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.