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Women Empowerment: Education & Vocation both are needed

Why Bibi dropped out of school and got married?- I always wondered. She is one of the girls from the small slum near my community. At the afternoon, many of them use to come to our community and play around. I love talking with them about their dreams and aspirations. Since the accessibility of free primary and secondary level education for girls are moderately spread throughout Bangladesh, I always believed that their dreams are not far away from them. Maybe, I was being too optimistic.
Bibi used to tell me that she wanted to do job and be an independent woman. She also made it till tenth grade. However, suddenly she decided that she wouldn’t continue her study anymore and got married. I didn’t completely understand the reason behind her decisions then.
I thought she was being stupid. I was too naive to understand the social constraints and barriers a poor girl in my community might have to face to be independent in her life. As I grow up and started to contemplate over differ dimension of the situation, I saw a complex puzzle lied underneath the surface of easily accessible education.
Undoubtedly, most of the poor girls in my community have easy access to affordable education till higher secondary level in the government provided schools. However, not all of them have the support of their family members to get education. Mostly illiterate, very few of their parents understand the need of education in a person’s life. If being asked, most would reply, “What my daughter would do with the education? Eventually she has to get married. So, what’s the point?”
Yes indeed, what is the point? It might surprises my readers that I am also asking this question where I should be supporting in favor of women education. But from a real life perspective, it is actually true that the high school education might have a very little value in the life of those poor girls to attain independence.
Now, what I mean by women independence? Being self-dependent, not depending on anyone else for her own needs, and certainly having position of her own in society. In a country like Bangladesh that can only be achieved if one has a job or any source of income to support him/her. Getting a good job in my country is like owning half the sky. When it comes to women, the problems just multiply. Thanks to our stereotypical ideas, discrimination, and conservative thoughts, a woman can’t do any kind of job. It has to fit her feminine characteristics. Even after you get a job suiting your feminine characteristic, the high chances of being exploiting in various ways (wage, sexually) always remains. And most importantly, for a good job, one has to have a good educational qualification, means one need to have college or university degrees.
In Bangladesh, to attain those degrees you need to have a stable financial background. Let alone the low income or poor people, where it is a struggling task to bear the expanses of higher degree even for middle-class people. Besides with growing population and competition in public and private colleges and universities, without financial support people don’t even stand a chance. Though government and different organizations might provide some merit scholarships for students, those are so few in numbers that don’t even count.
So, if you are someone like Bibi, you have to shake away the thought of getting a good job by getting higher educational degrees. With your primary or secondary education, all you can get is a job in a garment factory. But there also high rate of exploitation, gender harassment, low quality of working environment, and health hazards prevails. Even after this, garment job might be empowering for women, but not all the women have the opportunity to access that, especially rural women.
Considering all these, maybe Bibi’s decision wasn’t that wrong after all. Certainly, she had envisioned all these possibilities long before it came into my mind and made her decision wisely. It is, after all, not as easy as it seems to be independent women only with minimal educational access if we don’t have access to available job opportunities for women.
Education gives us knowledge and confidence, but to use those efficiently we need proper vocations. The conclusion I want to draw in here is that in my country we lack government initiatives to promote women based job sectors and social entrepreneurship. Even if we can’t provide suitable professional opportunities to illiterate and semi-illiterate women, we need to ensure that women have a source of income by introducing them with different entrepreneurship business and supporting their own initiatives. Only then women like Bibi will be able to hold onto their dreams of becoming empowered and independent even without higher education.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Bibi now a complete house wife(bibi) i think.what a educated women mostly do in our country?they also work as house wife & get a complete supervision of her husband.BIbi do what a educated women do mostly.So u r right only education cann't change our society.One day women will change this. Thank u for ur clear concept.keep it up.can i share this article?

