GIRLS EDUCATION AND THE QUESTION OF CULTURAL BARRIER IN FATA.
. Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is one of the poorest regions of Pakistan, which is partly a result of its being kept in deliberate political and social isolation. The provision of education is poor in both quantity and quality. Approximately 80 % of the adult population cannot read and write, and the literacy rate among women is lower than four per cent a figure which is debatable. The Constitution of Pakistan (Article 25-A) stipulates that, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law,” but still it has failed miserably when it comes to girls education in FATA.
According to the Annual Development Programme 2013-14 for Fata, Rs3.68 billion has been allocated for education, of which Rs2.8 billion is being used for 184 on-going Schemes while Rs877 million will be used for 33 new schemes. The literacy rate for the area still stands at only 24.5% even in wake of significant expenditures made by the FATA Education Department. According to the FATA Education Atlas 2011-12 report released by Directorate of Education FATA Education Management Information System, the proportion of girls enrolled in educational institutions stands at 7.5% in South Waziristan, 4.26% in North Waziristan, 21.03% in Kurram Agency, 4.75% in Bajaur, 5.72% in Mohmand Agency, 5.15% in Orakzai Agency and 16.13% in Khyber Agency. . Currently there are 1,015 primary schools for girls in FATA. Today putting aside all the other reasons for barrier to girl’s education I want to talk and discuss the cultural barrier to girl’s education in FATA. Although I accept poverty, social isolation and decades old militarisation has played havoc with the lives of the people in the region.
When we discuss cultural barrier to girl’s right to education, Religion and Social norms of our society plays a major role in it. Both religion and social norms over laps each other. The concept of Purdah (veil) and haya (chastity) has been exploited cleverly by the society to their advantage, which has reduced the social mobility of women. Woman inside the four walls of her house is always a much better appreciated woman than one who steps out of the house for unnecessary reasons. Education is an unnecessary luxury. A woman or girl seen by outsider or even her name known to other men is a matter of shame for a Pukhtun man. The Islamic concept of woman being from a rib of a man makes her only a property. It is the psyche of ownership of their women and the animal instinct of do not cross my boundary. Strict patriarchy set up muddled with religion female member gives all the taught respect to male members of the family. They either have to sit on the floor or keep standing while the patriarch is around. ! The honour and shame of men is identified with women. It cannot be other way around. Cultural and religious beliefs and practises interface with each other to form multiple and overlapping disparities that exclude girls from their right to education.
Patriarchy and preference for sons in pukhtun and Fata is another factor where a girl is seen as burden. Her birth is never celebrated or any gifts or feasts are given to family and friends. A son on another hand is a male heir, a matter of pride for the family who not only should be invested in because he will not only bring back the dividends but will carry the gun (topak ba olee)
. A girl is looked at in terms like ( pradee dairaan khazala ) Pushto term meaning garbage which will eventually be thrown in another person bin. The belief that the biological family does not benefit from educating a daughter, since the girl becomes a member of her husband’s family when she marries .Although the same girl who cannot bring in to her family financial help but is supposed to run the whole house, from the kitchen to working on fields, that work is not considered as work. House hold work is her job and primary duty and for that she doesn’t need to go to school. Her stepping out of the house is considered a liability. A girl goes to school than who will help out at home. Domestic work is her foremost job and for that her mother is enough to teach her all the skills required. Household chores are given irrefutable importance and daughters are taught to internalize behaviour that is non-rebellious and submissive to the male head of households. The nature of girls’ labour, in the form of household chores, agricultural and home-based work, often means this work is unreported, unvalued and invisible.
Extremely improvised . deeply conservative society along with the militant activities like destroying of thousand girls school in the region has further adversely effected the enrolment of girls in schools . Poverty and culture together plays a role which doesn’t let one break free the cycle so easily. Unfortunately the current situation in FATA where there is no security of life and survival is all that matters makes it difficult even for those parents who might be willing to break free of the vicious cycle of cultural and social barrier and educate their girls.
Cultural relativism the idea that we cannot compare cultures to one another because no culture is “better” or “worse” than another – Interesting lines and justification for those who believes in superiority of their culture and thinks that no matter what happens change is not something to be welcomed or accepted. Change is equated with corruption of their values and practises. Whatever is practised and carried on for a century has a logic and reason behind it. When I look at my culture (Pashtun) it has evolved with times but unfortunately the Gender defined roles has more or less remained the same. Societies in the past has resisted changed but is the duty of the state to intervene and bring about this much desire change through education. Bring fata under mainstream laws of Pakistan and own it . FATA and its daughter’s sisters are desperately waiting for this change.