Modern times have witnessed the growth of women in all spheres, especially in the field of education at an accelerating rate. But the question remains, can education break the gender stereotype? Education can become an important tool in bringing positive change in the society. Perhaps, women need to step out of their closet to
break the walls of stereotyping and inequality.
Education and Gender Values
The position of women in our society has evolved tremendously over the years with a steady decline in their status from the ancient to the medieval times through the promotion of equal rights by reformers. Today’s world can boast of women occupying positions at the highest office even to the extent of heading a country. This change in all male dominated and controlled society was made possible because of their embracement of education and their determination to break through the traditional walls of genderization and inequality. Such zeal opened the doors to new possibilities and greater heights of achievements.
The change in women’s role in society from generation to generation is an interesting one. Where my grandmother’s role was limited to being a housewife and a mother, my mother’s role was no different except for the fact that she was spared the ordeal of toiling in the fields. On the other hand, I managed to get good education and accomplish other things that the women in my preceding generations could not do.
My mother could only study up to the 8th standard and she admits that it was not because of lack of support or encouragement from her parents but because of the stereotypical notions that existed then that clouded her beliefs. She lived then in a society which disregarded women’s education; for, a woman remained the ‘family’s property’ until such time when she was married off and became ‘another family’s property’. So, as we can see, it did not benefit much to educate a woman.
If a man is the builder of the universe, the mother is the maker of the man. As cliché as that may sound, I may proceed to say that I am fortunate to have an educated and unbiased father but even more grateful for a mother who encouraged me to pursue education diligently. She encouraged us always by making sure that even if she could not do much; her daughters get proper education so as to become independent in life. Today when I look at her, I can see the contentment brought about by the realisation of her dream.
All this may have sounded wonderful and blissful and if we were to wind up here, we would have signed off with contented sighs of complacency. But one cannot just dismiss the harsher realities of life that taint the society. Indeed, the modern women have proven themselves at par with men in every sphere. But is society really ‘open’ to the change?
Perhaps, I may be so bold as to restrict society to my homeland where a wayfarer would opine that women comparatively enjoy fairness and equality. Here is a place where one would see a father giving equal importance to a daughter’s education as to a son’s. This has made it possible to achieve female literacy rate which is quite commendable. It is not uncommon to hear or see women leading busy lives dividing their time between their homes and work. Such is the impact of education on our women. But how far has education changed the way our society deems women? Rather, how far has education served to bridge the gender gap between sexes?
“Education”, as my father often quotes, “cures the maladies of the brain” and indeed it has to some extent. But truth be told, it has failed to eliminate major maladies that plaque our society. With the exception of a select few individual, education for the majority of us is restricted to the text books and viewed as a passport to higher avenues and a better life. Sadly, we have missed out on the real essence of education. Even as we boast of highly educated individuals, I have often found myself wondering and perplexed at the coarse way of thinking still.
Our women may enjoy access to education and jobs but for most of them, they still live within the confined stereotyped notions. The world is not what it was back then when burdens were shared between the spouses, where the women took charge of the home and men were the sole breadwinners. The acquiring of educational degrees has not opened the minds of men to the reality that woman of today spend as much time and energy as their counterpart in the ‘breadwinning arena’ and that responsibilities should be shared. When a few daring women do broach the issue, it all comes to, “those are the duties of a woman”.
Education has not been able to eradicate abuse and domestic violence against women. It is quite disheartening to note that many women silently bear mental, physical and social abuse despite having degrees and achievements to their credits. It is some relief that some women find the strength and courage to walk away from it all and sustain themselves but there is no solution and does in no way do credit to the concept of a happy home.
Why do such discriminations and social evils still exist despite the growing number of educated people in our society? Isn’t education the greatest tool for positive change? Such questions and similar queries have often tormented the mind. The fault, I realise, does not lie in education but in its wrong misconception. We must perceive its real essence and embrace it as a means of refining our thoughts, minds, attitudes and behavioural traits.
Let us strive to redefine society by bringing about change in our own homes, where parents do not say to their sons, “this is a man’s job” and to their daughters, “this is a woman’s work”. Let us build and find shelter in homes where a father is respectful and radiates much love and warmth to the mother that its brilliance rubs off on the sons and they grow up to value the women in their lives- the superwomen who are the makers and the builders of the universe.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin.
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