Education is the initial step in supporting women to choose the way of life they want to lead. It is the foundation of development and plays a vital role in the progress of society. A woman is the core of the society because she organises household activities, deals with family members and supports children to grow up in the right way. She is the first teacher, hence, a woman must be knowledgeable, conscious, cooperative and much more – qualities that can be nurtured through education.
In this competitive society, a country needs productive manpower to move ahead. Only then will people develop a positive attitude towards development. According to the Nepal Living Standards Survey 2010-2011 (NLSS- III), Nepal has an adult literacy rate of 56.6%, with huge differences between men and women. While male literacy rate is 71.6%, it is only 44.5% for women. This shows that girls’ education is still not a priority in families, although it is improving.
Women make up only about 16% of undergraduates and 11% of doctorate degrees in engineering, less than 22% of doctorate degrees in maths and physical sciences and 28% of undergraduates and 15% of doctorate degrees in computer and information sciences.
In contrast, women continue to earn the largest proportion of degrees at all levels in the fields they have traditionally dominated, such as health professions, which include nursing, physical therapy and health administration (83%), and education (77%). One way to enhance female education in the country is through co-education, although it is still frowned upon in some places as in the past. While studying together with the boys, girls learn that they are just as competitive as the boys and are in no way inferior to them. This develops confidence in them. Co-education is particularly important in the rural areas where early marriage and lack of awareness on the part of parents prevent girls from attending school, or even if they do, drop out mid-way.
Women’s literacy can be improved through adult literacy programmes, social workers as well as conscious individuals. The central government as well as all the seven provinces should, thus, give high priority to women’s education. Furthermore, women themselves should be more conscious and active to uplift their status. To promote sustainable development, women’s education needs to be promoted by providing equal opportunity to them on the basis of equity.
A version of this article appears in print on November 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.