Women’s Education in Pakistan: Hidden Fences on Open Frontiers

  •  Ghazala Noureen    
  •  Riffat Awan    




Education has been of central significance to the development of human society.

The international community’s commitment to universal education was first set down in the 1984 Universal Declaration of Human rights.  In Pakistan, particularly in rural and sub-urban areas, women are situated largely at the bottom end of the educational system in comparison to their male counterparts. Traditionally, it is assumed that women are limited to their homes and men are the breadwinners of the family. In this situation, education can play a vital role in enhancing the status of women and placing them on an equal footing with their male counterparts and it also increases women’s ability to secure employment in the formal sector. The purpose of this study was to understand the importance of education for women in Pakistani society and examine the barriers and obstacles to higher education for women in Pakistan. The sample comprised of ten women from local female university;  a vice chancellor, four deans, one head of department each randomly selected from faculties of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Humanities, Islamic and Oriental Learning and two from Social Sciences (as this faculty comprised 17 departments, much larger than the other three). A case study approach was used and data were collected through semi-structured interview schedule. Participants accepted that there is no doubt that in country like Pakistan women’s have to face socio-cultural hurdles to acquire education. It is war against these hidden fences but Pakistani women’s are struggling hard to get their rights. Participants identified poverty, dowry, social norms and early marriages as barriers.  For most of the participants, societal attitudes towards female higher education are mixed; some people are in favour of female education which is depicted in a participant’s personal experience. This study also revealed that education can bring phenomenal change in women’s life by enhancing their confidence, raising their status in the family and society.

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