Gender is socially constructed roles for men and women. Since the very beginning of the existence of human being, society has been assigning different roles, rules, norms, values, opportunities and rights to be performed by men and women.
Discrimination is defined as a practice of treating a person or a particular group in society less fairly than others: race, sex, religion, color, caste, class, ideology, etc.
Most of the roles assigned by society are not equal for men and women. Such inequalities or disparities in the roles to be performed by men and women are known as Gender discrimination. Many scholars or organizations have defined gender discrimination in different perspectives. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC), has defined the discrimination in gender as: “Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Gender equality does not mean that men and women become the same, but that their opportunities and life chances are equal. The emphasis on gender equality and women’s empowerment does not presume a particular model of gender equality for all societies and cultures, but reflects a concern that women and men have equal opportunities to make choices about what gender equality means and work in partnership to achieve it. Because of current disparities, equal treatment of women and men is insufficient as a strategy for gender equality. Equal treatment in the context of inequalities can mean the perpetuation of disparities. Achieving gender equality will require changes in institutional practices and social relations through which disparities are reinforced and sustained. It also requires a strong voice for women in shaping their societies.”
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Similarly gender and gender discrimination have been defined from different perspectives in different theories, such as in Marxism, gender is defined as the role/status of women is attributable to capitalism – capitalist economies trap men into wage labor, and keep women in low paid work or unpaid domestic labor. Similarly Functionalists regarding gender argue that however a society shapes its men and women into different spheres, these differences can be seen as functional to the maintenance of social stability and harmony. So – women perform domestic tasks and childcare, and men perform economically supportive tasks. And Feminists regarding gender argue that society is a “Patriarchy” – a system of male power and control women are pushed to the margins of an industrial economy by male dominated institutions. Males are thus ensured of power, profit and prestige.
Education is the medium of acquiring knowledge. Education makes a person capable of dealing with different critical situations. Education plays very vital role in building career of a person. It has become one of the most influencing factors for the status of a person in the family and society. Many countries have ratified many International Human Rights Instruments like conventions/conferences regarding the gender discrimination. Some of the conventions and conferences have stated the gender discrimination regarding education as follows:
The UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education could be taken as the first international instrument to prescribe international standards for public education. The convention seeks particularly to eliminate discrimination and ensure equal treatment and equality of opportunity to education at all levels. It states that: “the state parties….undertake furthermore to formulate, develop, and apply national policy which, by methods appropriate to the circumstances and to national usage, will tend to promote equality of opportunity and of treatment in the nattier of education and in particular: (a) to make education free and compulsory; (b) to encourage and intensify by appropriate methods the education of persons who have not received any primary education or who have not completed the entire primary course….
... women applicants to city, state and government jobs. Lastly, there is no mention by Mr. Eastland of the discrimination ... these groups to have equal opportunities in education, employment, and contracting. Merits are honorable ... listings use to be separated by gender and women still receive lower pay and fewer ... contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure applicants were employed and treated fairly, ...
Likewise, CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women has stated regarding the discrimination against women in education as: “States Parties shall … eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education … to ensure … the same conditions for career and vocational guidance, for access to studies … in educational establishments of all categories…; this equality shall be ensured in preschool, general, technical, professional and higher technical education,… vocational training. Access to the same curricula, … teaching staff…; The elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of man and women at all levels and in all forms of education…; the same opportunities to benefit from scholarships…; continuing education, including adult and functional literacy programmes…. Access to specific educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families, including information and advice on family planning…. States Parties shall … eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas … and … ensure … the right … to obtain all types of training and education, formal and non-formal, including that relating to functional literacy….”
In the same way, Beijing World Fourth Women Conference held from 4th September to 18th September, 1995, Beijing, China, has stated regarding human right for education in its platform for actions as: “Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace…. Actions… … Advance the goal of equal access to education by taking measures to eliminate discrimination in education at all levels on the basis of gender, race, … or any other form of discrimination …. [Close the gender gap in primary and secondary school education by the year 2005; provide universal primary education in all countries before the year 2015…. Reduce the female illiteracy rate…. [Ensure] that women have equal access to career development, training…. Improve … quality of education and … equal … access … to ensure that women of all ages can acquire the knowledge, capacities, … skills … needed to develop and to participate fully … in the process of … development….”
