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Education: A harbinger of change for countless Muslim Women

Islam has given tremendous importance on acquiring education. This can be reflected from the fact that the first word to be revealed on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Allah was “Iqra…” which means, Read, Recite, Proclaim. On deeper side, term Iqra can be interpreted or translated more broadly to understand, analyze, examine, delivering, study and so on. The Quran stresses the importance of reading, studying, reflecting and investigating, and this is a commandment prescribed to all Muslims. So to seek knowledge is a sacred duty. We, as Muslims and followers of Quran, should make it mandatory on ourselves to acquire education in all aspects of life so that we can be successful in both the worlds.

Recounting her life, the writer who is an Assistant Professor in Jamia Millia Islamia mentions that – “Being a Muslim woman in this patriarchal world, it was difficult for me to carve a niche for myself. After completing PhD from Aligarh Muslim University, I joined Jamia Millia Islamia as Assistant Professor. This uphill task became possible due to level playing field ensured by the government in the last decade with special focus on Muslim women. In my life, I have myself witnessed the importance of being educated in this society. I had to cut out most of social gatherings, spend sleepless nights, face open competition with both men and women and in addition, tolerate ego of male dominant society; nevertheless, the journey has been worth it. I acknowledge that I have more decent life than those women who are dependent on others for their financial needs. I can stand up for myself and take steps independently even if nobody supports me. I have my own identity in society where people know me as an individual and not as someone’s daughter, sister or wife. When you are working and earn for yourself, people treat you with respect. You no longer look upto others for fulfilling your needs and desires. You can participate in decision making and build better future for yourself as well as for family. You can live a proud life as per your choices. I have seen many women suffer in abusive marriages only because they cannot earn for themselves. Having a balanced life while managing both family and profession, givessense of self-accomplishment and fulfillmentIf young girls in our society are ready to work hard and take all the challenges, they can aim for highest possible targets. ‘Sky is the limit’ holds true for anyone who is willing to tolerate and have patience”.

Education of child especially girl child requires interplay of various entities: the child, family, relatives, school, teachers, locality. If a girl child wants to study and build her career, she needs support from everyone around. Government of India supports girl child education in various ways. There are various schemes launched by Government of India for promotion of education and help those in need.

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme, launched in 2015, aims to promote the education of the girl child. The scheme focuses on the districts with low child sex ratio and provides financial assistance for the education and health of the girl child.
  • Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) Scheme was launched in 2004 to provide education to girls from disadvantaged sections of society. Under the scheme, residential schools are set up for girls in areas with low female literacy rates. The schools provide education up to the 8th standard and also provide hostel facilities. The scheme is aimed at providing educational facilities to girls belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minority communities, and families below the poverty line in difficult areas.
  • Launched in 2015, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a small deposit scheme for the girl child. The scheme allows parents to open a savings account in the name of the girl child and provides a high interest rate of 7.6%. Every year on January 24, National Girl Child Day is celebrated in India to raise awareness about the importance of girl child education and the challenges faced by girls in India.
  • National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship (NMMS) Scheme provides financial assistance to students from economically weaker sections to pursue higher education. Under the scheme, scholarships are provided to students who score well in the 8th standard examination.
  • Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) Scheme, launched in 2009, aims to improve the quality of education in secondary schools in India. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided to schools to improve infrastructure, provide teacher training, and implement girl-friendly policies.
  • National Scholarship for Higher Education of ST Girls is another such scheme for providing financial assistance to Scheduled Tribe (ST) girls pursuing higher education. The scholarship is provided to students who have passed the 10th standard examination and are enrolled in a higher education program. The list is long but the point is crystal clear.

Education can play a pivotal role in our everyday life. However, literacy rates among Muslims in the past has not shown encouraging figures. According to report by the National Statistical Office, literacy rate was 80.6% among Muslim men which is worse than SC/STs (1). Even more alarming is that enrolment into higher education is falling among Muslims (2). Literacy rate for Muslim women was found to be lower than for women of any other religious group. Reports depict clearly that the level of education among Muslims is very low and Muslims lag behind the national average (3). Education includes the process of teaching or learning, especially in a school or college, or the knowledge that you get from this process. Education also includes gaining specific skills which may be required in all aspects of life, be it professional or personal. One should try to gain all professional skills/ abilities to build a solid career in one field which suits one’s own capacities and choice. This process has to be started very early in life. Apart from schools and colleges, there are a number of government and private universities in our country which provide platform for people to gain higher education. Every human being should have fundamental right to education, which plays a significant role not only in the growth of individual but also of country. Not only can education improve one’s own life, it can be beneficial for entire family, society, country and entire world. Being properly literate about a specific subject can help an individual to achieve high-paying job or build a business to meet financial needs of the family. A properly educated person can lead a safe and stable life with access to all basic amenities which ensure good quality of life. Living a life with confidence, such a person can take informed decisions about health, well-being and future prosperity. Also it is important for us all to gain emotional literacy so that we can develop fruitful relationships with everyone around. Not only this, education must also allow a person to build wisdom and humanity. When we are concerned for all individuals, we think about problems of society, we can use our talents and skills to find new effective solutions for such problems. This leads to creativity and innovations, which are essential for nation building. When we are properly educated, we have the ability to change the world and make it a better place to live in. People can realize their true potential only through the means of education. Apart from this, educated person can benefit community and country in several other ways. Educated people know how to follow, respect law and order and to maintain peace in the society. To achieve world peace and prevent war and terrorism, education is an important tool.

It is high time that young girls should be taught importance of having independent life at very early age. We have to build a society where women no longer depend on anyone for their living. We the women, should should stop seeing our father, brother, husband or son as source of income. As a career woman myself, my message is loud and clear, educate yourself and live a decent respectful life.

  • Prof. Sadaf Fatima,

The Writer teaches at the Central University of Jamia Millia Islamia. She was also the warden of the largest Girls Hotsel in the University.

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