating girls and they are treated as if they are born only to look after the house and produce children.
Putting girls in schools is beneficial since it can help them have fewer children later in life. Education can play an important part in improving the quality of child-rearing. If women are educated, they would know about the importance of maintaining their health and can talk to their spouses about this more openly. I have interviewed several women living in far-flung areas of Karachi and they clearly stated that they do not have any say when it comes to having children and this, I believe, is mostly because they are not educated enough to realise their rights.
The country’s population has increased fivefold since 1974. The Population Council estimates that this kind of growth is expected to continue for several more decades with the total population possibly doubling over the next century. It is high time we educated our girls so that they are able to play an effective role in the progress of the country. According to the UN, world population will hit 9.1 billion mark by 2050 and that most of this increase will be in the developing countries of Southeast Asia and Africa. This estimate is based on fertility rates.
We would do well to remember this oft-repeated quote by Napolean Bonaparte: “Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilised, educated nation.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015.