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It is found that the International Human Rights Instruments advocate against the gender discrimination in education as: every woman, man, youth and child has the human right to education, training and information, and to other fundamental human rights dependent upon realization of the human right to education. Equality of access to all levels of education is crucial to empowering women and girls to participate in economic, social and political life of their societies. Education unlocks the potential of a person, and is accompanied by improvements in health, nutrition, and well-being of a person and his/her families. Despite widespread agreement that all people have the fundamental human right to education, 100 million children, at least 60% of them girls, do not have access to primary education in the world. 960 million adults in the world are illiterate, and more than two-thirds of them are women. Women and girls continue to face discrimination at all levels of education, a fact that poses tremendous obstacles to their advancement.
Nepal also is not far from the above situation. Nepal also has ratified several International Human Rights Instruments regarding gender discrimination to be treated equally as a law of the country in the Nepal Treaty Act 2047, Section 9 . Population Monograph of Nepal, Volume I, 2003 cites from CBS 2001 that women have occupied 50.1% of the total population in Nepal. Though women are more in number than men, everywhere in Nepalese families and societies we find gender discriminations. “Nari Purush Bara Bari” is one of the most popular catchphrases in Nepal, which is frequently heard in Radio and Television, and appears even on the newspapers too. Several workshops/seminars are organized in order to aware the people with this slogan which is meant to treat men and women equally. But since a long past, male domination has become a culture and deeply rooted in the Nepalese society. That’s why Nepalese people themselves have not realized any kind of disparity yet. Moreover the women themselves also have never realized that men, in attaining several opportunities in life, are oppressing them. To understand the discrimination against women in education, we need to carry out some truths and facts exist in the family, society, culture, school level education, higher education, etc. in Nepal.
... School Level Educational Statistics of Nepal 2006 put the NER of primary, lower secondary and secondary education ... education scheme by operating an open school system. Mainstreaming out-of-school children’s education programmes: Even if universal enrollment in primary school ... publication of reading materials specially designed for women, dalits, disadvantaged, disabled and marginalized ethnic ...
WOMEN IN EDUCATION IN NEPAL
The discrimination against women in education in Nepal can be analyzed and interpreted from different perspectives such as family, enrollment in schools, universities and others.
Women in Family:
Family plays the vital role in one’s life for attaining the education. There is a big discrimination between men and women in Nepalese family, which have not been realized yet by the family members themselves too. Rather it has become like a culture of the family. The family makes most of the decisions whether one will get education or not. There is a big disparity in the roles playing/assigned by/for men and women. Daughters are less valued in Nepali families than sons. Daughters receive less medical care and education and prejudiced attitudes, which prevent them from achieving vital opportunities. We also usually see the mothers and daughters getting up early in the morning and cleaning home, preparing breakfasts and lunches, etc., on the other hand father and sons after getting up in the morning usually take bath and take breakfast and sit for reading/listening the news. In contrast, Mother and daughter keep them busy in household works. Women just involve them in the same nature of jobs like cleaning home; preparing breakfast, lunch, etc. whereas father and sons read/listen news which gives everyday new exposure and knowledge. Sons do go to school but daughters are compelled to work in home or help the parents in the field. Daughters are supposed to go to others’ home and work in the household work or in the fields. So daughters are supposed to learn much about how to prepare delicious foods, how to work in house or in the field. Even if the daughters are sent to school, we usually experience that the daughter are sent to government schools where the tuition and other fees are lows and sons are joined to the private schools. So, the father and sons are upgrading themselves with the changes in the outer world but the mother and daughters are compelled in keeping themselves inside the household work that has cut off the women from the outer world.
... the living standard of family at home and outside. Educated women support women education and give better education to their children. Educated women help in reducing ... are less likely to access school, to remain in school or to achieve in education. Education helps men and women claim their rights and realise ...