Myrthe's picture

Thank you

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think you are right that education alone can't change the economic position of women. But I also think that educating girls is not just about jobs. There are other advantages to educating girls. Educated women marry later and haver fewer children; educated girls are at a lower risk of being the victim of human trafficking or turning to crime. And there are also health related benefits to educating girls. So there are lots of reason why educating girls is so important.

But I very much agree with you that economic independence and work are very important to improve the position of women anywhere in the world. Do you have any ideas about what other steps could be taken to improve the economic participation of women in your country? I'm very interested to hear your thoughts about that.

Roksana Hasib's picture

I agree too!!

Dear Myrthe,
Thank you so much for your valuable comment.Yes, I do also agree that education has a very important role in any person's life. It gives us a whole new intellectual perspective to see ourselves as well as the world. An educated women is an invaluable treasure to herself and for the society as well.
I don't, by any mean, deny the necessity of education. The whole point of my journal was to present that only facilitating women with primary and secondary level education in my country is not enough to ensure women empowerment. My government need to work on promoting and supporting women entrepreneurship, job opportunities, and participation of women in active economics & politics. Only then true women empowerment will be possible.
As you wanted to know my opinion, i would say since majority of the women in my country are housewives, government initiatives to fund and support home-based business/economics activities of women would definitely help women to be economically stable and feel empowered. Supporting social entrepreneurs is also another very efficient way to increase job opportunities for women. We do have some NGOs working on those issues in my country but they are very few.
I hope this will help to clear my point. I might have miss-communicated my whole point in my journal. If so, please let me know. Also, please let me know if you have any other query.

Roksana Hasib

Myrthe's picture

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your long reply, Roksana! I don't think you miscommunicated anything! I completely agree with you that access to education alone is not nearly enough to ensure women's empowerment. It is only one part of the process (but a very important one). I like the idea of home-based economical activities for women very much, because very often women are unable to leave the house for many reasons, they have children to take care of, they have to prepare food for the family, it's not accepted for women to be out on their own, etc. Earning part of the family income gives women self-respect and self-respect.

Iffat Gill's picture

Nice write up!

Dear Roksana,

You did raise very important question in your piece. "Why are you sending your daughter to get more education (University)." A question my father was asked repeatedly by people around him. Their logic often being, you are going to marry her off one day, and she will go live with her in-laws. What good is this going to do to you, so it is better to just invest in a son's education. I agree that it is a huge financial burden on the family to send their girls or boys to get higher education in our region. Honestly, I did not even know how to begin to answer them as the cultural roots of this question are so deep, it leaves you speechless for a little while. I felt lost after a while when I tried to reason with them. The issue of social and cultural barriers remains a huge one.

I have noticed in Pakistan that slowly, people are realizing that educated girls do manage to land in better jobs and sometimes become the sole bread winner for the family. I am not even go into how difficult it is to find a decent job and the discrimination and stereotype behaviours girls/women face their due to the general mind-set. I think governments (in the whole region) need to invest in more programs that promote entrepreneurship and local skills, so that women feel at home with the work they are doing.

I felt it was a very thought provoking write-up.
Keep writing!

Iffat Gill

JoneBosworth's picture

Extremely Insightful Piece!

Dear Roksana,
Thank you so much for sharing this extremely insightful piece! I loved how you drew from your own perspectives out to the broader context of needing opportunities beyond education to make education truly meaningful.

"Education gives us knowledge and confidence, but to use those efficiently we need proper vocations." Yes!

You've stimulated thought and hopefully action through your writing -- don't stop!

My best,

Jone M. Bosworth, JD

Hesychia's picture

Insightful ~~ and thoughtful!

Roksana ~

Your story shows the depth of the difficulty facing girls and women in your community. It's not only getting an education, but also access to jobs that will help them get out of poverty. The cycle of poverty and poor education is more devastating and difficult for women than for men, but it is a negative cycle for both.

Continue with your thoughtful considerations and you will find yourself part of the answer, I'm sure!

All the best to you ~

Sutanuka Banerjee's picture


very well written with strong arguments


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