Women in School Level Education:
Schools are the formal source of education. It makes one perfect in life. There is a big disparity in the opportunities provided to men and women for attaining the education in Nepal. But the participation of women in education is rising yearly. The data and facts as cited in the Population Monograph of Nepal 2003, Volume I, from Educational Statistics Reports from Various year 1993 to 2001, the total enrollment of girls in Primary level education in 1993, was only 38.7% whereas in contrast boys’ enrollment percentage was 61.3%. But Girls’ enrollment percentage in 2001 came to be 44.6%. The girls’ enrollment from primary to higher levels such as: lower secondary, secondary, higher secondary and in higher education, is declining, whereas in contrast the enrollment of boys’ is rising. For example, the enrollment percentage of girls in primary level in 2001 was 44.6% but in lower secondary level it was only 42.2% and in secondary level only 41.4%. Similarly, in some districts of Nepal the girls are rarely sent to schools for education. That’s why the adult literacy of women in some remote districts of Nepal such as Humla, Mugu, Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Jumla are only 4.8%, 5.2%, 7.6%, 7.8%, 9.0%, and 9.3% respectively whereas in contrast the adult literacy of men in these districts are 33.5%, 41.6%, 48.5%, 54.1%, 46.2%, and 42.5% respectively.
It shows that the poorness and disparity for women in education attainment. In such districts of Nepal, usually the daughters are not given access to school and even if given access school they are compelled to leave the school after they complete primary level education and gradually one after another level. Because it is said that it is enough if a daughter can read and write some words and ultimately she is to be sent to others home. Rather daughters are forced to help the parents in field. Daughters are taught how to work in household and in the field. But in contrast, sons are supposed to be the backbone of the family till parents die, so they are encouraged to study better and further throughout the study period. That’s why the 55.4% enrollment of boys in primary level has increased to 58.6% in secondary level. A detailed enrollment of girls and boys and the variation in each year by gender from 1993 to 2001 can be understood from the following table:
... their parents realize the importance of education of women. Even though not all get the same level of education in the city due to ... countries within South Asia such as Nepal, women very commonly have lesser autonomy and power than men in making decisions in the society ... : marrying their young daughters to older men since they can negotiate to pay lesser dowry. Nepal has one of the highest child ...
Table 1: The Trend of Girls’ and Boys’ enrollments in School level education in Nepal from 1993 to 2001.
Source: Ministry of Education, Educational Statistics Reports for Various Years 1993 to 2001.
Figure 1: Showing the Trend of Girls’ and Boys’ enrollments in school level education in Nepal from 1993 to 2001.
The trend lines in above figure show the gender disparity in school level education from 1993 to 2001. We must be positive toward the decreasing gaps between the trend lines of two sexes. Because wider the gap between the trend-lines of two sexes, higher the disparity is there and if trend lines are moving closer to each other, the gender disparity is lessening. For the equity and equality of gender, such gaps should be lessened to zero and all the trend lines should come to a single point and move in the same line.
Women in Higher Education:
The enrollment of women in higher education in Nepal is also very low but increasing year by year. Tribhuvan University, established in 2016 BS, is the oldest and biggest University of Nepal. If we look towards the enrollment percentage of girls in the Technical and General Faculties of the constituent campuses of Tribhuvan University, girls’ enrollment percentage in 2058/59 was approximately 22.15% where in contrast the boys’ enrollment percentage was 77.85% as cited in the Population Monograph of Nepal 2003, Volume I from The 22nd Annual Report of TU 2058/59. This difference also demonstrates the attitude of Nepalese society towards education of women. Until the women are provided opportunities of attaining higher education equal to men, women never can compete with them. Such gender discrimination in education always pulls the women back from grabbing higher opportunities and pushes men for grabbing better opportunities. Men always play dominant role everywhere because most of the men have acquired better and higher knowledge from higher education. The enrollment percentage of girls and boys in different levels of constituent campuses of Tribhuvan University in 2058/59 (BS) can be analyzed from the following table.
Table 2: Enrollment percentage of girls and boys in different level of TU constituent campuses, 2058/59
Source: Tribhuvan University, The 22nd Annual Report of TU 2058/59.
Figure 2: Showing the Enrollment percentage of Girls and Boys in different level of TU constituent campuses, 2058/59
There are several causes in the family or society behind the women’s less enrollment in higher education. Society has assigned such roles to be performed by women in the family or society that discourage the women to join the school or even if joined, enforce them to discontinue their study earlier than men.
Women in Education in different Ecological Regions:
We find different extents of discriminations in education in different regions. Among three ecological regions of Nepal, Hill region has better female adult literacy i.e. 38.3% where in contrast 67.4% of total male adults are literate. Female adult literacy percent in Mountain region is only 20.9% where the male adult literacy percent is 51.9%, which are significantly low than in other regions. Similarly in Terai region, the female adult literacy percent is 32.8% where the male adult literacy percent is 59.0%. On the whole, in all the ecological regions, the women literacy is very low as compared to men. The main cause behind this is patriarchy family system and the women’s involvement in farming. In patriarchy family, daughters are always less valued as compared to sons. So sons are sent to schools for education but daughters are forced to involve in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, and in some other labor works with low wage, etc., rather than encouraging to going school for education or even if hardly joined school, they are obligated to discontinue the study earlier than the sons.
Table 3: Adult literacy percent in different ecological regions of Nepal.
Ecological regionsAdult Literacy (Percent)
Mountain region 20.9 51.9
Hill region 33.8 67.4
Terai region 32.8 59
Source: Nepal Human Development Report, 2004, UNDP, p. 147
Figure 3: showing the adult literacy percent in different ecological regions of Nepal.
Factors Determining Women’s Education:
There are several factors in Nepalese societies determining the involvement of women in education. In most of socially disadvantaged families, daughters are enforced to get married in early age or the age at marriage of daughters is low despite the government’s official minimum age requirements. The lack of education perpetuates the problem of child marriage and the problem of child marriage perpetuates the lack of education.
Similarly poverty also has the reciprocal relationship with education because poverty in Nepalese family is forcing the daughters to discontinue their schools and involve in household or agriculture in order to help the family. Until women are educated, they will never be able to achieve the opportunities competing with men that mean the family will never be rich and till the family remains poor, the women are not offered better education because always the sons are prioritized first.
Culture in Nepalese society also plays major role in discriminating against women in education. In Nepalese culture, daughters after getting married are sent to the son-in-law’s home. A daughter is not supposed anything more after she is handovered to son-in-low’s hand by her parents so the parents think that they will not get so much return as they get from a son. In Nepalese culture, there is still dowry system in marriage in several communities of Nepal. In these communities/societies daughters are considered as a burden until they are married. The dowry is required to be given more if a daughter is old and less if young. So the parents are always enforced to marry their daughters in child age. So the parents think that their daughters will need more at the time of marriage ceremony so need not to expense in her education; but in the contrary the sons are the back bone of a family and are right-hand till parents breathe their last and so sons are offered with as much opportunities and facilities as possible from the family.
Similarly the Social factors also play very major role in determining women’s education. Marxism has urged the gender discrimination as the role/status of women in attributable to capitalism – capitalist economies trap men into wage labour, and keep women in low paid work or unpaid domestic labour. We find some sort of capitalism existing in Nepal too, so the women are never encouraged for attaining education rather they are always intentionally captured by capitalists so that they could be used in low paid work or unpaid domestic labour.
International Human Rights Instruments are not to be ratified only; they are to be practiced too. Until they are practiced, the status of women will not be strong. Though Nepal has ratified several International Human Rights Instruments regarding discrimination against women as a law of the country, more than 50% of heads i.e. women, in Nepalese societies are deprived of equal opportunities in attaining education in the name of female. From family to school and university level education, women are in pity situation and are being discriminated by men. Men just in the name of male are playing dominant role in the family to society. Everywhere the discrimination in the roles constructed and assigned by the society for men and women over a long period of time are becoming great obstacles for women in attaining education and achieving the opportunities competing with men. Women are not in the situation of equally competing with men in accomplishing the opportunities. It can be suggested that Nepal has to strictly implement and practice all the articles of conventions and conferences regarding discrimination against women in education that have been ratified too. Until and unless women are educated never can compete with men and until both men and women are made equal in all aspects no sustainable development in the country can be dreamt up.